5 Incredibly Useful Gmail Features

Most Gmail users are aware of its superior search capabilities, but there’s a whole lot more to love about this email program beyond that. Did you know it can save you from forgotten attachments or emailer’s remorse?

Read on to discover some of Gmail’s little known, but incredibly useful features. Most of these can be enabled under Gmail Labs (look for that little green beaker in the upper right corner of your browser window or go to Settings > Labs).

Forgotten Attachment Detector

We’ve all experienced the embarrassment of sending someone an email, only to get a curt response saying something to the effect of, “Great. Now, where’s that attachment?” Enabling Gmail’s “forgotten attachment detector” under labs can spare you this indignity and save you from having to send another email with the attachment (talk about a productivity killer!). It automatically scans your outgoing emails for phrases that might indicate you meant to attach a document and forgot. It will then prompt you by asking if you’d like to send as is or attach something.

Mail Goggles

Not that any of you dear readers need this feature, but just in case … Gmail labs has a feature that could prevent you from firing off a late-night email to your entire company–or to an ex. It’s called Mail Goggles. Once enabled, Mail Goggles will ask you to complete a few simple math problems to prove your sobriety before you send each message. The math equations are timed, and Mail Goggles’ default is set to turn on late at night (the assumption being that users are more likely to EUI or email under the influence then). You can change the time window to anything you want.

Undo Send

Similar to Mail Goggles, but perhaps more suited for emails composed in anger, is the Undo Send feature. This feature can’t actually unsend emails after they’ve gone out. Instead, once you enable this option it will hold each email for five seconds and give you the opportunity to rescind the message if you experience emailer’s remorse.  So while it won’t help you make things better once you’ve made a mistake, it can buy you a few more seconds to make sure that you haven’t made one. I’ve sent a few email messages that I later regretted, so I’m sure I’m not the only person who will find this feature useful.

Wrong Recipient Detector

This handy little feature is appropriately called “Got the wrong Bob?” Based on the groups of people you email most often, it can detect when you might have inadvertently included the wrong person. For instance, if you usually email Sandy Smith and Bob Jensen together, but this time you’re emailing Sandy Smith and Bob Levy, it will point that out and given you the chance to correct it. I’ve gotten lots of email messages intended for a different Susan (and I’ve probably made this mistake myself on occasion), so I know that a lot of people could benefit from this feature. There’s a similar feature, Don’t forget Bob!, that can suggest more recipients based on the groups of people you email most often. Just don’t misuse this feature while planning a surprise for the “Bob” in your life or you might blow your cover.

Offline Gmail

For people who have spotty internet connections or carry around a laptop even when they can’t get online, Offline Gmail is a useful feature. It allows you to download a local cache of your Gmail account so you can open a browser window and access your old emails even when you can’t get online. You can also compose emails and include attachments while you’re offline. Anything you “send” while offline will be automatically sent the next time your computer connects to the internet. Google Reader has a similar mode available for reading your RSS feeds while you’re offline. In order to use Offline Gmail or  Google Reader, you’ll need to download Gears, which unfortunately isn’t supported on Safari or Chrome at this time.

Do you use any of these features? Or are there other cool, useful features we missed? If you could come up with any new option in Gmail Labs, what would would it be? Leave a comment and let us know!

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Susan Johnston is a freelance writer/blogger who has contributed to publications including The Boston Globe, Mint.com’s blog, WomenEntrepreneur.com, and Yahoo! HotJobs. Her own blog, UrbanMuseWriter.com, covers tips on productivity, brainstorming, and more for fellow writers.


  1. Julian Wachholz on the 6th June

    Wait, Google Gears is not available in Google Chrome?
    I can prove that wrong since I’m using this offline cache. 😉

    • Mike Vardy on the 6th June

      Well, that’s not entirely true…Gears is not available in Chrome because it is part of Google Chrome. Sort of.

      “Gears is built into Google’s Chrome browser, but other browsers rely on a plug-in. However, Google has stopped developing Gears in favor HTML5’s equivalent features. That overhaul of the standard for displaying Web page includes local data storage on a computer as one feature, and it’s now enabled by default in Chrome even though HTML5 isn’t a final standard yet.”– courtesy of CNET

      So you’re both right…from a certain point of view.

  2. Lee Gustin on the 6th June

    The “forgot attachment” I just found out about a couple days ago. When it happened I thought “wow, that is useful.”

    The offline mode I just started too, as I have heard a couple of my friends got their accounts hacked.

    Thanks for the great post!!!

