Gmail – Introduction to Gmail
perform other basic email tasks. But it also has some more unique features that help make it one of the most popular online email services.
In this post, we will explore some of the features and advantages of Gmail, and give a good overview.
Creating a Google account is needed to access Gmail because it is just one of the many services offered by Google to registered users. Signing up for a Google account is free and easy, and naming your new
Gmail address will be a part of the sign-up process. This means whenever you’re signed in to Gmail, you are automatically signed in to your Google account. You’ll be able to easily access other Google services like Google
Docs, Calendar, and YouTube.
Of course, you don’t have to use any of these features. You may just want to focus on email for now.
Gmail offers several useful features to make your email experience as smooth as possible, including:
- Spam filtering. Spam is another name for junk email. Gmail uses advanced technologies to keep spam out of your inbox. Most spam is automatically sent to a separate spam folder, and after
30 days it is deleted.
- Conversation View. An email conversation occurs whenever you send emails back and forth with another person (or a group of people), often about a specific topic or event. Gmail groups these
emails together by default, which keeps your inbox more organized.
- Built-in chat. Instead of sending an email, you can send someone an instant message or use the voice and video chat feature if your computer has a microphone and/or
- Call Phone. This feature is similar to voice chat, except that it allows you to dial an actual phone number to call any phone in the world. It’s free to make a call to
anywhere in the United States or Canada, and you can make calls to other countries at relatively low rates.
Get to know the Gmail interface
When you’re working with Gmail, you’ll primarily be using the main Gmail interface. This window contains your inbox, and it allows you to navigate to your contacts, mail settings,
and more. Also, if you use other Google services like YouTube or Calendar, you’ll be able to access them from the top of the Gmail window.
Click the buttons in the interactive below to learn about the different parts of the Gmail interface.
Gmail – Setting Up a Gmail Account
Setting up a Gmail account is easy. You will begin by creating a Google account, and during the quick sign-up process you will choose your Gmail account name. In this lesson, we’ll show you how to set up your Google
account for Gmail, add and edit contacts, and edit your mail settings.
Setting up a Gmail account
To create a Gmail address, you’ll first need to create a Google account. Gmail will redirect you to the Google account sign-up page. You’ll need to provide some basic information like your name,
birth date, gender, and location. You will also need to choose a name for your new Gmail address. Once you create an account, you’ll be able to start adding contacts
and adjusting your mail settings.
To create an account:
- Go to www.gmail.com.
- Click Create account.
- The sign-up form will appear. Follow the directions by entering the required information.
- Next, enter your phone number to verify your account. Google uses a two-step verification process for your security.
- You will receive a text message from Google with a verification code. Enter the code to complete the account verification.
- Next, you will see a form to enter some of your personal information, like your name and birthday.
- Review Google’s Terms of Service and Privacy
Policy, then click I agree.
- Your account will be created.
Just like with any online service, it’s important to choose a strong password—in other words, one that is difficult for someone else to guess.
Signing in to your account
When you first create your account, you will be automatically signed in. Most of the time, however, you’ll need to sign in to your account and sign out when you’re done with it. Signing out is especially
important if you’re using a shared computer (for example, at a library or office) because it prevents others from viewing your emails.
To sign in:
- Go to www.gmail.com.
- Type your user name (your email address) and password, then click Next.
To sign out:
In the top-right corner of the page, locate the circle that has your first initial (if you’ve already selected an avatar image, it will show the image instead). To sign out, click the circle and select Sign out.
Occasionally, you may want to make adjustments to Gmail’s appearance or behavior. For example, you could create a signature or vacation reply, edit your labels,
or change the theme. These adjustments can be made from your mail settings.
To access your mail settings:
- Click the gear icon in the top-right corner of the page, then select Settings.
- From here, you can click any of the categories at the top to edit the desired settings.
Like all major email providers, Gmail lets you keep an address book of contacts so you don’t have to memorize everyone’s email addresses. You can also add other contact information, like phone numbers,
birthdays, and physical addresses.
To add a contact:
- Click the Google apps button.
- Click the Contacts button in the drop-down menu.
