How to get the most out of Gmail

There are numerous ways to get the most out of Gmail, exploiting the full potential of Google’s iconic – and free – email service

Thursday, 16 July, 2020

Google’s Gmail service has faced some significant challenges during its 16-year lifespan.

Launched without irony on April Fool’s Day 2004, Gmail quickly became associated with spam thanks to the ease with which fraudulent accounts could be registered.

Some consumers began to assume every message sent from a account was dubious. And worst of all, certain ISPs began adopting a similarly cautious attitude.

Needless to say, the world’s leading search engine didn’t take this affront lightly.

Ironically, Gmail went onto pioneer some of the anti-spam techniques we take for granted today, adopting a highly effective spam filter long before many of its competitors.

Nowadays, a account is no longer regarded with suspicion, either by consumers or ISPs.

Having recognised how to get the most out of Gmail by scratching below the surface, small businesses increasingly use Gmail accounts in lieu of proprietary ones.

Gmail has 1.5 billion active users, while 27 per cent of the world’s emails are opened in Gmail. The free provision of 15GB of Google Drive storage is another tempting attribute.

Beyond its slick and dependable email interface, there are plenty of hidden features awaiting discovery.

Below, we consider how to get the most out of Gmail, using a number of little-known tips.

Writing and sending emails

Gmail has lots of clever tricks up its sleeve, such as flagging messages prior to sending them, so they’re instantly highlighted for follow up or future reference.

It’s possible to create customised shortcuts, where pressing a specific key performs an action like replying to a message, reporting it as spam or deleting it.

Pressing Shift + ? displays the full list of preset keyboard shortcuts. Ctrl + Shift + 7 creates a numbered list, Ctrl + Shift + C adds CC recipients to a reply, and Ctrl + K insets a hyperlink.

Being able to send 25MB worth of attachments is helpful, but you can get the most out of Gmail by sending much larger files directly from Google Drive.

(If an email contains words like “attached” but no actual attachments, Gmail asks you to confirm you haven’t forgotten anything as Send is clicked).

It’s possible to set a time period for messages to be retained in the outbox, enabling you to recall a message that’s been accidentally ‘sent’ before it was ready.

Outgoing emails may also be dispatched at a future time and date – ensuring a message arrives in someone’s inbox first thing on a Monday morning, for example.

Once an email has been distributed, it’s possible to save it as a canned response to be reused in future.

You can even translate messages in your inbox into other languages, using the Translate Message option that harnesses Google’s excellent (and free) translation algorithms.

Account management

It’s useful to periodically delete emails with large attachments, which cumulatively clog up your inbox and consume a chunk of your 15GB storage limit.

Search for “size:10m” in the top search bar to find messages over 10MB, or replace 10 with any other number.

Save the attachments outside Google Drive, though, otherwise they’ll still be occupying the same space.

You can also enter “unsubscribe” to generate a full list of emails with an unsubscribe option, simplifying the process of reducing marketing communications and junk mail.

And if you’re concerned about security, it’s possible to log out of every Gmail interface simultaneously, ensuring other devices can’t be used to fraudulently access your account.

Neil Cumins author picture


Neil is our resident tech expert. He's written guides on loads of broadband head-scratchers and is determined to solve all your technology problems!