Using Gmail efficiently
January 7, 2011
Most of us get a lot of email.
If you’re using Gmail, here are a few simple tips on how to get a better overview of your crowded inbox. These all work well for me, but feel free to pick and choose, they’re not related.
- Archive anything you won’t need again anytime soon
- Star items that you need to respond to
- Use labels and filters to help finding messages visually when looking through your inbox
When you archive a message (shortcut: e), it disappears from your inbox, but can still be found under “All mail” (shortcut: g a).
If you fail to do this immediately, you’ll soon end up with a lot of crap littering your inbox. To clean up, move the cursor between messages (shortcuts: j and k), select each message to be archived (shortcut: x), then archive all selected messages (shortcut: e).
If you read a message that you need to respond to, do so right away or “star” it (shortcut: s) to make it appear in the Starred folder (shortcut: g s). When you have some time to spare, just check this folder and be sure to remove the star (shortcut: s) on each mail after responding to it.
Set up labels for a few broad categories of mails you get. Don’t be too specific – labels in 15 different colors throughout you mailbox are not helpful.
Mails can be labelled manually, either when reading the mail (shortcut: l + the first few letters of the label you want) or in the overview by selecting them first. This is tiresome and you’ll probably end up forgetting from time to time.
Much better: Have Gmail label them automatically when received. Under “Settings -> Filters”, you can setup multiple filters that match incoming mail by sender’s mail address (full or just domain), subject, content keywords etc.
By the way, an undocumented feature here is that you can use OR to specify multiple values. So this is a valid filter:
Matches: from:(foo.com OR bar.com OR firstname.lastname@example.org) Do this: Apply label "Working Bits"
And by the way…
Did you notice that I mentioned the keyboard shortcut of each command above? This is actually the important stuff, the tips were just to get your attention.
OK, not really, but using the shortcuts in Gmail is by far the biggest single productivity gain I have found so far. I never use the mouse anymore – everything I need to do can be done with shortcuts, and it is much, much faster.