The Human Manual

10 things you are not using in Gmail

Hi my name is Andrew and I’m a technology expert at The Human Manual. In this video will show you 10 things you are probably not using or aware of in Gmail.


  1. Inbox views – Save time with the perfect inbox

This is a great feature within Gmail which allows you to change the way your emails are displayed in your Inbox label. A perfect example of Priority inbox is to have all unread emails at the top so you can use your inbox as a workflow.

Let’s show you the different types of Priority Inbox.

To switch to a different Priority Inbox, hover your cursor over the Inbox label in Gmail. You should see a drop down icon. Click on it and you’ll see a list of available options.


At the moment you are probably using this option. It’s a bit of a free for all. It has your unread, read and labeled conversations listed. This is good for those who don’t receive a lot of emails.

Important first

This uses the Important icon which is the Yellow icon next to your Star. This will display all conversations within your inbox that have the important icon attached. This is different from someone using Excel and marking an email as important. This is Gmail determining what email conversations are important to you, and as time goes on it becomes more and more intelligent. To speed up the learning curve, you can click the icon to remove it if you discover an email conversation wasn’t that important to you.

This option is great for those who have been using Gmail for a while or for those who will dedicate a little extra time per email to teach Gmail whether certain conversations are important.

Unread first

Probably one a lot of people use. Unread first will literally do that, it will display all messages that have been unread in your inbox.

This option is fantastic for those who get a lot of emails and want to use the unread inbox as a workflow so they know of any outstanding tasks.

Starred first

If you are a meticulous person then perhaps you using Stars in Gmail quite a lot and rather than having to always jump to your Stars label why not have them at the top of your inbox. Remember there are lots of stars and they can mean anything you want them to!

This option is great for those who like to be very organised and use Stars as a way of categorising tasks.

Priority Inbox

Want the best of the worlds list above. You can! Have Important and unread, then Starred emails and finally Everything else. But why stop there you can customise this further.

Click the Settings cog then click the Inbox tab. You can have up to 4 different sections for your Priority Inbox. How about a label? If you have a label setup for your Manager’s emails you can have them pop up into your inbox too. To do this do the following:

Click on Options or Add section. Click More Options then find and select your desired label. Simples! You can also alter the existing ones too. If you prefer to have Unread only rather than Unread and important change it to Unread.

Look at how efficient you can be with a little inbox customisation!


  1. Filters – Ability to have rules to move, respond and more to your conversations

I love filters, I use them like my own personal assistant for my inbox because that’s exactly what they are! Filters are like Rules in Outlook just with more customisation and functionality. An easy example would be to automatically label an email from my Manager, this of course works even better if I am using Priority Inbox too!

To setup filters its best to run a search. Click the dropdown icon in your search box and type the name or email address of the person you would like to auto label. In my case its will be George Smith. Notice how Gmail helps you to populate with the right email address as it searches your address book.

Click Create Filter with this search. Now You have a couple of options, to keep the email conversation in your inbox and label it you need to click on Apply the label and then choose your desired label from the dropdown list. If you don’t have a label, you can create one by clicking New label.

Click Create if you are creating a new label once you have given it a name.

If you would like to attach this label to all previous emails from this person, then click the tick box to also apply filter to matching x conversations. Now click Create Filter.

If you have opted to keep the email conversations in the inbox why not try and give your label a bit of colour.

To edit your filters you need to click the Settings cog and then select the Filters tab.

With Filters you can take things one stage further by using subject, and even search operators which we’ll come on to later!


  1. Label sidebar overload – have what we need, everything else hide

I ask the question at every Gmail training session, how many of us have lots of labels and sub labels in our sidebar. So many people have their hands up and I ask why. They look at me with that I have no idea look or with the I’m trying to re-create my Outlook world look.

I always say why don’t you only keep the things you really need or are actively working on in the sidebar. Everything else should be hidden. Now before you close the book and send me an email venting, this doesn’t mean you can’t use them still. Here’s the thing, its very rare in Gmail world that you source an email by going into your labels and sub labels and then to the date it was sent. It’s not likely! You search of course (more on searching next). When it comes to filing your emails you can still do this.

Hover your cursor over one of your labels and then click the dropdown icon next to it. Within the ‘In label list’ click the Hide option.