- Your contacts screen will appear. Click the Add new contact button in the lower-right corner.
- Enter the contact information, then click Save.
To edit a contact:
- In the Google apps drop-down menu, select Contacts.
- Locate the contact you want to edit, then click Edit Contact.
- You can now make any changes you want to the contact.
By default, when you send an email to a new address, Gmail adds the address to your contacts. You can then go to your contacts to edit the person’s information as needed.
Importing mail and contacts
You may already have a contact list from another email address, and it would be a lot of work to re-enter all of this information manually. Gmail allows you to import your contacts from another email account, and you can even import all of
your email messages from that account. Several email providers are supported, including Yahoo!, Hotmail, and AOL.
To add other accounts:
- Click the gear icon in the top-right corner of the page, then select Settings.
- Go to Accounts and click Add a mail account. You can then follow the instructions on the screen to import your mail.
Gmail – Sending Email
Now that you’ve created a Gmail account, you can start sending email messages. Writing an email can be as simple as typing a message, or you can use text formatting, attachments, and a signature
to customize your message.
In this lesson, we’ll show you how to compose an email, add an attachment, and create a signature that will appear on all of the messages you send.
Watch the video below to learn more about sending email with Gmail.
When you write an email, you’ll be using the compose window. This is where you’ll add the email address of the recipient(s), the subject, and the body of the email, which
is the message itself. You’ll also be able to add various types of text formatting, as well as one or more attachments. If you want, you can even create a signature that will be added to
the end of every email you send.
The compose window
Click the buttons in the interactive below to learn about the different parts of the compose window.
To send an email:
- In the left menu pane, click the Compose button.
- The compose window will appear in the lower-right corner of the page.
- You’ll need to add one or more recipients to the To: field. You can do this by typing one or more email addresses, separated by commas, or you can click To to select
recipients from your contacts, then click select.
- Type a subject for the message.
- In the body field, type your message. When you’re done, click Send.
If the person you are emailing is already one of your contacts, you can start typing that person’s first name, last name, or email address, and Gmail will display the contact below the
To: field. You can then press the Enter key to add the person to the To: field.
An attachment is simply a file (like an image or document) that is sent along with your email. For example, if you are applying for a job, you might send your resume as an attachment, with
the body of the email being the cover letter. It’s a good idea to include a message in the body of your email explaining what the attachment is, especially if the recipient isn’t expecting an attachment.
Remember to attach your file before you click Send. Forgetting to attach a file is a surprisingly common mistake.
To add an attachment:
- While composing an email, click the paper clip icon at the bottom of the compose window.
- A file upload dialog box will appear. Choose the file you want to attach, then click Open.
- The attachment will begin to upload. Most attachments will upload within a few seconds, but larger ones can take longer.
- When you’re ready to send your email, click Send.
You can click Send before the attachment finishes uploading. It will continue to upload, and Gmail will automatically send the email once it’s done.
Gmail allows you to add various types of formatting to your text.
Click the formatting button at the bottom of the compose window to see different formatting options.
Click the buttons in the interactive below to learn about different formatting options in Gmail.
For more serious emails, like job applications, be careful not to add formatting that would seem too informal, such as bright colors or emoticons.
Adding a signature
A signature is an optional block of text that appears after every email you send. By default, Gmail does not include a signature, but it’s easy to create one. It will typically include your name and some
contact information, like your phone number or email address. If you’re using Gmail at work, you may want to include your title and your company’s address or website.
- Click the gear icon in the top-right corner of the page, then select Settings.
- Scroll down until you see the Signature section.
- Type your desired signature in the box. You can also change the font, add other formatting, or insert an image if you want.
- Scroll down to the bottom of the page, then click Save Changes.
You should keep your signature brief. Instead of listing all of the phone numbers, email addresses, and mailing addresses where you can be reached, just list the most important ones.
Keep in mind that your signature will be seen by many different people, so you may not want to include your home address or anything too personal. Even if you only email people you know, someone can still forward your
email to someone else, which can reveal your signature to even more people.
