The Ubiquitous 'Y' Key and How It Helps You Manage Mail

Close-Up Tilt Image Of Computer Keyboard
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One simple keyboard shortcut performs many a useful function in Gmail, and one that is crucial.

If You Archive Instead of Filing, One Key Is All You Need

In Gmail, you simply "archive" messages instead of filing them into folders that you never use. Archived emails are collected in the Gmail All Mail folder, but are also easy to locate via search, and whenever a new message arrives, all mail related to it is opened automatically.

This is, of course, one of the smartest and most efficient ways to handle email. And while an Archive button exists, the most efficient way to handle archiving in Gmail is a keyboard shortcut—of course.

Archive an Email

To archive an email in the Gmail Inbox (either open or checked in the message list):

  • Press Y.

This will remove the message from the Inbox while it is still accessible from All Mail, via search or by visiting one of its labels.

What the Y Does in Your Current Gmail View

But the Y keyboard shortcut can do more in Gmail. It is available not only in the Inbox but in nearly every area. Its uses are manifold and not necessarily what you'd expect. So it's good to remember both the common denominator "remove from current view" and the specific meanings:

  • Inbox: move the message to the mail archive.
  • Trash: undelete the message and restore it to the Inbox.
  • Starred: remove the star from the message.
  • Labels: remove the current label from the message.
  • Spam: mark the message as not spam and move it to the Inbox.

Even though removing stars and labels may seem a bit counterintuitive at first, you can probably use these shortcuts to oft-used functionality to your advantage.

The Always-Archive Keyboard Shortcut

To archive a conversation in Gmail no matter the context:

(Updated October 2016, tested with Gmail in a desktop browser)