Look out! At the moment you can’t hide sub labels you must hide the highest label in the hierarchy

Now that I have done that I can still file emails into that label or sub labels if I want to.

The question people always come back with is how do i bring the label back if I need to, it simple click the Settings cog then click the Label tab. You can now click Show under the In label list option.


  1. Archive – for emails that don’t need a label and for a clean inbox

I’ve heard many stories about the Archive button over the years with lots of people telling me that they have never used the Archive button before for various reasons. I believe its because many people just don’t understand it.

The Archive button simply removes the Inbox label. Yes that’s right the Inbox is a label. We are used to the Inbox being the final stop for all of our emails before we decide to file, keep or delete them. In Gmail’s case this isn’t strictly true, I believe the inbox is something that should be used to email conversations that you are currently working on. Everything else should either be filed, deleted or archived.

You have another home for all your emails and it’s called All Mail. This holds all email conversations from your Inbox, every label apart from Spam and Bin/Trash. This means that you no longer have a need for the miscellaneous folder. Just click Archive.

WARNING! If you remove a label from a email conversation which you’ve moved from the inbox, this will automatically archive your email. Let me show you an example. Here I have an email from George, which only features in my George (Manager) label. We know this because at the top there is no Inbox label next to the George (Manager) label. No if I click the X next to the label this will remove it. However most people would assume this puts the email back in the inbox, but remember the Inbox is not the final stop, All Mail is. I therefore must go into All Mail to find the email.

I know this tip alone will make more people feel so relieved because they’ll find emails they haven’t been able to find.

I believe this is a good segway to discuss the power of search.


  1. Search – there’s more to search than you think

The title to this section is no lie, let’s be honest Google was founded on Search and it’s ability to deliver us useful and meaningful results and thankfully the same is true for Gmail. I have yet to come across a search tool so powerful for email.

Gmail takes search a step further by giving users the ability to search operators, this means using a command we can make our search extremely focused and relevant. Let’s show you an example of what I’m talking about.

I’m going to find an email from Sarah that has an attachment which is a Microsoft Word document.

To start with I must use the From: search operator, notice how I end it with the semi column punctuation. I type Sarah’s name and Gmail searches through my address book and email conversations and presents email address options.

I now type a space and enter another search operator which is has: notice how Gmail is trying to assist me by presenting various options. The one I am interested in is attachment so the whole search operator is has:attachment.

Next I want to define that it is a word file and we know that word files usually end in .doc or .docx so I’ll use the filename search operator followed by .doc and I’ll use OR. By typing OR in capitals it tells Gmail that it could be either of these options. To finish my search I enter .docx

Now I’m ready to start the search and look at how quick the results are.

There are literally over 20 search operators and I even like the fact that I can search by Star type as well. Here are the different star types.


  1. People widget – to email, to chat, to book groups

A handy trick that will save you comparing 2 windows side by side to ensure you have everyone added to your calendar invite is to literally click a button to do this for you. Did you know about the People widget in Gmail.

Let’s take this example of an email conversation between Sarah, George, Nigel and I. I’ve decided that I would like to book a meeting with the team regarding this email. Using the People widget this is now possible. The number in brackets represents how many people are in this email chain. Click it and it will reveal everyones name.

You should now see these 3 icons for Email, Chat and Calendar. Clicking the Calendar icon will literally lift all recipients and pop them into a calendar invite and copy the title of the email conversation and make it the subject of the meeting.

It also handy that if there is someone on the list that I don’t need I can simply click the X next to their name to remove them.


  1. Add to Tasks – Create your own reminder from an email

How many times have you read an email and thought I need to action something but I’ll do it later and forget? Probably a few times (hopefully not too many times), thankfully Gmail gives you the ability to have an email open and to add the email to a Task list which can be viewed on your Android smartphone or tablet device too.

Here’s an email from Sarah, I decide to come back to it later because it requires me to perform some action points. Whilst in the email conversation click More then click Add to Tasks.

You’ll notice a small pop-up will appear at the bottom right of the screen displaying your task. I can now edit this and add more information like due date, add some more information or even more it into another Task list of mine.

I like this feature more so because it attaches the email to the Task, so if later on I needed a refresher, it’s pretty simple for Gmail to pull up the email by clicking on this link.

