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The ins and outs of gmail

Gmail is one of the recently renamed Google Workspace’s core applications. Once you create an account you’ll have access to all the other core features such as your own cloud based desktop for documents and other files, video meetings, and calendar.

Signing up for gmail automatically subscribes you to the full range of apps. If you’ve been signed up for a business Workspace account your admin has the option of turning services on and off. But gmail will always be a fundamental part.

You can access your account and synchronize your bookmarks from any device.

How much does gmail cost?

For personal plans gmail is absolutely free. The business versions begin at under £5 per user per month. However: the basic paid version is free for non profit organizations such as charities and schools.

How many gmail accounts can I have?

You can have as many accounts as you need. Another useful feature is that you can have multiple accounts open at the same time, without having to sign in and out of them.

If you already account, you may want to begin by following the above guide and create one following that method. Then return here and continue personalizing your settings.

A particularly useful feature when using your work and personal accounts

Chatting and video conferencing in gmail

Two of the core Workspace applications are also accessible directly from the gmail homepage.

Chatting in gmail

The Chat app allows you to have two-way and group chats. Along with being accessible from the apps listing, you can also access it from the sidebar of gmail, as described in the chat guide.

Video meetings in gmail

If you’ve heard of Zoom meetings, you’ll be aware of the benefits of video conferencing and virtual meetings. Google’s version, Meet, is also accessible directly from gmail.

How do I open a gmail account?

The short answer to this question is that you don’t. Instead you create a Google account, which includes gmail as well as the other Drive apps, along with a few more such as Youtube. But there is what I would term a gmail route.

Creating a Google account via gmail
create a Google account via gmail
Creating a Google account Directly
create a Google account directly

The difference is that following the gmail path opens our new account in gmail, as indicated at the top of the sign up form which has the phrase Continue to Gmail at the top.

Preparing to create a gmail account

This part of the guide only applies to personal accounts. If you’re an admin of a company account the guide to creating users will be of more interest to you.

Obviously you’ll need a unique username such as myname@gmail.com. If the name is already taken, Google will offer some alternatives, often with a number, for example: myname123@gmail.com

For verification purposes you’ll need to have a mobile phone handy to send a verification code to. This is also part of Google’s two-step verification, so you’ll need this when signing into your account from different devices

Be wary of this feature when travelling abroad or use WiFi hotspots.

Google is now becoming more interested in your age, the minimum of which is 14. So it may be handy to have some proof of age, such as a passport.

They also like you to have a recovery email address. Don’t worry if you don’t have one. Alternatively you could use an existing one. If you want to later delete your old account you can create another gmail account and use that one.

Your password needs to be at least 8 characters long and should contain a mix of letters numbers and symbols/

Creating a gmail account

Go to www.gmail.com and select Create account. The image below shows the fields required.

create gmail form

Once you’ve completed this, the next window will ask for your mobile phone number. To send the verification code to.

After you’ve verified yourself and clicked Next, you'll be asked to provide your date of birth.

The following windows are focused on personal choices and are far from mentally taxing. Complete these steps until you reach the I agree to Google’s terms.

After this you’ll see the Workspace logo prior to your gmail opening up. If you get prompted to Continue with smart features I recommend accepting this option, it’ll make life sweeter in the future.

I would also allow Google to Personalize other Google products… which appears in the next pop out.

Clock done and you’re in. you now have access to all the features that accompany a Google account. But before we go any further, note the options to customize your account under the heading Get started with gmail

The options are self explanatory and consist of:

  • Customize your inbox
  • Change profile image
  • Import contacts and emails
  • Get gmail for mobile

You’ll also see a welcome email, again the options are quite intuitive. Once you’ve gone through these you can delete the email

Also to the left of the email listing you’ll see the option to “Star” the emails, making them easier to find later.

Overview of your gmail home page

gmail home page

I’ll cover the functionality a little later, but for now I’ll just explain the very basics

What are gmail categories?