Gmail – Responding to Email
In addition to sending emails, you’ll be receiving emails from others. After you read an email, there are a few actions you can take, including opening an attachment (if there is one),
replying to the message, forwarding it to someone else, or—if you don’t have time to deal with the email—adding a star to remind yourself to read it later. If you’ll be out of
town for several days or more, you can also create an automatic vacation reply so people know you’re unable to check your email.
Watch the video below to learn more about reading emails, replying, forwarding, and creating a vacation reply.
By default, any email you receive will go to your inbox. You’ll be able to tell which emails are unread because they’ll be bold. You can also see the name of the sender,
the subject of the email, and the first few words of the email body. This means even before you select an email, you can tell quite a few things about it.
To read an email:
- From your inbox, click the email you want to read.
- The email will open in the same window.
In addition to reading the email, you have several reading options.
- You can click show details to see the email addresses of the sender and any other recipients, as well as the date the email was sent.
- You can click the Star next to the name of the sender to remind yourself to read the email later.
- You can also click the More button and select Add star from the drop-down menu.
- You can Reply, Reply to all, or Forward the email to someone else.
- You can click Newer or Older on the right side of the window to view the next email (or previous one).
- You can go Back to Inbox.
Sometimes you’ll receive emails that contain attachments. Generally, you will need to download an attachment to view it. However, many common file types, like Word documents and images,
can be viewed within a browser window. If the attachment is an image, you’ll also see a smaller copy of the image—called a thumbnail—inside the body of the email. You can tell which emails contain attachments because
they will have a paper clip icon to the right of the subject.
To open an attachment:
- Open the email message that contains the attachment.
- Click the Download icon to save the attachment to your computer. If your computer asks whether you want to Open or Save it, choose Save. You can
then locate the file on your computer and double-click it to open it.
You should generally only open an attachment if it’s from a trusted source. Some attachments can contain viruses, especially .exe files. If you don’t recognize the sender—or if you
don’t know why someone is sending you the attachment—it’s safest not to open it. For more information, see this post.
Replying to emails
Most of the time, you will be replying to an email someone else sends you instead of composing a new message. When you reply, the recipient’s email address will automatically appear in the To:
field, so you won’t need to worry about choosing the recipient.
Sometimes you’ll receive emails where you’re not the only recipient, and you’ll need to decide whether you want to reply just to the person who sent the message or reply to all (the sender and all
recipients). For example, if you’re collaborating with a group of people via email, you’ll probably want to use the Reply to all option so everyone gets the message. However, if you want to send a more private message to
the sender, you’ll need to select the Reply option so the message stays between the two of you.
To reply to an email message:
- While viewing the message, click Reply at the bottom of the message. If the message was sent to multiple recipients, you will also have the option to Reply to all. You can also click the Reply
arrow to respond to the message.
You may want to double-check the To: and Cc: fields to make sure you’re sending your message to the correct people. If you are replying to all recipients, the additional
recipients will appear in the Cc: field.
- Type your message in the Body field, then click Send.
To see the text of the original email while you’re replying, click the gray button in the lower-left corner of the window, right above the Send button.
You can also choose to forward an email. This basically works the same as replying, but it’s used to send the email to someone who wasn’t one of the original recipients. Just like a reply, the original
message will appear as a quote. It’s usually a good idea to include a brief message of your own to explain why you’re forwarding the email.
To forward an email message:
- While viewing the message, click Forward at the bottom of the message. You can also select Forward from the More drop-down menu next to the Reply arrow.
- Type the recipient’s email address in the To: field, or click To to choose a recipient from your contacts. If the person is in your contacts, you can start typing his or her name
and that contact’s email address should appear.
- Type your message in the Body field, then click Send.
Sometimes when you view an email, you’ll notice that it’s grouped with several other related emails. This is called a conversation. Gmail groups related emails into conversations to help keep your inbox
as neat and organized as possible. Instead of selecting a single email from your inbox, you’re actually selecting the entire conversation, and you can then choose to view or minimize individual emails.
When you’re viewing your inbox, you can tell how many messages there are in each conversation by finding the number next to the name of the sender.
To view or minimize individual emails:
From your inbox, select a conversation.
