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NC State Extension

Customizing Your Gmail Web Experience


  • Labels appear as folders under Thunderbird
  • People are already familiar with email folders. Folders are a metaphor for manilla folders in a file cabinet. Like filing a piece of paper, items can go in one folder at a time.
  • Labels do all the work folders do and give you an extra bonus: you can add more than one to a message
  • Labels are essentially tags


Archiving and All Mail

This is the way that Google describes archiving:

“Archiving lets you tidy up your inbox by moving messages from your inbox into your All Mail label, so you don’t have to delete anything. Any message you’ve archived can be found in All Mail, in any labels you’ve applied to it, and in Gmail search results.”

Basically, All Mail is all of the mail that you’ve received is not in your Trash, regardless of how you may have filed it.

Remember that if you delete a message, it is deleted from all of your labels. This includes All Mail. In reality, there is only one copy of each message even though you can see it in different views. When you delete a message and it is no longer in Trash, it is gone.

Changing your background

  • Settings
  • Themes
  • Select a theme or customize your colors by picking Create your own theme


Priority Inbox

Priority Inbox will automatically flag your most important messages so that you see them right away. Once an email from the Priority Inbox has been read, it will drop down to Everything Else. Star it if you still need it to remain in view. This makes it very easy to keep from losing the messages you need to act on.

Once you have turned this feature on, you can change views or customize how it displays messages from the Mail Settings under the “Inbox” tab.

To use the Priority Inbox view, click on the dropdown menu to the right of the “Inbox” and select “Priority Inbox”. You can switch between views any time you like.


Conversation View

In Gmail, replies to emails — and replies to those replies — are displayed in one place — a single conversation or thread.

All messages related to the original email subject are displayed on one screen, in order, making it easier to understand the context of a message.

Conversation View is the default. You can toggle it on/off under Settings, General.

Keyboard Shortcuts

As you use the Gmail web interface more and more, you may find it useful to have Keyboard Shortcuts enabled. If nothing else, it’s really handy to be able to hit C to start to compose a new email.

  • Settings
  • Keyboard Shortcuts on the General tab
  • Keyboard shortcuts on


If you turn this on, be aware that typing a letter (i.e. “e”) when your browser has ‘focus’, may perform some action to your email when you thought you were typing in another window.

After Keyboard Shortcuts is enabled, type the question mark “?” when you are viewing your email to see all the available shortcuts.

Other Gmail Labs

Google labs are add ons that can be used with the Gmail web client. Once they are added, you can use them no matter what machine you are using to access for you Gmail.

To add these to your account, log in to and go to Settings in the upper right corner. Click on the Labs tab along the top and search for the lab. Once you select Enable and save your changes, the selected items will be available for your use. If you try out one of these Labs and no longer want to use it, simply go back to Settings, Labs and select Disable.

  • Google Calendar Gadget. This lab adds calendar to Gmail sidebar.
  • Inserting Images. Allows you to insert images into a message body.
  • Signature tweaks. Places your signature before the quoted text in a reply, and removes the “–” line that appears before signatures.)
  • Multiple Inboxes. This is similar to Priority Inbox but more customizable. Some people might like this instead of Priority Inbox.
  • Canned responses. This is handy for sending common messages such as directions to your office.
  • Message Sneak Peek. Preview your messages before opening them.
  • Nested Labels. Enable this Lab if you want to have sub labels in Gmail.

Using Plus Addresses

Plus addresses can be used for email sorting.

For example, if you are managing registration for a contest at the county fair, you might want all of the information about that to automatically be sorted to a particular label. You can set up an address using If your unityid is jedoe then the address would be

They must be registered in Mail Manager to work. Go to Mail Manager and click on the Plus Addresses tab. Once the address is registered, you can begin using it.

After you register your plus address, you can set up a Gmail filter (settings, filters, create a new filter) where all messages sent to are assigned to the label Fair.

Majordomo Email list tips

If you regularly post to email lists, you may want to receive an acknowledgement that your message was distributed by the server. There is a setting for that!

ackpost – Select this to be notified when your posted messages have been accepted and are being delivered.

  1. Log in to
  2. See the listing of your mailings lists
  3. Check the ackpost column for each list that you post to
  4. Click the Set button at the bottom


For information about delegation see: How can I delegate email or calendar access to another person?