If you selected Continue with smart features earlier, you’ll notice directly at the top of your emails there are three headings, these are categories.

The first, Primary, is where most of your activity will take place. Note emails from the other two categories may also show up here.

The Social category is where emails from social networks, such as Facebook, land. The Promotions category is where you’ll receive emails from any mailing lists you’ve joined.

If you’re not using a business version, you’ll notice that the last two categories already have two emails. These are advertisements and are the price we pay for having a “free” account.

How to make use of the gmail side panel

If you’re reading or writing emails, you may prefer to do so in full screen mode. Clicking the burger icon in the top left will open and close the sidebar and extend your email view.

What are the sidebar labels

Google provides us with various methods of storing emails, both permanent and short term. The Starred holds the ones we add a star to. Another holds all those we’ve sent ourselves.

If you’re trying to find your way around and want to return to the homepage, click the Inbox label at the top of the sidebar.

Not all the preset labels are instantly visible. Click the More to view them.

One of them is marked Bin. This is where emails we delete will remain for 30 days before they are deleted permanently. Delete the welcome email and take a look. If you’re using an older version, the Bin may be marked as trash.

Managing your emails

With potentially thousands of emails heading our way, we obviously need a means of storing the ones we want to keep safely, not to mention deleting any unwanted items.

How do I manage my gmail spam folder

Google does filter out much of the spam for us and it’s in the spam folder where they are stored for 30 days. While in the Spam. If you check the box to the left of an email, you’ll see the Not spam label appear in the row of labels at the top.

You can also mark emails as spam yourself while in your inbox or any of the other two categories.

Check the box on the left of any or all of the emails you regard as spam and in the top toolbar hit Spam. Future emails from the same sender will then go directly into the spam folder.

Google isn’t perfect and sometimes mistakenly sends emails to your spam folder. I often check mine for any that may not be spam. Then, to make life easier, I select all and delete them permanently.

How do I manage my emails

Above your emails you’ll see a square icon. Click on this to select all emails you wish to apply the same action to, or click the box at the side of the email to apply it to one or a select few.

Delete one, multiple, or all of your emails

Once you have active emails, i.e. the checkbox is checked you’ll notice more icons or labels appear by the side of the existing ones. We also have some pre-existing labels to store emails under. I’ll cover creating your home storage labels in a moment.

Think of the labels as storage folders. Clicking the bin icon or delete icon will send any selected icon to the Bin folder. They’ll remain there for 30 days, after which they’ll be permanently deleted.

Google doesn’t actually create folders, instead it attaches a label to them, but many people find it easier to think of them as folders.

We have a choice of whether we want icons or labels. Switching from one to the other is cone in the main settings panel which I'll cover shortly.

We can create our own folders and give them easily identifiable names.

How can I manage my emails using Labels

Think of all the folders containing other folders and files on your desktop. Easy to navigate and find the files you want, yes? Well that’s what labels do in gmail. Why they didn’t name them folders remains a mystery.

In this section where going to create some labels ourselves. If you deleted the welcome email, go into your Bin folder in the sidebar and check the box to the left of it.

Hover over each of the icons just above the email listings. The one we want, Send to is currently the second from the right. Click that and select Inbox.

We’re going to create a label called google mail, in which we’ll store any emails from Google.

Begin by clicking the box on the right of the welcome email. This will expand the row of icons above. TheLabels icon is currently the last on the right; click it.

We haven’t yet created a label, so click Create new near the bottom. Then name it “google mail”. Ignore the text field concerning Nest label under and click the blue Create button.

The email is still with us, but not for long. Click the Move to icon second from right and from the dropdown list select the new label we’ve just created. You can also create new labels from the side panel.

Moving over to the side panel, you see our new label is now visible. This may not always be the case, besides there may be labels we want to hide.

in the side panel, scroll down the cog icon to the left of Manage labels and click it. This will open the settings panel.

Right at the bottom of the labels view you’ll find the new label. Aligned with the label you’ll see three options.

