Gmail heroSource: Timothy Hansen

In this era of instant messaging, video chat and texting, email is still an important staple. But even the most vigilant users can still get overwhelmed by excessive spam messages, having their account compromised or accidentally sending a note to the wrong person. Here are seven tips for using your Gmail account more effective.

In this era of instant messaging, video chat and texting, email is still an important staple. But even the most vigilant users can still get overwhelmed by excessive spam messages, having their account compromised or accidentally sending a note to the wrong person. Here are eight tips for using your Gmail account more effective.

1. Stop hackers by using two-step verification

Make sure no one is sneaking into your account and using your address to send spam messages. At the bottom of your inbox is an indicator that shows the last time someone used your account. Clicking on it will show you the IP addresses and devices used to send email from your account. From here you can block IP addresses from accessing your account again.

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If you don't already have it enabled, two-factor authentication can be the thing that prevents your account from being overtaken by an unwanted intruder, since even if your password is compromised, a hacker likely won't have access to your phone to authorize entry into your Google account. Here's how to set it up.

Gmail Account ActivitySource: Nicole Johnston / Android Central

2. Unsubscribe and block spam messages

If you get messages from the same marketers asking you to join their cause or use the latest coupon, you can often unsubscribe to future emails from within the message itself rather than following a suspicious link to a third-party page.

Under the sent message information header, click the unsubscribe link to keep future mailings out of your inbox.

Gmail UnsubscribeSource: Nicole Johnston / Android Central

If a spam message doesn't have an unsubscribe link, you can still block future messages from hitting your inbox. Click the three dots at the top right-hand corner of the spam message to show a popup menu with several functions including blocking the sender and reporting the message as either spam or a phishing scheme. Clicking any of these options tells Gmail to block the sender and keep future messages from reaching your inbox. Reporting it as spam or phishing also helps Gmail keep an eye out and stop these messages from getting into other Gmail users' inboxes, too.

Gmail BlockSource: Nicole Johnston / Android Central

3. Filter messages out of your inbox

Filtering is a good way to keep messages that you'd like to look at later, like the latest sales ad from your favorite stores, without having them bog down your primary inbox. Click the Setting icon – it looks like a gear or flower right above your inbox – then choose Settings to bring up a window with tabbed options including Filters and Blocked Address. Select Create a new filter. It is a text link right in the center of the view window.

The form is pretty straight forward with places to add sender's email addresses, keywords found in either the body of the messages or the subject line, file size and whether there is an attachment. Don't forget to hit Create filter at the bottom of the form when you're done.

After telling Gmail what to look for, you then direct Gmail to tag message from important senders in your inbox, send filtered messages to the Spam folder, archive, delete, block or move to a separate folder just for them.

Gmail Filter MessagesSource: Nicole Johnston / Android Central

4. Undo sent messages

We've all sent an oops message and sometimes that's embarrassing. Gmail, as soon as a message is sent, gives you the option to undo it with a small popup message located at the bottom of your viewing screen. By default, you have only 5 seconds after a message is sent to undo it. However, you can lengthen that time up to 30 seconds. This gives you a bigger buffer to realize when the wrong message has been sent and to pull it back before it's too late.

To do that, open the Settings view by clicking the gear icon at the top of the message viewing window. The General tab shows by default. The fourth action item listed under this tab is the Undo Send feature. Simply select 10, 20 or 30 seconds from the pulldown menu and the changes are automatically saved.

Gmail UnsendSource: Nicole Johnston / Android Central

5. Use Smart Compose

A great time saver when writing email messages is to take advantage of Gmail's Smart Compose. It's enabled by default, though you do have the option of turning it off then reenabling it later under the general settings.

Smart Compose uses predictive text and suggests phrases you may be trying to type out. Simply clicking the Tab button on your keyboard will fill in the sentence. Besides being quick, Smart Compose also helps your message remain error-free by using correctly spelled words and proper grammar.

Gmail Smart ComposeSource: Nicole Johnston / Android Central

6. Get notice of unread messages

Gmail doesn't have a sound or jingle to let you know about new messages, but you can choose to have a notification icon enabled to help. After opening Settings, choose the Advanced tab. It's the last tab listed. The very first item listed is the Unread message icon. Click enable next to this, then scroll down to Save Changes.

Turning on the unread message tool changes the browser tab icon from the traditional Gmail envelope to one with a number over it. This number tells you when you have unread messages. If you're up to snuff with your inbox, this icon is a good way to see at a glance when a new message has arrived.

Gmail Unread MessagesSource: Nicole Johnston / Android Central

7. Enable Gmail exclusive keyboard shortcuts

Gmail has its own set of keyboard short cuts. Some are generic and can be used in other applications, too, like pressing Shift and B at the same time to bold text. But others are there to help tag, discard and write email messages. For example, pressing C opens a new composition window, S marks your message as important and # sends a message you're reading straight to the trash bin.

To enable keyboard shortcuts, open the Gmail Settings from the right-hand side of the view window. Under the General settings, scroll down to near the end of the page to Keyboard shortcuts and click On. Don't forget to scroll to the end of the page and click Save Changes. You can now use Gmail shortcuts. For a full list of these shortcuts, press Shift and ? at the same time.

Gmail Keyboard Shortcuts ListSource: Nicole Johnston / Android Central

8. Ask and receive money through your Gmail account

If you have a Google Pay account, you can send or request money with a Gmail message. Write your message with details of your request then click the $ sign on the bottom toolbar. This will open your Google Pay account and provide a safe link for you to include with your message and request funds. When someone receives your message they can follow the link to quickly and safely send money directly to your Google Play account.

Gmail Google PaySource: Nicole Johnston / Android Central

Some final thoughts

Email doesn't have to be a necessary evil. Taking a little time to set up a few tools now really takes the edge off of wading through unwanted email, securing your account and keeping dangerous messages out of your and others' inboxes. While accessing the general settings you will see Gmail also has ways of creating prewritten messages, scheduling outgoing emails and marking messages sent to a group instead of just you. All these help make checking your email just a little easier.

Gmail icon


Gmail comes free with you Google account and gives you access to additional apps, like Docs and Drive, and 15GB of online storage.

April, 2020: This article has been updated with information about additional tricks and shortcuts.