  3. Tristan on the 6th June

    I’m not one for paying for big phone plans, to save on texting I use the Gmail labs SMS messenger, plugs right into Google Talk!

  4. Just to let you know, the ‘Undo Send’ time can be extended beyond 5 seconds.

    The current options are:

    5 secs
    10 secs
    20 secs

    Once you enable ‘undo send’ from the labs, go to settings, general, and under ‘Undo Send’, you will find ‘Send cancellation period’. Select the time from here and save.

  5. Pablo Valerio on the 7th June

    I like the Mail Goggles feature, a few friends could use it.

    Personally I think the Message translation feature is great. I work with a Danish company and, although the translation is not perfect, makes easier for me to know what is going on before getting into a meeting.

  6. Frugal Kiwi on the 10th June

    I use most of those features. Very useful. I get the most use of the Forgotten Attachment Detector.

  7. Jennifer Margulis on the 10th June

    I don’t love GMAIL but I am glad to know about these features. Maybe I will learn to use it SMARTER and like it more (yes, I have a Gmail account. It’s my everything else/public inbox… but not my main email address)

  8. Kristen on the 10th June

    Good to know! My gmail has been languishing in favor of my out-of-date Yahoo! account.

  9. Guy Towers on the 13th June

    You can hook ThunderBird to your Gmail account to download all your Gmail emails ever – and clean some space on your live Gmail account. That’s how i got rid of 2gb.

  10. Thanks!

    I switched to gmail for 6 months ago. And i will never go back. Really love all the tips i can get on additional use to make life easier!

  11. Sandra on the 13th June

    Is there a good Content Mgmt System to use with Gmail? Gmail does have any sort of option along those lines, do they? I’m a new a rapidly growing freelance commercial copy writing business and I am going to need an easy system that will keep me organized but not bog me down with the setup…

  12. Shianan Fae on the 13th June

    I personally use Google Docs, which is pretty standard with every account. Its my main source of back up for all my writing files and story ideas. I also have used it to send files to other Gmail users that are too large to send the traditional way. Its good for co-writing stories, and my husband and I use it for a shared checkbook register, since we’re both in different states right now.

    Another is a feature; labels. I attach labels to emails that I want to keep, and I color code them. Then, when I want to read a few back issues of a newsletter without going to their site, I click the label and read. This is also helpful for keeping emailed payment verifications so you don’t have to print them out and waste the paper…or delete them and find out later you needed it.

  13. HowToPlaza on the 14th June

    Nice litte Gmail tricks. Been aware of them for years but strangely never got to using them. They’s actually useful, especially the late night one 😉

    ~~ Sarah ~~

  14. Stephanie - Wasabimon on the 17th June

    WOW. I only knew about the offline feature. Are there any more goodies in Gmail that I need to know about? Keep ’em coming!

  15. Cath on the 17th June

    That forgotten attachment detector gets me all the time, and I’ve had to use unsend more than once. I’ve re-routed all my work addresses to gmail.

    I had to help someone set up some emails with yahoo recently, and I had a new appreciation on how much gmail doesn’t suck.

  16. e11world on the 19th June

    The last feature is the most useful and I’m guessing it syncs all you do offline once you connect as well.

  17. Linda Formichelli on the 19th July

    Great post, Susan! I’m going to send a link to my Get Unstuck e-course students as a little extra boost this week.

    I learned about the attachment feature myself last week when I wrote “I’ve attached an invoice” but forgot to actually, er, attach it. What a cool feature!

  18. Cheolsu on the 28th February

    That’s so cool. I did not know most of the features. I must enable “Forgotten Attachment Detector”. I have made the mistake of sending mails without any attachments.

  19. London Marketing Agency on the 26th May

    G mail is a very useful one we got a lots of profit from G mail.

  20. Chinarut on the 27th July

    hey I just sent an email with a forgotten attachment and noticed the Lab didn’t kick in – when I went to Settings – the lab is now missing – anyone else notice this too? it sure is my favorite one!

    • evan on the 30th July

      I noticed it’s gone too. Can’t figure out why.

  21. evan on the 30th July

    just learned it’s a standard gmail feature now, but google thought it was catching too many false positives so they cut down on the triggers. Writing “I attached the file” does not get an alert, but writing “I have attached the file” does.

  22. Jim Cunningham on the 8th June

    Speaking of features -we just held an event for entrepreneurs, and i want to create a gmail address that will forward to everyone in the group, so we can communicate using that address. Can a gmail address be set to forward to a whole group of other email addresses? i couldn’t find that feature.

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