Got a Gmail account? Here are a few interesting tricks ‘n’ tidbits

[In case you didn’t already notice, I wrote a pretty detailed review of Gmail earlier, in which I also noted that I’m unfortunately unable to procure accounts for folks. Sorry! For those who already have accounts, I hope the tips below are useful and/or fun 🙂 – Adam]

So, you’re one of the Gmail testers and you want more bang for the buck, eh? Try these tips on for size:

– Send mail to fellow Gmail’er by just entering their username in the TO, CC, or BCC spot. No need to include 🙂

– Did you reserve .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and now wish you had left out the darn period? It’s not too late! For whatever reason, Gmail treats that e-mail address the same as one without a period (and visa versa), so .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) works just as well as .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). As you may have guessed, Gmail is flexible with regards to capitalizations, too!

– Using the handy-dandy spell-checker and want to quickly Resume Checking without using the mouse? Just hit ‘R’, an undocumented shortcut key in this context.

– “or” is not the same as “OR.” Only the capitalized version (sans quotes, by the way) will work with searches. So if you want to find mail from your friend Jen, you can use this in search: FROM: (jen OR jenny OR jennifer). Note, by the way, that the actual search terms are not case-sensitive. “jen” works just as good as “Jen.”

– But, using the same Jen example, it’s important to realize that the search engine of Gmail (and Google, for the most part) does not search partial words. So “jen” will not find “Jennifer.”

– Let’s say you have 150 e-mails, listed over two pages (100 max per page), and you want to archive all of them. I initially made the mistake of clicking ALL, then hitting ARCHIVE and thinking that this would do the trick. Nope. Commands — whether TRASH or ARCHIVE or LABEL — only affect those items that are both selected and on the page you’re currently viewing.

– And speaking of groupings… don’t forget that when you archive or label e-mail, you’re affecting the entire Conversation of e-mails by default. If you want to trash just one of the e-mails in a Conversation, you can do this by expanding that particular e-mail, clicking on MORE OPTIONS, and then clicking on TRASH THIS MESSAGE.

Gmail supports “plus” addressing, which means that if your address is .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), you can receive e-mail at or, etc. Why is this useful? Well, Mary (or you!) could use one, er, I’ll call it a “plussing,” for mailing lists (“maryhadda+lists”), and another for shopping online (“maryhadda+shopping”) and so on, and then create filters to put useful labels on the different types of mail.

Some have suggested that this could also be a useful spam deterrent (e.g., using maryhadda+2004q2 and then discarding e-mail sent to this address the following quarter), but I think this suffers from two key flaws:
1) Spammers are probably smart enough to start stripping off the plussing :(.
2) After a while, you’d have to create a LOT of filters, and — at least for the moment — we only get an allotment of 20 filters total. It’d be a shame to use those all up in a (likely futile) attempt to thwart spamjerks.

*** Edited 4/30/04:
Some folks had expressed concern that plussing was seemingly not working for them. However, I’ve worked with them to track down the cause: Due to the way Gmail handles discussion list mails — not showing one’s own contributions in the Inbox to avoid duplicate views — people who were testing the plussing feature by mailing themselves via Gmail wrongly assumed the mail was ‘lost’. As it turns out, the mail was indeed received, but — since it appeared to be part of a ‘discussion list’ — was not shown in the Inbox, which is what caused the confusion.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Plussing works; just don’t try sending tests to yourself FROM your Gmail account TO your same Gmail account :D.

* * *

Well, that’s pretty much everything off the top of my head for now! How about you? Got some cool Gmail tips or tricks? Speak up below, or feel free to contact me 🙂

* * *

*** Added 4/21/04
Uh oh! I have competition! 😀 It’s been pointed out to me that there’s already a blog dedicated to Gmail tips and tricks, called Gmail Gems. Definitely worth checking out.

*** Added 10/11/05
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26 responses to “Got a Gmail account? Here are a few interesting tricks ‘n’ tidbits”

  1. LordRich Avatar

    I’ve always been able to send emails to just the username at any place I’ve ever been.  Using Thunderbird it not only offers the autocomplete for the domain, it offers previously used addresses.  I’ve also always been able to send emails to either people’s usernames or their email address – it’s simply the way mail servers operate.

    Searching sounds pretty poor – Squirrel mail on my servers can do better than that.

    The one free email address I use has better group selection than that.  I can tick the box at the top which selects the whole page, or I can tick the box at the bottom which selects the entire folder.

    I own my domains, and usually the mail servers, so I can have any adress I like – and one of my mail servers has a pretty nice feature where emails to username+folder will store the email in the relevent folder on the imap server – no extra filters needed.  And every email address in the world is case-insensitive – that’s hardly a feature, presumably gmail is actually smart enough to do it’s searches ignoring case?

    I’m still to see anything outstanding offered by gmail yet.

  2. Adam Avatar

    > I’ve always been able to send emails to just
    > the username at any place I’ve ever been.

    But not everyone knows of this trick.  And I’m not certain it work on other popular Webmail systems. > Using Thunderbird it not only offers the
    > autocomplete for the domain, it offers
    > previously used addresses.

    Gmail does this as well, and quite nicely at that.

    > Searching sounds pretty poor – Squirrel mail
    > on my servers can do better than that.