  • Show
  • Hide
  • Show of unread

The active option will be coloured black, whereas the others will be blue. Changing the setting is just a matter of clicking one of the blue ones.

So now we can manage our emails and view any under a particular label by simply clicking a label in the sidebar. Click on Inbox to return to the default display.

Working your way around the gmail settings

The settings cog icon is near the top right. Let’s add a little colour shall we. Begin by clicking on the Settings cog.

At the center of the side panel that opens up on the right, you’ll see two rows of images: click View all. Then choose an image for your gmail background. Be careful, not all are of a suitable colour for the text that will overlay them. You may have to try a few to ,ale the text stand out.

How to view all gmail settings

Gmail has many more settings, although some we’ll never use, it’s handy to know where to find and set them for now, in the settings side panel: click See all settings.

gmail general settings

By default the settings window will open up in the General view, which is basically a list of self explanatory options. Scrolling someway down you’ll come to the Buttons label. This where set the icon or label view on the top toolbar.

After making changes scroll to the bottom and click Save Changes. You may have to refresh your browser to see the changes. We’ve a;ready looked at labels so now we’ll jump to the one after.

Using the settings to set you inbox

Remember the three categories of our inbox. Google offers us two more. We can also remove two of the ones we already have. From your settings view, click Inbox.

There are also some personal customized options such as enabling the Reading pane. This opens the email you’re reading to the side or bottom of the other emails

Import mail and contact into gmail from another gmail provider

Remember how I discussed sending emails into spam, if you want to reverse that decision you can do it here, as well as add more. We can also create filters that send emails with a specific keyword directly to another folder.

How to forward your emails to another account and set your POP and IMAP access

To save checking multiple accounts, you may want to forward emails to another address. Open up the Forwarding and POP/IMAP view in Settings.

In the Forwarding section, add the address to be forwarded to and then open the said email.

The email address to be forwarded to will receive an email with a link to confirm and a code. The code needs to be pasted into the source email.

Return to the forwarder email and paste in the code, making sure forwarding is activated. Then decide what to do with the email once it’s been forwarded. For example keep it in the inbox or delete it.

So that other email clients, such as Outlook, can read the emails, we need to go one step further and enable IMAP. I wouldn’t worry about POP, this is very limited and generally outdated.

Don’t forget to Save Changes at the bottom of the view.

Create your own gmail add-ons

Another option in the Settings is Add-ons. Google allows us to write programs that enhance the functionality of many of its services with App scripts.

This is fairly advanced and not often used, however I will be adding a separate section detailing how to write your own add-ons.

Advanced gmail functionality

The Advanced settings are merely a way of turning certain features on or off. The options are self explanatory and merely a set of personal preferences.

How can I read and write emails while offline

You can read and write emails while offline. Emails written offline will be sent once your internet connection has been restored. Go to the Offline setting and select Enable offline mail.

Accessing and setting your gmail theme

The final feature in the settings is Themes which we’ve already covered and is for setting your gmail background image or colour.

Other apps accessible directly from your gmail homepage

Gmail is only one aspect of your Google account, there are many other features which you can access via the nine dot icon in the top right of your gmail homepage. The same icon also appears at the top right of any Chrome browser you’re signed into

However: two of the applications, Chat and Meet, can also be made available directly from the gmail side panel.

While this guide only covers accessing these to apps directly from gmail, the two guides on Meet and Chat cover using them in more detail.

How to swap Hangouts for Chats and show Chat and Meet in the gmail sidebar

Gmail provides the option to access the Chat and Meet apps directly from the left sidebar.

In the left sidebar you may see a dropdown headed Chat. If so, then you’re good to go. If you see the Hangouts heading, you will need to update it to Chat.

If not already in the Settings, click the settings cog in the top right and select See all settings. Then open Chats and Meet.

Select Google Chat. Select the position of the chat and leave Meet activated. Then save. You may have to refresh the browser to see the changes in the side panel.