Hidden Gmail Features and Tricks

by Sandra Henshaw - , Last Updated on December 15, 2016, App Guides

Most of us these days use Google’s Gmail as our primary email app, and it comes installed by default on all Android devices. Now, email has been around for a fair few years now, and you might think that you know what you’re doing. But we’ve got a surprise for you. Gmail comes with all kinds of features and tricks that you might not know about. Why should you care? Because knowing these tricks will make you more efficient, and less likely to want to turn on your computer to access the desktop version for complicated tasks. Ready to have your Gmail mind blown? Then read on…

The Unread Mail Issue

Hands up if you hate the little icon that tells you how many unread mails you have? And what about all those that have an inbox stuffed full of random mails? Right, this one’s for all of you. If you’re not great at the whole staying on top of your inbox thing, it can be all too easy to leave unread messages to rot in the middle of your inbox. But then you get that annoying notification… So, how can you filter your inbox so that all the unread messages appear at the top and you can get rid of them? Easy peasy. Go to the search box in Gmail (click the little magnifying glass thingy) and type:  “is:unread” (without the quotation marks). You’ll get a list of all your unopened mail and you can open/delete as necessary.

The Effective Search Question

Whilst we’re on the subject of searching let’s deal with, well, more searching. Given that Gmail is made by Google it should come as no surprise that the app has amazing search functionality, and yet this is something that most of us don’t use at all. Google keep a complete list of all the different search terms you can use on their Gmail page. But some of the more convenient are listed here:

  • after: [yyyy/mm/dd], before: [yyyy/mm/dd] = lets you search for mails sent/received before or after a given date
  • older_than: [time], newer_than: [time] = the same as the above but with duration, so add something like 4d (four days) into the blank and you’ll get mail older or newer than that
  • has: attachment = narrow your search to mails with attachments only
  • from: [name], to: [name] = searches only for specific senders or recipients
  • +[word], – [word] = adds or subtracts words from searches

You can play around with this a little, but if you’ve got an especially full inbox, effective search terms mean that you can find the mail you’re looking for much faster…

The Formatting Conundrum

Formatting email on a desktop is pretty easy, you just hit the button for “bold” or “italics” or whatever you want to do and continue typing. But what about on your mobile? No probs. Simply press and hold on one of the words you want to format (in the same way that you copy and paste), extend the highlight that appears to cover all the text you want to format, and then press the word “format.” Simple. You will then get the choice of: bold, italics, text colour or background colour, or underline. If you need to undo that formatting just repeat the process and hit “clear formatting.”

The Quiet Enigma

Get a lot of group emails? Group emails are a great way for offices, hobby groups, or even groups of friends to communicate with each other, but there is one problem with them. Once you’re CC’d into a group email you’ll receive every reply to that email for everyone else in the group, even if those replies don’t concern you. Dealing with this is pretty easy though. Just open the group email (or any of the replies), hit the three dots in the top corner, then select “mute.” Any further replies will automatically be marked as read, and you won’t receive annoying notifications. You can always open the email thread and read those replies if you wish (since you’ll technically still receive them), you just don’t need to worry about your phone beeping all the time with new messages. To undo this, just repeat the process and select “unmute.”

The Sharing Problem

Here is a trick that’s more useful than you’d believe, and pretty unknown. You can share your email with other apps. Say, for example, you get an email about your vacation plans and you want to share that mail with your friend over WhatsApp, or you want to add the details from the mail to your EverNote account so you’ll remember them, whatever. All you need to do is press and hold on a word in the message, then drag the markers that appear to highlight the text that you want to share. Click on the word “share” in the box that appears (if you don’t see “share” try tapping the three dots in the box that appears instead), and you’ll be presented with a list of app options. Choose the app you want to share with and go from there. It’s simple, quick, and effective!

There are tons of little things that will make your Gmail use that little bit more efficient on your mobile. If you open one mail, you can swipe through the rest of your mails by dragging left or right, just like turning pages on an ebook. If you want to multiple select messages in your inbox, just tap on the circle next to each mail you want to select, then choose an action at the top (maybe delete, archive, or mark as read). Gmail might have originally been designed for desktop use, but the truth is that many of us use the app more on our phones these days, and mobile use has become easier than ever. All you need to know are a few little tricks, and you’ll never need to email from your computer again!