One of the most useful tools in Gmail is the search bar at the top of the page. Like all Google Apps, the search bar has a number of commands that are at your disposal in order to find what you’re looking for quickly and easily. Click on the image below to see the full list (from the Gmail Help Center).
There are basically three inbox options, and each one has its benefits. Personally, I find myself using a different setting for each of my Google accounts based on the nature of the emails that I get.
Default: The default setting allows you to break up your inbox into categories that show up as tabs along the top of the page. You have a Primary inbox which is mandatory, but then you can have a Social inbox, a Promotions inbox, an Updates inbox (which automatically determines updates purchases, inquiries, etc.) and a Forums inbox for forum updates. Click on the link below for more information on inbox settings (from the Gmail Help Center).
Important/Unread/Starred First: Another way to organize your inbox is by having a specific type of email be always listed first. You have the choice of three categories. “Important” emails are flagged by Gmail as being the type of email that the algorithms see as being historically important to you based on whether or not you read them and how you respond. “Unread” emails are unread emails, and “Starred” emails are ones that you have applied a star to in order to find later.
Priority Inbox: The Priority Inbox is the extreme version of the previous one. Here you choose up to four inbox sections. The defaults are the same as above, but you can also add custom sections like emails with a specific label. You can then customize your labels to include only emails from a certain person, or with a specific word in the subject line, etc. The options are pretty much endless. Click on the link below for more information on inbox settings (from the Gmail Help Center).
There are a number of experimental options that are not part of the official Gmail settings list, but that are undeniably useful for organizing and prioritizing your Gmail experience. You get to the labs by clicking on the GEAR BUTTON, then SETTINGS, then LABS on the top list of blue tabs. Here are a few of my favorites:
Right Side Chat: In order to free up space in the margins of my Gmail webpage, I like to move my chat window from the left side (squished under the labels) to the right side of the page. That frees up space for the next lab.
Google Calendar Gadget: Now that there’s some extra space on the left side of the Gmail webpage, you can add your Google Calendar Agenda which allows you to add and edit events as well as open the big version of Calendar right from Google.
Preview Pane: You Microsoft Outlook users will like this one. People get used to being able to see their emails without having to open them. This Lab gives you the option to show your selected emails to the right of or below the inbox list.
Quick Links: This lab gives you the ability to create quick links which appear to the left side of the page under the labels. Quick links can be anything from a specific page in Settings to a specific label to an advanced search results list. Once Quick Links has been enabled, simple click “Add Link” under the gadget to create a new link.
Aside from the inbox and the experimental labs, there are a few General Settings that I like to make sure I use in order to stay organized. You can get to these by clicking on the GEAR BUTTON, then SETTINGS, then GENERAL on the top list of blue tabs.
Auto-advance: After you delete or archive an email, by default, you have to return to the inbox before opening another email. This setting allows you to automatically open either the next newest or oldest email in the list. NOTE: This option must be enabled in LABS before it appears in the General Settings List.
Conversation View: Again, by default, Gmail organizes all of your emails with the same Subject into “Conversations”. Sometimes this is very handy, and sometimes emails can get lost in the conversation if a number of people reply in a short period of time. This setting allows you to turn the conversation setting off.
Send and Archive: This might be my favorite setting of them all. This setting creates a “Send & Archive” button next to the “Send” button when replying or forwarding emails. It does what it says it does. It will clean out you inbox while still allowing you to find the email later through an advanced search or by looking through the “All Mail” label. When a reply to this email comes back, it goes into your inbox the way any other email would. If you have “Conversation View” on, it pulls the conversation out of the archive and puts it back in your inbox.
Undo Send: Another really important feature for the more impulsive of us. You can turn on this option in order to allow yourself some extra time to rethink sending an email. Once the email has been sent, a message will appear at the top of the page with an “Undo” option.