Caveats first: other email providers are available. There I think that covers everything.

As of August 2013 there were 425m Gmail users, but this won’t be the place where we discuss the dominance of Gmail over the providers that it quickly overtook, such as Hotmail or Yahoo.

Nor will we discuss the above figure, which although reported in The Guardian and other publications, is actually contradicted by comScore, who suggests Google still trails behind its two rivals.

This is the place where we’ll discuss little tips, tricks and hacks, as developed in the Gmail lab, that will hopefully make your life just a tiny bit easier and more interesting. At least when it comes to emailing.

I touched on Gmail hacks in my 16+ best things to happen to the internet in 2013 post last month where I suggested you go and spend a little time exploring the backrooms of Gmail to see what you can find.

Well now you don’t have to, as I’ve already sifted through the experiments, separating the prime specimens from the formaldehyde filled jars of yellowing mutants, to bring you the best Gmail hacks currently available.

Firstly, if you don’t know where to look for Labs, just fire up your Gmail, go to the top right corner…

Then you’ll find Labs under the Settings tabs…

Yep, somebody found out how to draw red circles on images.

Here’s the best of the bunch:

Auto advance

Developed by a Mr Bruce D, this automatically shows you the next email in your inbox after you delete a conversation. You can change whether to advance to the next or previous conversation in General Settings.

This is really handy if you have a lot to wade through, and mimics the functionality of email on the iPhone, if that’s what you’re used to.

Canned response

Tired of writing the same rejection email to so many repeated advances from admirers? Check out Canned responses by Chad P.

Enable the feature in Labs. Go to Compose, write your suitably dismissive automatic response, bring up the pop-up menu in the bottom right corner and save it in Canned responses.

Then when you want to use a Canned response, hit Compose, bring up the Canned responses tab, and pick the title you’ve attributed to it.

Now you can sit back and watch the free time gather.

Undo send

How often have we all said “I’m going to tell the CEO exactly what I think of the quality of the office coffee via a scabrous email”, written the strongly worded missive and fired it off, only to then think objectively about the whole affair and realise you’re a moron half a second after pressing send?

All the time, right?

Thank goodness then for Undo Send, developed by Yuzo F.

Once enabled in the Lab. Any email you send can be retrieved within approximately 10 seconds. Just glance at the top of the screen and click the undo button.

I’ve tried it. It works. It’s brilliant.

Custom keyboard shortcuts

After you’ve enabled this feature in Labs, a new tab will be enabled in Settings showing this gloriously comprehensive list of shortcuts that you can alter at your own whim.

Quick links

This is a great feature that adds a box in the left-hand column that gives you quick access to any bookmarkable URL in Gmail. For instance frequent search terms or important individual emails that you’re always referring to.

Unfortunately it’s quite hard to find once you’ve enabled it.

Head to your inbox, then look to the very bottom left corner where you’ll see this box…

Clicking this tab will bring up a Quick Links menu, where you can add your own clickable link.

Here are some more tips that I came across, from outside the laboratory.

Search attachments

Use has:attachment in the search box to bring up only the emails that have attachments. Of course you can add another term to narrow the search further.


I’ve mentioned before how the dots in an email address are actually ignored by Gmail. Emails to will arrive as safely as

However you could use this fact to create a handy filter for spam. Perhaps the next time you fill out a form, use a specific dot to separate words in your email address, then set up a filter in Gmail to archive the mail to that address. 

You could also test which companies are the worst spamming culprits by using a different combination of dots for each form you fill in.


You can just drag images into your email from your desktop. This may seem obvious, but you’ll be surprised how many users didn’t know you could do that.

Restore the text labelled buttons

Gmail has replaced the original buttons at the top of the browser with rather cryptic icons. Now you can have them back. Settings>General>Button Labels and select Text.

It’s like 2011 all over again.

Do you have any more tips for Gmail? Do you use an email provider with even better gimmicks? Please add a comment below if you do.