Gmail Guide 5

In this lesson, we focus on attachments and how you can spruce up your email messages with a personalized signature.

We close things out with information on how to best protect your account data and also back up your data locally so you always have it, even if you delete your account.


Adding an attachment to an email in Gmail is easy. Best of all, with Gmail, you can avoid the embarrassment of sending a follow-up email if you forget to attach a file.

NOTE: Gmail messages can be up to 25 megabytes (MB) in size. If you need to send attachments in the message that cause it to be larger than 25MB, you can insert files from Google Drive instead. There is no limit to the number of attachments allowed per message, as long as you do not exceed the 25MB size limit.

One way is to click “Attach files” at the bottom of the “Compose” window.

Select your files to attach to the message on the “Open” dialog box. You can attach multiple files at a time by selecting multiple files the same way you would in Windows Explorer. Click “Open” to attach the selected files.

The progress of the attachment of the files displays at the bottom of the message.

Now, what if you forget to attach your files? Gmail won’t let you forget. Gmail recognizes when you’ve written certain phrases in the body of your message, and before it will send the message, a reminder message pops up.

Click “Cancel” and attach the files before sending the message.

Any of the following phrases will prompt the attachment reminder to display.

  • see attached
  • see attachment
  • see the attached
  • attached to this email
  • I’ve attached
  • I have attached
  • I’ve included
  • I have included
  • attached file

Use Drag-and-Drop to Attach Files

You can also drag-and-drop files onto a message you’re composing to attach them. Simply drag a file from an Explorer window to the message you’re composing.

Set up an Email Signature in Gmail Mobile

An email signature allows you to automatically include a few lines of contact information (or any other information) to the bottom of every outgoing email message, allowing you to easily advertise your business or yourself.

Gmail allows you to set up a signature to include in messages you compose.

To set up a signature that will be automatically appended to any emails you compose in Gmail, click the settings gear button and select “Settings” from the drop-down menu. Stay on the “General” tab, scroll down to the “Signature” section and select the option below “No signature” to turn the feature on.

Enter the text you want to use as your signature. If you have a logo, you can insert that as an image with your text or on its own. You can also add hyperlinks to text in your signature, by selecting the text for the link and clicking the “Link” button on the toolbar.

NOTE: If you want to add an image to your signature, you need to use an image that’s available publicly on the web. For example, to use your company’s logo, you might be able to find it on your company’s site and copy the URL from there. You need a web URL to include an image in your signature. If the image you want to use is not already available on the web, you can use sites like Blogger and Google Sites to create a simple website and upload your image to it. Or, you can use an image hosting service.

Under “Link to,” specify whether the link is to a “Web address” or an “Email address.” Enter the URL or email address in the “To what URL should this link go?” box. If you want to test the link to make sure it works, click “Test this link.” When you are satisfied, click “OK.”

The link is inserted. When the cursor is on any of the linked text, additional options display. You can “Go to [the] link, “Change” the link, or “Remove” the link. To hide these options, either click the “X” on the right side of the box, or click on any other non-linked text in the signature.

Gmail automatically inserts two dashes (–) above your signature, separating it from the body of the email message, as shown below.

You can choose to leave out the dashes. To do so, select the “Insert this signature before quoted text in replies and remove the ‘–‘ line that precedes it” check box. Note that this option will also insert your signature before quoted text in replies.

Click “Save Changes.”

You can edit or delete the signature manually once it is inserted into a new message.

Set up an Email Signature in Gmail Mobile

The Gmail mobile app allows you to set up a signature for use in the app that’s separate from the signature you setup in Gmail in a browser.

We will show you how to setup a signature on an Android phone. To add a signature in the Gmail app on an Android phone, click your phone’s menu button and select “Settings” from the popup menu.

On the “Settings” screen, touch the email address for the account for which you want to setup a signature.

Touch the “Signature” option on the “Settings” screen.

Enter your signature on the “Signature” popup dialog and touch “OK.”

NOTE: You can press “Enter” in the signature to put your signature text on multiple lines however, you cannot add hyperlinks to the text in your signature in the Gmail app.

The signature displays below the “Signature” option on the “Settings” screen.

Press the “Back” button on your phone twice to return to your inbox. Touch the “Compose” button.

The signature you defined is automatically added to the new email message.

Set up Multiple Signatures

You can only add one signature in Gmail. However, there is a way around this limitation in the browser. If you need multiple signatures in Gmail, you can create additional ones using the “Canned Responses” feature in the Gmail Labs.

We will cover this feature in Lesson 10 when we talk about advanced features in Gmail Labs.

Keep your Account and Data Secure

We want to switch gears a bit for the remainder of this lesson to focus on account security and backing up your data. Since you’ll be keeping so much of your life in (contacts, calendars, tasks, etc.) your Gmail account, it’s imperative you know how to keep it safe, secure and, if necessary, how to back your data up in case, for example, you ever decide you want to delete your account.

Secure Your Data Using Google Account Settings

You can change your password, account recovery options, and notifications in the “Security” section of the “Accounts” section.

To access the “Accounts” screen, click the “Settings” gear button and select “Settings” from the drop-down list. Click “Accounts” at the top of the “Settings” screen.

