Getting to Know Gmail

Quickly Move Through Your Messages Using the Newer and Older Buttons

If you have a lot of email messages in your inbox, you can use the “Newer” and “Older” buttons to move through your messages. These buttons are only active if you have a message open.


Communicate Internationally Using the Input Tools Button

Gmail provides many different virtual keyboards and IMEs (input method editors) you must turn on to use, allowing you to communicate in different languages using different keyboard layouts for improved international communication. IMEs allow you to use a Latin alphabet keyboard to convert your keystrokes to characters in another language.

The Transliteration input tool allows you to type languages phonetically in English letters, and they’ll display in their correct alphabet.

A Handwriting input tool is available that allows you to write words using your mouse or trackpad.

NOTE: Transliteration is different from translation. When using transliteration, you are only converting the sound of the words from one alphabet to the other, not the meaning.

Click the keyboard button to turn the Input tools on or off. Note that you can also press “Ctrl + Shift + K” to do this.


Clicking the down arrow on the right side of the keyboard button displays the input options, such as selecting a different keyboard layout, enabling a personal dictionary, and accessing the “Input Tools Settings.”


In Lesson 10, we will discuss the different types of input tools, show you how to turn the “Input Tools” on and off, and select specific input tools to be available on the menu.

Customize Gmail Using the Settings Button

Use the “Settings” gear button to define your display density setting (the space between messages and objects in Gmail), access other settings or themes, and get Gmail help.


We will discuss useful Gmail settings in Lesson 3.

Write and Send Emails Using the Compose Button

Use the Compose button in the upper, left corner of the main Gmail screen to write and send new emails. You can format your text, add images and links, and attach files. We will show you all the Compose features in Lesson 2.


Organize Your Inbox Using Default and Custom Labels

To the left of the Inbox is a list of labels. This list is similar to the list available from the “Labels” button, and just like the “Labels” button, it allows you to organize the messages in your inbox into categories.

Gmail comes with several default labels and you can add custom labels. The number in parentheses next to a label indicates the number of unread messages associated or tagged, with that label. Click a label link to display all messages associated with that label.


When you drag a message to a label, it’s similar to using the “Move to” button. The message is moved to that label and is removed from the inbox. However, you can also drag a label from the list to a message to associate it with that label. This allows you to drag multiple labels to a single message, unlike folders.

The “All Mail” label is your archive. Use this label to help reduce clutter in your inbox. Move messages you’ve read (but don’t want to delete) in your inbox to the “All Mail” label to archive the message. Messages in the “All Mail” label are never deleted (unless you delete them) and are always available by clicking the “All Mail” label link. When you use the “Search” box to find messages, the messages in the “All Mail” label are included in the search.

You can also assign different colors to your labels to quickly find messages at a glance in your inbox. Clicking the arrow to the right of a label allows you to access options for that label, such as changing the color. Use this menu to show or hide the label in the labels list or in the message list, to edit or remove a label, or add a sub-label to the label.


We’ll cover labels at great length in Lesson 3.

Read and Organize Your Messages in Your Inbox

Your inbox displays all email messages you’ve received and haven’t yet moved to a label or archived. By default, unread messages in your inbox have a white background and display in bold lettering while read messages have a gray background and normal type.


Everyone has their own distinct way of viewing and dealing with email. Gmail allows you to change your inbox style. Simply, click the arrow to the right of the Inbox label and select a different style from the drop-down menu.

The currently selected style is indicated with a check mark. Each style is described to the right of the menu as you move your mouse over the options.


Switching from one style to another does not affect the messages in your inbox, it only changes the order in which the messages are listed.

Indicate Important Messages Using Stars

Use stars in your inbox to mark certain messages as “Important.” For example, you can star messages that you need to reply to later. To star a message, simply click the star to the left of the sender’s name.


If you already have the message open, you can click the “More” button and select “Add star.”


You can add other types of stars, such as an exclamation point or a check mark by modifying the preference in settings. We will show you how to do this in Lesson 4.

Easily Spot Messages with Attachments or Calendar Invitations

Gmail informs you visually when a message contains an attachment or an invitation with an icon to the right of the subject line.

In the image below, we have an invitation to lunch (calendar icon) in one message, and an attachment (paperclip icon) on another.


Stay Connected with Hangouts

Google Hangouts allows you to send messages, photos, and make video calls with your friends and family. It’s available in Gmail below the list of labels on the left.


We will briefly discuss Hangouts much later in Lesson 8.

Overview of the Course

For the remainder of this series, we will concentrate on a nine key areas:

Lesson 2: The Mobile App, Composing Mail, and Conversations

We finish our tour of the Gmail interface by going into the mobile app. Then we cover how to compose emails including replying to and forwarding. Finally, we will introduce you to the conversation view, how to disable it, and how to delete a single message from a conversation.

Lesson 3 – Inbox Management and Labels

In Lesson 3 we move on to inbox management such as how to automatically categorize you inbox message and organize your messages with different inbox styles. Afterward, we dig into mail labels.

Lesson 4 – Mail Filters and the Star System

Lesson 4 begins with a discussion on how to filter your labeled mail, including how to easily import and export existing filters into other Gmail accounts. We wind up the lesson by focusing on the star systems, which allows you to mark various email messages with different color stars, making messages easier to find and group.

Lesson 5 – Attachments, Signatures, and Security

If you’ve ever wanted to include a signature at the end of each message, then you’ll find out how to do that in Lesson 5. We also touch briefly on Gmail’s attachment functionality and we’ll wrap the lesson up with coverage on how to change your password, add two-level security, and back up your data.

Lesson 6 – Invitations and Vacation Responders

In Lesson 6, we cover invitations – how to find, respond, and insert them into Gmail messages. Wrapping up, we explain how vacation responders work and how to use them effectively when you’re away from the office.

Lesson 7 – Use Gmail as a Task List

Lesson 7 is devoted solely to using Gmail as a task list – adding, creating, renaming, and just about anything else task list related.

Lesson 8 – Multiple Accounts, Keyboard Shortcuts, Hangouts

Here we cover Google Hangouts (formally Gtalk), which will allow you to easily chat with any other Gmail user, or create a group chat (Hangout), with multiple users. Then we jump into using and managing multiple accounts, how to sign out of Gmail remotely, and finally a brief introduction to using Gmail with a keyboard.

Lesson 9 – Use Your Gmail Account to Access Other Accounts and Working Offline

If you have other email accounts, you can access them through your Gmail, allowing you to consolidate all your accounts into one. You can also use Gmail offline in case you don’t have reliable Internet access, such as if you’re traveling or in a remote area.

Lesson 10 – Power Tips and Gmail Labs

We close the series out by taking you through some various remaining power tips and introducing you to Gmail Labs, which will let you extend the power and functionality of Gmail far beyond the basic, default user interface.

Lori Kaufman is a 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.