5 Gmail settings I always change (and 3 more I turn off)
Gmail is popular for a reason—it comes packed with quite a few features. But some of its defaults can be annoying or limited.
Fortunately, you can fix that. Dive into the settings and you’ll find a surprising number of tweaks you can make to the interface. If you haven’t already spent some time in there, I highly recommend it. You may find a few features you didn’t know about before.
Not sure where to start? You can take a cue from my favorites. Among the list are five settings I absolutely have to change in order to find Gmail usable, and they’re pretty universal. Try them out, and if you don’t end up liking them, you can make different adjustments for your account.
- Maximum page size: I can’t stand seeing only a handful of messages at one time, and to me, anything under 50 messages is a handful. I bump that number straight up to 100.
- Undo send: Sometimes I’m too quick to hit “Send” on an email (or Alt + Enter). Enabling this feature lets me snatch back the email before it’s truly sent to fix a typo or rephrase a sentence I’m having second thoughts about. I set my window of opportunity to the max of 30 seconds, but you can go shorter.
- Keyboard shortcuts: I’m fast with a mouse, but even faster when jamming on my keyboard. With only a handful of these enabled, they make my life so much easier. And if I ever forget a command, typing ? while in Gmail brings up a handy cheat sheet. Plus, you can also turn on custom keyboard shortcuts to really supercharge these.
- Unread message icon: For some people, seeing how many unread messages they have isn’t useful (and might give the heebie-jeebies). But I leave only messages requiring follow up in my Inbox, so seeing that icon number change is subtle and effective way to know when I should jump back into my Gmail tab.
- Stars: You can star email to more easily follow up on the messages—but that one yellow star is a default that’s easily changed to include more color options. I detailed the step-by-step of turning these on in a separate tip, precisely because going from one color to the full set of 12 was productivity game changer for me.
I love these as a starter set, but there are other settings I like to turn off, mostly because they annoy me as a writer and editor—the grammar suggestions, smart compose, and smart reply. The first two irritate me (for now, Google doesn’t know the English language better than I do) and the latter always makes me feel like I’m going to press the wrong button and not only send a stiff, canned robo-response—but to someone I absolutely didn’t want to send one to.
Once you’ve tried these on for size, you can do other things in Gmail to make it work better for you. Perhaps it’s time to purge unneeded email (which might make the unread message icon a more useful feature). Or if you need, you can download a copy your email. And of course, if someone just won’t quit sending you unwanted email, you can block them.