- All of the messages in the conversation will appear to be stacked on top of one another. Click a message to expand it.
- Click the top part of the message again to minimize the message.
Adding a vacation reply
When you go on vacation, you may be unwilling or unable to check your email for several days or more. The email will still be in your inbox when you get back, so it may not be a problem. However, if someone sends you an urgent
message that needs a response the same day, this person may not realize that you won’t receive the message in time.
You can prevent this by creating a vacation reply, which will automatically send a reply to anyone who emails you. Your vacation reply can contain any message you want, but usually it will include the date
you plan to return and your contact information while you are out of town (or possibly the contact information of a coworker who can handle questions while you’re gone).
To add a vacation reply:
- Click the gear icon in the top-right corner, then select Settings.
- Scroll down until you see the Vacation responder section. Click the First day field to choose the date you want the vacation reply to start. If you want, you can also choose a Last day,
but it’s not required.
- Type the desired subject and message.
- You may want to select Only send a response to people in my Contacts to avoid giving your whereabouts and contact information to strangers. However, if you think you might receive an urgent message from someone who
is not in your contacts, you can leave it unchecked. When you’re finished, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click Save Changes.
When your vacation reply is active, there will be a bar at the top of the Gmail window showing your message. To end the vacation reply, click End now.
Gmail – Managing Email
As you use email more and more, your inbox can become cluttered with old messages. It’s important to keep your inbox organized so you can find messages when you need them. The simplest way to deal with email clutter is to delete
unwanted messages. But you can also archive messages to move them out of your inbox, or you can apply labels to your messages based on the category they’re in.
In this lesson, we’ll talk about deleting unwanted messages, archiving, applying labels, adding filters, and using Gmail’s search feature.
Watch the video below to learn how to delete and archive messages, as well as how to manage your labels.
Deleting unwanted messages
No matter how many emails you receive, you’ll probably never run out of space. Gmail gives you enough space to hold countless emails and their attachments. However, it’s a good idea to delete messages you don’t want to make it easier
to find the ones you do want.
To delete a message:
While viewing the message, click the Delete button.
If the message is a part of a conversation, the entire conversation will be deleted. If you just want to delete one message in a conversation, click the drop-down arrow in the
top-right corner of the message and select Delete this message.
Dealing with spam
Usually, spam—or junk email—is automatically sent to your Spam folder, so it never gets to your inbox. However, some spam still gets past Gmail’s spam filter. Instead of simply deleting
these messages, it’s best to Report them as spam so Gmail knows to filter them out in the future. The process is the same as deleting a message, except that you’ll click the Report spam button
Messages in your Spam folder are automatically deleted after 30 days, so you’ll never have to worry about deleting them manually.
Sometimes you may want to remove emails from your inbox, but you don’t want to delete them. Gmail allows you to archive messages so they will no longer appear in your inbox. Because you can still access archived
messages, it’s a safer alternative to deleting.
To archive a message:
While viewing the message, click the Archive button.
To view your archived messages:
In the left menu pane, click the more drop-down arrow and select All Mail.
It will then display all of your messages, including archived messages and the messages in your inbox.
Managing multiple messages
If you’re deleting, archiving, or reporting spam, you can take action on several messages at a time by selecting them in your inbox. Simply place a
check mark next to each message you want to manage, then click the desired button. You can also click the top check mark to select all of the messages that are currently visible.
Working with labels
Labels allow you to organize your messages and make them easier to find. Applying a label to a message is like putting it into a folder, with one important difference: You can apply more than one label
to a message. For example, if you received a message about a company trip, you could label it as Travel and Work. You can choose to label only the most important messages, or you can
label every single one—it’s up to you. You can create new labels whenever you need to, and you can also choose a color that will make the label stand out.
To apply a label to a message:
- While viewing the message, click the Labels button. A drop-down menu will appear with a list of labels.
- Place a check mark next to all of the labels you want, then click Apply.
- Now, when you view your inbox, you’ll be able to see the label next to the message subject.
To create a new label:
- While viewing the message, click the Labels button, then select Create new.
- Type a new label name, then click Create. The new label will be applied to the message.
