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THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO GMAIL / HOW-TO GEEK SCHOOL

How-To Geek

Lesson 7: Use Gmail as a Task List

Gmail Guide 7

For today’s lesson, we’re going to cover how to use Gmail as a task list. Gmail integrates a simple to-do list into your account. Google Tasks allows you to create lists of items, set due dates, and add notes. You can even create tasks directly from Gmail messages.

Add a Task

To add a task in in your Gmail account using Google Tasks, click the down arrow on the “Mail” menu in the upper-left corner of the Gmail window and select “Tasks.”

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The “Tasks” window displays in the bottom-right corner of the Gmail window. Notice that the cursor is blinking in the first blank task. If the cursor is not blinking in the first empty task, move the mouse over it and click in it.

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Then type directly in the first blank task.

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Once you’ve added a task, you can click the plus icon to create additional tasks. Pressing return after entering a task also creates a new task directly below it.

Create a Task from an Email

You can also easily create a task from an email. Select the email you want to add as a task. Click the “More” action button and select “Add to Tasks” from the drop-down menu.

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Gmail automatically adds a new task using the subject line of the email. A link to the “Related email” is also added to the task. Clicking the link opens the email behind the “Tasks” window.

You can also add additional text to the task or change the text input by Gmail simply by clicking in the task and typing or highlighting text and replacing it.

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Notice that the “Tasks” window stays open even as you navigate through your email in the background. Use the “X” button in the upper-right corner of the “Tasks” window to close it.

Reorder Tasks

Tasks can be easily reordered. Simply move your mouse over the task on the far left side until you see a dotted border.

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Click and drag that border up or down to move the task to a different position in the list.

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Add Tasks to the Middle of Your Task List

You can also order your tasks by inserting new tasks into the middle of the list. If you put the cursor at the end of a task and press “Enter,” a new task is added after that task. If you press “Enter” with the cursor at the beginning of a task, a new task is inserted before that task.

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Create Subtasks

If one of your tasks has subtasks, you can easily add these subtasks to the task. Add the subtask under a task and then press “Tab” to indent it. Press “Shift + Tab” to move a task back to the left.

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Add Details to a Task

Sometimes you might want to simply add notes or details to a task without creating subtasks. To do this, move your mouse over a task until an arrow displays to the right of the task. Click on the arrow.

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A window displays allowing you to select a due date for the task and to enter notes. To select a due date, click the “Due date” box.

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A calendar displays. Click a date to specify a due date for the task. Use the arrows next to the month to move to different months.

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The date is inserted into the “Due date” box. To add notes to the task, type them in the edit box below the “Due date” box. When you are done, click “Back to list.”

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The note and due date display on the task as links. Clicking on either link allows you to edit that part of the task.

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Minimize the Tasks Window

When you move your mouse over the title bar of the “Tasks” window, it become a hand. Clicking the title bar minimizes the “Tasks” window.

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Clicking the title bar again opens the “Tasks” window.

Rename a Task List

By default, your task list is titled with the name of your Gmail account. However, you can change this. For example, maybe you want separate tasks lists for work and personal.

To rename a task list, click the “Switch list” icon in the lower-right corner of the “Tasks” window and select “Rename list” from the popup menu.

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Enter a new name for the current task list in the “Rename list” to edit box on the dialog box that displays. Click “OK.”

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The new name displays in the title bar of the “Tasks” window.

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Print or Email a Task List

You can print a task list by clicking “Actions” and selecting “Print task list” from the popup menu.

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You can email a task list to yourself or to someone else using the “Email task list” option on the “Actions” popup menu, pictured above.

Create Additional Task Lists

Now that you’ve renamed your initial task list, you can add another one for a different use, such as for personal tasks. To do this, click the “Switch list” icon again and select “New list” from the popup menu.

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Enter a name for the new list in the “Create a new list named” edit box on the dialog box that displays, then click “OK.”

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The new list is created and Gmail automatically switches to the new list in the “Tasks” window.

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Switch to a Different Task List

You can easily switch to another task list by clicking the “Switch list” icon and select the name of the desired list from the popup menu.

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Check Off Completed Tasks

When you’re done with a task you can check it off, indicating you have completed it. To check off a task, select the check box to the left of the task. A check mark displays and the task is crossed out.

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Clear Completed Tasks

To clear or hide completed tasks from your task list, click “Actions” at the bottom of the “Tasks” window and select “Clear completed tasks” from the popup menu.

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The completed task is removed from the list and a new, empty task is added by default.

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View Hidden Completed Tasks

When you clear tasks from a task list, they are not completed deleted. They are simply hidden. To view hidden, completed tasks, click “Actions” and select “View completed tasks” from the popup menu.

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Completed tasks for the currently selected task list are displayed by date.

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Delete a Task

You can delete tasks you have created, whether they are marked as completed or not.

To delete a task, click the cursor in the text of the task to select it, and click the “Trash” icon at the bottom of the “Tasks” window.

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NOTE: Deletions of tasks take effect immediately in your “Tasks” window. However, Google says that residual copies may take up to 30 days to be deleted from their servers.

View Your List in a Pop-Out Window

You can view your tasks in a separate window you can move around. If you have a large enough screen, this is useful so you can see the entire Gmail window without it being blocked by the “Tasks” window.

To make a separate “Tasks” window, click the “Pop-out” arrow at the top of the “Tasks” window.

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The “Tasks” window becomes a separate window from the browser window. All the same menus and options are available including the “Pop-in” button that allows you to return the “Tasks” window to the lower-right corner of the browser window.

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Coming up Next …

So that’s everything you ever wanted to know about tasks in Gmail. It’s pretty comprehensive, we know, but being able to use Gmail to track your tasks is pretty darned handy so we wanted to give it the attention it deserves.

In the next How-To Geek School lesson, we’ll focus on Google Hangouts, which let you instantly chat with other Gmail users; how to manage multiple Gmail accounts; and using Gmail with keyboard shortcuts.

Lori Kaufman is a freelance technical writer who likes to write geeky how-to articles to help make people's lives easier through the use of technology. She loves watching and reading mysteries and is an avid Doctor Who fan.

  • Published 03/4/14

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