Gmail is amazing. It’s chock full of more shortcuts, settings, and features than you could shake a stick at. Even if you consider yourself a Gmail ninja, though, there are quite a few tricks you might not know about (and some that Google didn’t even intend). Here are our top 10 clever tricks built right into Gmail.
10. Host Files in Your Email Inbox for Easy Access
These days, most of us have an account with a service like Dropbox for quick access to any files we want to store in the cloud. However, if you don’t use Dropbox (or if you just want a file or two even closer at hand), you can just attach them to a draft in Gmail and leave them there. That way, they’re only a few clicks away, and you don’t even need to open up a new tab to get them.
9. Keep Track of Your Home IP Address
There are a lot of services that require you to know the IP address of one of your computers, like remote control, streaming your media, and more. The problem is, that IP can change from time to time, leaving you without a connection. While you could always set up DynDNS or Hamachi to ensure easy access, you can also just check Gmail’s account activity. As long as you’ve accessed Gmail recently from home (and who hasn’t?), it’ll show you the last used IP address of your home computer so you can always connect to it.
8. Strip Your Emails of Annoying Text Formatting
If you’ve ever copied and pasted text into Gmail, you know how annoying it is that it keeps the text’s original formatting. If you want to turn that huge, poorly-chosen font into Gmail’s default, you don’t need to resort to pasting it in Notepad first—you can just click Gmail’s “Remove Formatting” button (yeah, I didn’t know that’s what that button did either). I’ll instantly remove the properties of all your email’s text, no hassle required.
7. Restore Your Contacts List if You Mess It Up
You may not know this, but Gmail automatically backs up your contact list regularly, so if you ever mess it up—lose a contact, accidentally sync an older set of contacts, or even delete your entire address book by accident, you can restore it to exactly the way it was at any point in time. Just head to your contact list in Gmail, click the “More” button, and choose “Restore Contacts”.
6. Copy and Paste Image Directly Into Messages
If you share a lot of photos, you don’t actually have to click that “Insert Image” button whenever you want to embed a picture in an email. In both Firefox and Chrome, you can just drag images right into messages and drop them there to insert them. You can also copy and paste images from the web, which is particularly handy if you don’t want to download an image to your desktop first.
5. Sort Gmail Messages by Size and Get Rid of Data Hogs
If you’ve started to run out of space in your Gmail account, you have a choice: buy more space (lame) or see if you have any messages and attachments that you can delete to free some up (preferable). This cool Google Docs script will grab your largest messages and sort them by size, so you can see which ones are taking up the most space. It isn’t exactly “built in” to Gmail, but you never have to leave Google Apps or give someone else access to your account to make it work!
4. Set Up Gmail on iOS Like It was Meant to Be
Some of you more experienced Gmail users may know this “trick” already, but it’s surprising how many people are still syncing their iPhone with their computer to get their contacts, when you can sync everything over the air. Check out these instructions to see how to set up Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Contacts on iOS and get everything syncing over the air. After setting it up, your contacts and calendar should always be up to date whether or not you’ve synced, and your email notifications should come in instantly. Of course, Android users need not worry—Android does all this out of the box.
3. Access Gmail When It’s Down
Google’s usually pretty good about not having downtime, but every once in a while, Gmail becomes inaccessible and everyone panics. Luckily, even when it’s down, there is a multitude of ways to still get your messages—and usually it’s as simple as accessing the HTML interface or viewing it through a mail client like Thunderbird. Brush up on these tricks so you know exactly what to do the next time Gmail decides to take a day off.
2. Set Gmail As Your Default Mail Client
Back in the day, it took a desktop app, hacky workaround, or other annoying method to set Gmail as your default mail client, but now these features are built right into Chrome and Firefox. For Chrome, Gmail should have asked you when this feature first went live, but if you said “no” at the time, you can go to
chrome://settings/handlers and change the Gmail setting to apply it. In Firefox, you can find a similar setting in Options > Applications. Note that, while these don’t require any external apps, they’ll only work inside the browser—so if you click a link in another app, it won’t automatically send you to Gmail unless you install something like Google’s Gmail Notifier.
1. Add a Snooze Button to Gmail
This one requires a bit more work, but again, you never have to install any extension or sign up for a service to get it working—you just need a simple Google Apps script. Once you set it up, it’ll let you “snooze” an email for a certain number of days. When that number of days passes, the email will be marked as new again, reminding you to act on that email now (just like a snooze alarm on your phone). Check out our full guide on how to set it up.
Some of these are lesser known Gmail features and some of them are actually MacGyver-caliber tricks, but they’re all useful things you can do with Gmail that you might not have thought of—and none of them require any extra extensions or apps. For more awesome Gmail tips, check out our guide to mastering the new Gmail as well as our top 10 Gmail Labs (not to mention 10 other labs you should enable). And, if you have your own clever uses for Gmail, be sure to share them in the comments below.