Viewing labeled messages
Once you’ve added labels to some of your messages, you can easily view all of the messages that contain a particular label. This is where all of the time spent labeling messages pays off. For example, you may want to
view messages with the label Travel so you can see everything that pertains to an upcoming trip.
To view labeled messages:
- In the left menu pane, click the name of the label you want to view.
- Gmail will now display only the messages containing the label you selected. The name of the label you chose will appear in the search bar.
- To view all of your messages again, click Inbox in the left menu pane.
Some labels may be hidden. If you don’t see the label you want, click the More drop-down arrow to view the hidden labels. From here, you can also click Manage labels to control which
ones are hidden.
To choose a label color:
- In the left menu pane, find the label you want to change.
- Click the more button to the right of the label name.
- From the menu, select the desired color.
- The label will update to reflect the new color.
Filters can save you a lot of time by automatically performing actions like labeling or deleting messages as soon as they arrive in your inbox. You can create filters that look for a
specific sender, recipient, subject, or specific words that are contained in the body of the email.
Watch the video below to learn how to create filters and search for an email message.
To create a filter:
- Open an email message. Ideally, this message should be similar to the emails you want to filter.
- Click the More actions button, then select Filter messages like these.
- In the box that appears, type one or more search criteria. One or more fields may already be filled in based on the email you opened, but you can edit the criteria if necessary. In this example, we’re only
looking for messages that are from Twitter. Click Create filter with this search to select actions you want to apply to the filter.
- Place a check mark next to the desired action. If you want to apply a label, you’ll need to choose the label from the drop-down menu.
- If you want to apply the filter to existing messages that meet the criteria, place a check mark next to Also apply filter to matching conversations.
- Click Create Filter. In this example, the Twitter label will be applied to any new messages you receive from Twitter, as well as all of the existing ones.
To edit or delete filters:
- In the top-right corner of the page, click the gear icon, then select Settings.
- Click Filters and Blocked Addresses at the top of the screen to view a list of filters that are currently active. You can then edit or delete the desired
The search mail feature allows you to perform a Google search in your email. This means you can find any message, no matter how new or old. It searches every part of the message, so you can find a
message even if you don’t remember who sent it or if you never labeled it.
To search for a message:
- At the top of the page, type some search terms in the Gmail search box.
- Your inbox will display your search results. You can click an email to read it, or you can try a different search.
If you’re still not finding what you’re looking for, you can click Show search options to perform an advanced search.
Gmail – Gmail for Mobile Devices
No matter what type of mobile device you use, it’s easy to send and receive Gmail messages on the go. In this lesson, we’ll show you how to set up Gmail with the native email app
on your device. We’ll also talk about using the official Gmail app for iPhone and Android.
Gmail for mobile devices
If you have a mobile device, there are two main ways to access your Gmail account:
- Option 1: The native email app on your device. If you have multiple email accounts through different email providers (such as a personal email and a work email), you may find the native
email application to be more convenient because it allows you to view and manage all of your messages in one place.
- Option 2: The official Gmail mobile app, available for iOS
and Android. If you’re already an experienced Gmail user, you may prefer using the official Gmail
app. The app looks and feels similar to the desktop version, and it includes some custom Gmail features that may not be available in the native email app on your device.
To set up Gmail with the native email app:
In this example, we’ll explain how to sync a Gmail account with the Mail app for iOS devices, including the iPhone and iPad. Keep in mind that this process may vary depending on your device.
- Navigate to the email settings on your device, then select Add Account.
- Select Google.
- Follow the instructions to connect your account.
- When you’re done, you’ll be able to send and receive emails from your Gmail account in the Mail app.
Using the Gmail app
We’d like to give you a quick overview of Gmail for Android and Gmail for iPhone. While the interface for these apps is somewhat different, you’ll notice that each app gives you access to the
same basic features.
Gmail for Android
Click the buttons in the interactive below to learn more about using Gmail for Android.
Gmail for iPhone
Click the buttons in the interactive below to learn more about using Gmail for iPhone.
Remember, if you’re using the native email app on your phone, it will look different from the official Gmail apps above.