How to Use Gmail's Handiest Features

Beginner tips for sending, formatting, labeling, and more

Gmail logo


Gmail can be used as simply an interface for sending and receiving email. But its many useful features enable you to do much more. Check out the items below and see which ones can help make your personal or work life easier.

Send From Any Email Address

After a simple verification process to prove an email address is yours, you can use Gmail to compose messages within Gmail, yet send them from that address. Recipients will see the message as being sent from the non-Gmail address.

Gmail new message with multiple from addresses to choose from

Use Automatic Forwarding or POP Access

Do you prefer your good old desktop email application to Gmail's web interface? To get Gmail messages without going to the Gmail website, have Gmail forward incoming mail automatically to another email address or download it directly to your email app.

Gmail showing the settings area for forwarding or POP/IMAP

Check Your Spelling

The Gmail spell checker is nicely integrated, and it recognizes many languages. To use it, at the bottom of the composition window, select the menu (three-dot) icon and choose Check spelling. Then click any highlighted words to get spelling options.

Gmail showing new message with spell check engaged

Apply Rich Text Formatting

In most current browsers, you can add rich formatting, such as custom fonts and colors, bold or italic face, indentation, and more to your emails.

Gmail with composition window open, showing large typeface size and color

Have an Email Conversation

When you open an email in Gmail, you always open a conversation. Gmail shows every message in its context, preceded by previous and followed by subsequent emails.

Gmail email conversation

Chat with Google Talk

Within the Gmail application, you can chat on Google Talk with anybody connected to the Google Talk network. Conversations are automatically archived.

Google Chat window

Organize Messages with Labels

Using Gmail's labels, you can categorize email messages. You can use as many labels as you want. To make a message show up under multiple folders, use the corresponding labels.

Gmail with the labels menu displayed

Choose How to Handle a Message

You can deal with an incoming Gmail message in a variety of ways, including reply, forward, move to a folder, create an event, or report as spam.

Gmail with incoming messages menu displayed

Set a Vacation Responder

While you take a vacation or just a vacation from email, Gmail can reply on your behalf. Anyone sending you multiple messages will only receive your reply every four days.

Gmail with vacation responder feature displayed

Create Events From Emails

Appointments, plans, events, invitations, and meetings all appear in emails regularly. Gmail can extract the details automatically, allowing you to easily add events mentioned in messages to your Google Calendar.

To do it, open the received message. Select the menu (three-dot) icon > Create event. You will be directed to your Google Calendar, where you can make modifications to the item and, at the top of the screen, select Save. Google Calendar will ask if you want to send invites to friends. If you do, choose Send. The event will then appear in your Google Calendar as a normal item.

Google Calendar showing an invitation created from Gmail

RSVP to Event Invitations

If you receive an invitation via email, Gmail lets you accept or decline right from the message. To help you schedule, Gmail displays the appointments already in your calendar around the time of the new event. To reply, select Yes, Maybe, or No under the event title.

Gmail invitation