Gmail Tips and Tricks

I’ve used Gmail as my primary email service for years. I’m a big fan of its user-friendly interface, security, and simple features like being able to color code my messages into categories. But with over 1.5 billion users, it’s inevitable that mistakes will get made. Ever hit Reply All when you intended to send it to a single recipient? Or maybe you accidentally attached a crazy-eyed picture of Nic Cage instead of your resume on a job application. 

Fortunately, Google is well aware of the potential for user error, so they added an Undo option to Gmail to rescue us from those awkward emails. But that’s not all – there are several lesser-known features that make using Gmail a smart choice to help navigate instant remorse when you regret hitting Send, filter spam, and to enable you to message other people’s phones after yours has died.

Unsend Gmail messages

Whether you hit Reply All instead of sending to a single recipient, noticed a typo, or have sender’s remorse for that “Per my last email” message, Gmail’s undo feature is a gift from the email gods. By default, Gmail gives you five seconds to unsend, but, the good news is you can bump that up to 30 seconds to give yourself more time to fix a mistake. 

To adjust the time, click the gear icon in the upper right-hand corner. Go to Settings > General. Near the top of the list of settings, look for Undo Send: followed by a drop-down menu. 

You can choose from 5,10, 20 or 30 seconds. Next time you send an email, a box will pop up in the lower left-hand corner giving you the option to unsend and will stay onscreen for whatever length of time you’ve selected. 

Clean Up Your Inbox

  1. Click on the gear icon in the upper right corner then go to Settings.
  2. Select Filters & Blocked Addresses from the ribbon at the top of the page.
  3. Click Create New Filter.
  4. Enter keywords in the relevant field: From to filter by sender, Has the words to scan entire emails, Matches: from:(random@cantv.net), etc.
  5. Click Create Filter.
  6. Assign an action to the filtered mail: Delete it, Skip the Inbox (Archive it), Mark as Read, Important, etc.
  7. Click Create Filter.

Multiple aliases/addresses

If like most Americans, you’ve signed up to receive emails or newsletters just so you can get a discount or free shipping, you’re likely bombarded with emails and regret your decision every time you open your email. Unsubscribing to each one is tedious, and though you can use a third-party service like Unroll Me, Gmail has a feature that allows you to collate all those unwanted emails without having to start over with a new account. 

By adding a + to the end of your username (before the “@”) you can create unlimited variations of your Gmail address. For example, username+junkmail@gmail.com will direct email to your main address without giving it away to spammers. Then, you can filter the “username+junkmail” messages straight into your junk or trash folder. 

This is more than a junk mail filter – it allows you to customize addresses for different aspects of your life – think of it as organizing into categories before they even hit your inbox, all while maintaining a single login for all of them. Part of a book club? Create a “username+bookclub@gmail.com” to track emails from other members.

Create More Specific FIlters 

Filters can do more than organize emails into categories. For example, you can create a filter that will scan incoming messages for the word “unsubscribe” and automatically send them to your junk folder. 

If you’re an online shopper, creating a filter for “tracking number” collates tracking info for all your purchases into one designated folder. If you’re as obsessive as I am about that icon telling you have seven unread messages, you can create a filter that automatically marks them as “read” so you never have to obsess again. 

Send Texts from Gmail

One of Gmail’s handiest hacks is that you can send SMS text messages from your desktop. 

You will need to know the recipient’s phone number and carrier, but to send them an SMS, use their 10-digit phone number (no dashes) as the username and their carrier’s gateway address (available on carriers’ websites) as the domain in the “to” field. 

For example, an email-based text to a Verizon customer would look something like 0123456789@vtext.com. Other common domains include @mms.att.net for AT&T, @messaging.sprintpcs.com for Sprint and @tmomail.net for T-Mobile. SanDisk has a comprehensive list of gateway addresses for major carriers worldwide. 

Log Out Remotely

If you’ve ever used a library or other public computer and forgotten to log out, you know the gut-wrenching feeling of knowing you’ve left your privacy and online presence unprotected. Once again, Gmail has you covered and allows you to view and log out of any computers or devices you’re currently logged into. 

Open Gmail and scroll to the bottom of the page, click Details (the link is directly beneath the message that reads Last account activity), and a page comes up that shows everywhere you’re currently logged in. Simply click on Sign out all other Gmail web sessions, and you’ll be logged out of every session other than the one you’re currently in. 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

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