So hey, remember those secret Facebook tricks we took a look at a few days ago? Well, as you might have guessed, Facebook isn't the only commonly used online tool with a bunch of sneaky additional features. I'm willing to bet a lot of us don't know about these secret Gmail tricks, either — I sure didn't until I wrote this post. You learn something new every day, right?
Unlike the Facebook tricks, most of these Gmail secrets don't require any fancy-schmancy keyboard work or anything. It turns out that the email client is loaded with additional features — you just need to know where to go in order to find them. Once you know where they're located, using them is often just as simple as clicking a button to turn them on. Perfect for those of us who may not be master programmers, right?
These are far from the only Gmail tricks out there, by the way; I happen to think they're both the most useful ones and the most obscure ones, but there are plenty more to be had. Here's a good place to start for more; so is here. Knock yourselves out. But in the meantime, why not dip your toe in the water with this carefully curated selection?
1. The Dots in Your Email Address Don't Matter
Fun fact: If you send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, jamesT.email@example.com, and firstname.lastname@example.org, it'll all go to the same place. As the Gmail help forums explain, “Gmail doesn't recognize dots as characters within usernames, you can add or remove the dots from a Gmail address without changing the actual destination address; they'll all go to your inbox, and only yours.” You can even see this trick in action without sending any emails: If your Gmail address is usually email@example.com, try logging in as firstname.lastname@example.org instead. It'll still load your inbox as you know it.
As Will Oremus at Slate noted back in 2013, Gmail has operated like this for years… and yet most of us still don't know about it. Weird, isn't it?
2. Mute Conversations
Mass emails that you definitely didn't need to be included in? They are the worst. But hey, guess what? You can actually stop them from clogging up your inbox! When you have the message loaded, go to “More” in the tool bar directly above it. Then from there, click “mute.” Voila! No more messages about planning a party you can't attend or what have you.
3. Get Your Email Offline
No Internet access? No problem. The Gmail Offline Chrome extension allows you to read, respond, search, and archive your email even when you don't have access to the web. It works by automatically synchronizing your messages and queued actions anytime Crome is running and connected to the Internet. Neat-o, right?
4. Snooze Your Email
There are a few ways to do this one, but one of the most popular is by using the app Boomerang. With the help of this handy little app, you can set your Gmail such that, after you open an email, it will return to your inbox if you haven't replied to it in a specified amount of time. There's also a Chrome extension called Snooze Your Email that will do something similar — and if you're feeling a little more adventurous, you can even write a script that will do it yourself.
5. Keep Track Of Who's Giving Out Your Email Address
The next time you do something like sign up for a mailing list from an e-retailer, do this: Instead of just using your regular email address, modify it with something like “+shopping” (so, using our previous example, it'll look something like email@example.com). If you start getting emails from other mailing lists that you know you haven't signed up for and they go to firstname.lastname@example.org… well, then you know who sold your information to someone else. As a bonus, this trick also makes it easier to filter your emails; you can also set your inbox such that any messages sent to email@example.com go to their very own folder. Your modifier doesn't have to be “+shopping,” by the way; it can be whatever you want: “+banking,” “+teddybear,” “+peopleIhate,” and so on. Take your pick.
6. Keyboard Shortcuts
What did I do before I learned Word's shortcuts? I honestly don't remember, but if I was clicking the “italics” button on the tool bar every time I wanted to italicize something, I'm sure I wasted a stupidly large amount of time. Gmail also has a whole bunch of time-saving keyboard shortcuts; some of them are always on, but the more advanced ones need approval from you. Turn on advanced keyboard shortcuts by going to the gear icon in the upper right hand corner of Gmail, selecting “Settings,” scrolling down to “Keyboard shortcuts,” and selecting “Keyboard shortcuts on.” Here's a complete listing of the Gmail shortcuts available.
7. Find Out Whether You've Been Hacked
If you suspect someone else might be accessing your Gmail account (scary), you can learn for certain whether it's actually happening with the help of the “Recent Activity” feature. If you scroll down to the bottom of your inbox, you should see a little hyperlink marked “Details” in the lower right hand corner. Click it, and it will bring up all recent activity on your account, including when it happened, where it happened, the type of activity (web browser, app, whatever), and the IP address associated with the activity. If your account has been compromised, you can then take appropriate action: Change your password, enable two-step verification, and so on.