8 Gmail Hacks That Will Boost Your Productivity

Time to get smart.

Unsplash / Glenn Carstens-Peters

Chances are extremely good you use Gmail as your email service of choice. With over one billion active users worldwide, so much of the digital relies so heavily on a single application for productivity.

But Gmail is not a static monolith. Like any grand structure, it possesses its own share of secrets — some sitting in open spotlight, and some tucked away in very narrow nooks and crannies. Here are 10 tricks you can use to make your life digital life a little bit easier the next time you need to tackle your inbox.

Settings, then scroll down. 

1. Activate Keyboard Shortcuts

We all spend hours a week slogging through our inboxes checking mail and composing messages we need to send out. Keyboard shortcuts could help you slash through those hours by making the whole process insanely fast. There are close to 100 different tricks you can use. Just click the gear icon in the upper right corner, and under Settings, turn keyboard shortcuts on.

With a single button (e.g. “r” to reply to a message, “c” to compose, and “d” to delete), you can move through your inbox at a lightning-fast pace.

2. Mute

Getting drowned in an email chain that has nothing to do with you? If you have Keyboard Shortcuts on, just hit “m” to mute the entire thread and let it run its course without you.

Settings --> Labs, then scroll down. 

3. Canned Responses

In case you didn’t know, many of Gmail’s master tricks come directly from the “Labs” tab — a testing ground for experimental features, the best of which become readily available to the masses. “Canned Responses” are one of those features, and it enables you to quickly send pre-written responses with just a click. No more having to write out long thank-yous to every single person who contacts you.

Under settings, click on the “Labs” tab at the top, then go down to “Canned Responses” and click the enable button. The next time you type out a message you know you’ll need later, save it as a “canned response” using the options button in the lower left-hand corner of the message window.

Settings --> Labs, then scroll down.

4. Preview Pane

One of Gmail’s most aggravating features which most email clients have nixed over the last several years is the lack of a preview pane — no way to read the message while still allowing you to quickly access the rest of your inbox on a side column.

A button will appear next the Settings gear, and you can use that to decide how you want your preview pane to appear.

5. Shift Happens

The shift key is one of the most valuable things you can use on Gmail. It allows you to highlight whole messages in a single thread or mailbox in order to quickly delete them, mark them as read or unread, move them to a different box — whatever you’re angling to do.

In addition, holding shift when clicking compose will send the message window into its own browser window.

6. Labels are Bae

Labels are the solution to all of life’s problems, your organized Type-A friends will tell you. And you can apply them in Gmail as well. Just click “more” in the lefthand bar to pull down the labels option, and apply them to whatever message you need. You can just drag and drop a label from the left over a message or thread, and presto — you’re done. And you can customize those labels in a myriad of ways if you choose, including adding colors.

Just click the arrow next to the magnifying glass to pull down this baby.

7. Maximize Search

There’s a message you need to find, and you have a ton of information you can use to find it, but no way to succinctly throw it all into the search bar. What do you do? Simple: click the down arrow next to the search bar to pull down a list of options to filter your search.

It’s worth remembering the search bar functions very similar to the Google Search bar as well — “quotes” around a specific word or phrase will look for those exact matches, a hyphen -before a term will eliminate that word from the queries, etc.

Settings -- Labs, then scroll down. 

8. Authenticate Senders

After that one Gmail phishing scam took the internet by storm in May, few people will want to just leave things to chance. The Labs tool, “Authentication Icon for Verified Senders,” is an easy to way to make sure you don’t fall for a trap — it will verify a sender is who they say they are by placing a key icon next to their name for any messages in your inbox.

This is particularly useful if you use shop online frequently.

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