In the “Change account settings” section, you can change your password, change your password recovery options, and access other “Google Account settings.”

Change Your Gmail Password

It’s a good idea to change your passwords every once in a while to prevent unauthorized access to your online accounts, including Gmail. If you suspect somebody might have gained access to your Gmail account, you should change your password immediately.

To change your password, access the main “Accounts” screen as described above. In the “Change account settings” section, click the “Change password” link.

On the “Change your password” screen, enter your “Current password” and then enter a “New password,” again in “Confirm new password,” and click “Change Password” to accept the change.

Recover or Reset Your Gmail Password if You Have Forgotten it

If you’ve forgotten your Gmail password, there are a few ways you can recover or reset it.

Access the “Accounts” section on the “Settings” screen, as discussed earlier. Click the “Change password recovery options” link in “Change account settings.”

Use the “Account recovery options” screen to further secure your Google account and to provide ways of accessing account if you forget your password.

You can provide a “Mobile phone” number to help protect your account, a “Recovery email address” that allows Google to contact you about changes to your account, and an “Alternate email address,” which provides another recovery email address as well as another method of signing into your Google account.

You can also assign a “Security question” to your account to further establish that this is indeed your account, when contacting Google about it.

Make any changes you want to your account recovery options and click “Save” when you are finished.

Get an Extra Layer of Security Using 2-Step Verification

The “Security” section of the “Accounts” screen also allows you to apply 2-step verification to your account to provide an extra layer of security using your mobile phone.

In a nutshell, when you elect to add 2-step verification to your Google account, upon entering your password, Google will then text a numerical code to your mobile phone. You then verify your identity by entering the code at the next screen, i.e. second step.

See our article about securing your Google account using 2-step verification for detailed information about setting up this feature.

Protect Your Privacy Using the External Images Options

Up until now by default, Gmail has always asked you before showing images in emails. Some senders might try to use images to deliver viruses or malware to your computer or mobile device, compromising its security.

As of December 2013, Google changed how Gmail handles images in email. In your browser, Gmail will show images in your messages automatically now. This change will be rolling out to Gmail for Android and iOS “in early 2014.”

However, Gmail messages will continue to be safe. Normally, images are served directly from the original external host servers. However, now Gmail will serve all images through Google’s own secure proxy servers. This protects you in the following ways:

  • Senders can’t use image-loading to get information like your IP address or location.
  • Senders can’t set or read cookies in your browser.
  • Gmail checks your images for known viruses or malware.

Gmail will continue to scan every message for suspicious content and if Gmail considers a sender or message suspicious or potentially harmful, images will not be displayed and you will be asked whether you want to see the images.

So, Google will still be responsible for the security of images received through Gmail. According to Google, “your email will now be safer, faster and more beautiful than ever.”

Choose Whether to Show Images Automatically in the Settings

If you don’t want images to be displayed automatically, you can still choose to display images on a per-message basis.

See our article on How-To Geek to learn more about this feature, and about how to change the settings so you can decide to show images for each message separately.

Backing up Your Data

You’ve always been taught that it’s a good idea to back up your data, such as documents, notes, etc., and the same goes for emails, calendar data, and contacts.

You now have the ability in Gmail to export a copy of your data from various Google products, such as Calendar and Contacts, and you will soon have the ability to export a copy of your Gmail messages.

Each Google service is archived in a different format. For information about each of the formats available for the different services, see Google’s help page.

To archive your Google Data, click the “Settings” gear button and select “Settings” from the drop-down menu, and click the “Accounts” tab on the “Settings” screen.

In the “Change account settings” section on the “Accounts” screen, click the “Google Account settings” link.

On the “Accounts” screen, click “Download your data” under “Account.”

On the “Download a copy of your data” screen, click “Create an archive.”

The next screen allows you to select the Google products for which you want to download your data. Follow the directions on the screens to create your archive.

You can also click the “My archives” link in the upper-right corner to access your archives and download them to your computer.

Backup Your Gmail Account Using Other Methods

You can also use an open source tool called GMVault to download a backup of your Gmail account. This is a command line tool that can be used in Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X.

If you’re not comfortable using a command line tool, you can use the free email client Thunderbird to download and backup your email from your Gmail account.

If you use Ubuntu, we’ve described how to use a program called Getmail to backup your Gmail account.

You can even backup your Gmail messages by automatically forwarding them to another email address. Google Help describes how to do this. Note that this method will only backup email you receive, not your sent mail.

Coming up Next …

Adding attachments to Gmail messages is a snap and best of all, if you’re the forgetful type, the system will remind you. That’s good news, especially if you’ve added a snazzy professional looking signature and you don’t want to embarrass yourself by forgetting to include a file.

More importantly, you now have a better understanding of the security options that are available to you, and how you can best keep your account secure while maintaining the integrity of your valuable data.

The next lesson will discuss invitations and vacation responders so you’ll never miss an important event and you can let people quickly know when you’re out of the office and when you’ll return.

Profile Photo for Lori Kaufman Lori Kaufman
Lori Kaufman is a technology expert with 25 years of experience. She's been a senior technical writer, worked as a programmer, and has even run her own multi-location business.
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