    Aside from the lack of partial-word searching, Gmail’s search features are—unsurprisingly—quite good.  Lots of modifiers and blazing speed.

    > The one free email address I use has better
    > group selection than that. […]

    Yes, Gmail definitely needs to get better with selection of items, IMHO.

    > I own my domains, and usually the mail servers

    Uh, given this, you don’t seem to necessarily be the target audience for Gmail or other Webmail services, LordRich :D.  However, I can bet that Google DOES have a much stronger infrastructure than what you or your providers offer.  If you had to bet on backups / stability / etc., I’m guessing you would have to admit Google’s got the leg up.

    > I’m still to see anything outstanding offered by gmail yet.

    – Rapid speed of general UI
    – Massive space (1 gig)
    – Unique and helpful threading
    for starters 🙂

  3. Adam Avatar

    This is really strange!  I just sent mail to, and the message arrived in a few seconds.

    But your report of plus-problems is the 2nd I’ve heard of, so I’m going to edit my blog entry above to urge caution.

    Anyway, thanks for writing, Fred!

  4. dan22 Avatar

    LordRich, you really have no idea how good it is. And I disagree with Adam, I think many people, including me, who have domains will still use gmail. It’s that good.

  5. Adam Avatar

    Yes, there’s a limit to the number of characters of an e-mail address displayed in the main screens, but:
    – you can see the full address when clicking on MORE OPTIONS in the Conversation screens
    – the Gmail filter still operates on the full text of the entire e-mail address

  6. Shiv Nandan Singh Avatar

    The so vivid description of the lucrative features of gmail only makes me more desperate to get an account on gmail. Could anyone having one at gmail please oblige me by inviting me at gmail.
    My email account is :
    s n s i n g h _ 0 2 @ i i i t a . a c . i n
    ( Remove the spaces. They are there to prevent the spammers)



  7. Eric Avatar

    Interesting note about gmail:  it is very, very fast.  I think faster than Outlook or Eudora or Bloomba* on a desktop. 

    Will that remain true when I have 1/2 a gig of e-mail and when they have 10,000,000 users?

    Do you ever remember a slow query at  I suspect Google has built much secret speed into their infrastructure at the byte level.

    Eric * I may have 100,000 or more e-mails in my Bloomba client, so the comparison is unfair at this point.

  8. Teresa Avatar

    how can i get a gmail account?

  9. Adam Avatar

    Unfortunately, there aren’t many surefire ways to get an account now, since the service is still a ‘beta test.’  You can try logging into your or Google Answers accounts if you have one, but other than that, I’m not aware of any ethical ways of procuring an account. 🙁

    Sorry I’m not able to help!  If I had lots of invites to give out, you can bet I’d be sharing them with my faithful BLADAM readers 🙂

  10. Bill Avatar

    If you really want a GMail account now and can’t wait, you can always get one on eBay.

    Here is a link to check if your name is still available before you bid on eBay:

  11. onlineno1 Avatar

    I want take a gmail account

  12. elissa Avatar

    I have a gmail account but have been unable to get into it yesterday afternoon and all day today.  My brother has had the same problem…although all other family members can easily get in…
    Anyone else having this problem?
    It’s driving me insane…

  13. elissa Avatar

    OK, it’s working now (5.14.04, 10:30pm), after a day and a half of not working…I don’t know what the problem was…

  14. ManishKumar Avatar

    i want e-mail account on Gmail if i go by it will require any money or what

    National Institute of Design

  15. jackfusion Avatar

    How do I do a alphabetical search in gmail meanning all the subjects that start with the letter “a”?

  16. deepesh Avatar

    hi i want gmail account can u help me

  17. ShrutiS Avatar

    Is there an easy way to escape out of a compose message within a conversation?

  18. Adam Avatar


    Not quite sure what you mean by “escape,” but you can use TAB to move out of the compose field, and you can click on DISCARD to end your composing.

  19. Mike Gard Avatar
    Mike Gard

    I have just started using gmail.  I thought when i submitted all my old e-mail account names, that i would be able to read them from gmail, but that deos not seem to be the case, why not??

  20. navanitha Avatar

    how do i discard my gmail account

  21. nitin Avatar

    when i send mail and copy to others mail addresses in Bcc , others are able to view mail ids which are marked in bcc also. how can we prevent all the users marked in bcc category not to view all mail addresses

  22. marie Avatar

    About every other week gmail asks me to sign in as if I never used gmail before and when I do i still can’t get in. 

    How can I contact google gmail by phone?  This is frustrating!!!!

  23. mobi Avatar

    Is ther any way that I can reproduce my actual signature at the end of my G-mails I send?

  24. Blue Fire Web Design Avatar

    I look forward to reading your thoughts on the Google Wave when it is released.  Things have come a long way since 2004 with emails.

  25. shawn Avatar

    Hi Adam,

    is there a way to see if someone has opened your email that you have sent via GMail?

  26. Lois Avatar

    I am having trouble going to open office and retreiving documents and putting them in emails.  Sometimes when I use an attachment, I can get the proper extension.  Other times I try this and I get different pulldown menus that when you open the pull down menus, you can’t transfer your document to email because it says “open” and can’t get the pulldown to chose your extensions.

What do you think?