INFORMATION! Tasks will also pop up in your Calendar too so they’ll help you keep on track.


  1. Keyboard shortcuts

When it comes to moving around your mailbox quickly Gmail makes this simple with keyboard shortcuts. Almost everything is possible including composing a new message, replying, forwarding and even returning back to your inbox.

To activate keyboard shortcuts or to see what’s available press SHIFT + ? if you are a Mac user. PC users press ?

If you have this yellow banner in the middle of your screen, this means that your keyboard shortcuts are not active. Click Enable to enable them.

As you can see there are lots of shortcuts, so let me show you a few that I like and use everyday:

  • C to compose a new email conversation
  • R to reply to an email conversation
  • A to reply to all

If you want to do the above in a new window, that simple to just hold the SHIFT key and then press the relevant key.

You can also move around your mailbox by using the go to command which is G. Then you let it know where you would like to go this includes going to All Mail rather than having to go to More in your sidebar all the time.

To go to All Mail I simply hit Esc to ensure I am not in the search or compose box, followed by G then A. Try G then I and see where that takes you.

If you are using the new compose experience then pressing the letter D will open another Compose window for you.

Oh there’s one more, to jump into the Search box just hit the ? (Forward slash) key.

TIP! If you are  a Mac user you’ll notice that PC users have a dedicated # key on their keyboard however we don’t have one. We have to press Option (ALT) + 3. Well using Gmail’s Labs we can now dedicate a key on our keyboard to delete emails. We’ll be touching on Labs next.

You’ll need to activate a Lab called Custom Keyboard Shortcuts, and once activated you’ll be able to designate a key for deleting email conversations. I dedicated the § key because I still haven’t found a use for it yet. You can find this key at the top left of your keyboard beneath the Esc key.


  1. Labs – Add more functionality to your Gmail mailbox

I know some of you will be thinking more functionality, I didn’t even know about half of the above, well that’s ok because what we’ll show you next will make you love your Gmail mailbox more!

Labs are like plugins that add more functionality or change the appearance of your mailbox to deliver you a better experience. Google call them ‘crazy experimental stuff’ that isn’t quite ready for what they call Primetime so they aren’t quite ready for the full Gmail-verse to start using. However Google do have Graduation days for a select number of Labs, if the feature proves to be both useful and widely used. We are sure there are more reasons why. It’s also important to note that Labs can change, break and disappear at anytime however the ones I’ll be sharing have been around for a while now and lots of people are using them.

To get to Labs you need to click the Settings cog followed by the Labs tab. Here are a list of Labs we recommend or would think you’ll find useful.

Right-side chat – Emily C

This little lab moves your Chat to the right hand-side of your browser. This is useful because then you have more space for your labels if you need it!

Undo Send by Yuzo F

I love this Lab because for a pre-defined time you can stop a message from being sent if you have forgotten to add someone, an attachment, correct spelling mistakes.

WARNING! When you send an email conversation, if you navigate away you’ll loose the opportunity to click Undo.

Preview Pane by Peter B and Michael K

If you’ve come from the Outlook world and using only the web interface for Gmail, you may miss the split screen view that you are used to. The Preview Pane lab allows you to split vertically or horizontally.

TIP! Once you have activated the Lab, it will seem as though nothing has changed but if you look carefully you’ll now have a toggle to change the split and to switch off the feature.


  1. Attach files to Calendar invites without using Google Drive

Ever tried attaching a file from your computer to a calendar invite using Google Calendar? This can be troublesome if the guest(s) doesn’t have a Google account. So to get round that problem, you can send calendar invites straight from Gmail.

Add your guest in the To or CC section of your email. Use the Subject as the title for the meeting.

Now if you are using the new compose experience you need to hover your cursor over the attachments icon and then click the Calendar icon.

If you are using the old compose experience click the Insert Invitation link.

Now add all the relevant information and click Insert Invitation. You’ll see your invitation inside your message. Now add your other attachments.

Well, that’s the 10 things you are not using in Gmail, hopefully you have found some great tips and tricks. Please feel free to send me some feedback to about the book/video and don’t forget to rate and add some comments below. When emailing make sure you let me know which book/video you are referring to.

If you are interested in hiring a training company to come  and show you how to get the most out of Gmail and the Google apps suite, give us a call on 0203 0123 519 or visit our website or

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