Category Archives: Gmail

M: Mute conversation in Gmail

Here’s a keyboard shortcut for a Gmail function you can’t really access any other way than by enabling the keyboard.

If you get some mail that’s annoying but not spam and you don’t care to read any of the responses to that conversation, just press the “m” key. It then mutes the conversation so that it’s archived, AND, any future messages that arrive in that conversation are automatically archived, never sullying your inbox. Handy!

Y: Archive in Gmail

To move the current message conversation into the Archive, just press the “y” key.

If you’re in the “Starred” section, Y will un-star the message.

If you’re in a custom labeled section, Y will remove that label. (For example, if you have a label for “Personal” and you’ve clicked on that Personal label link, so all of the messages you’re viewing are tagged as “Personal,” then the Y will remove the Personal label from the current message, meaning it will also be removed from the current view.)

If you’re in the Spam or Sent or All Mail section, the Y key does nothing.

/: Search in Gmail

Fire up Gmail, and chances are you’re going to want to search for a particular message. The quickest way to do that is hit the / (slash key, down by the question mark) which jumps your cursor up into the search box. Type in your search phrase and press Enter. After a few seconds, you’ll see a list of messages with that phrase.

Now you can use J and K (as we discussed) to move up and down messages, and Enter to open a message. When you’re all done, don’t forget G, I to go back to the Inbox.

I’d like to thank Russell Bradley-Cook for urging me to spend some time on Gmail, and for pointing out that the J and K keys can be used even when you’re reading messages. Try it out!

We’ll spend some more time on Gmail next week.

J, K: Previous, next mail plus Enter: Read mail in Gmail

Once you’ve enabled keyboard shortcuts in gmail, one of the first things you’ll see is the “>” symbol appear next to the list of messages in your inbox. You can press the “j” key to move down a message, and the “k” key to move up a message. When you get a message you want to read, press Enter.

Why J and K? If you’re an old crusty computer user like me, you may recognize these as shortcuts from an ancient Unix editor called “vi.” I happen to know the lead user interface designer of Gmail — Kevin Fox. I asked him yesterday about the reasoning behind using these keys. Kevin is not a vi user, and he picked J and K because they were easy to type keys situated next to each other that didn’t have any other use. Originally he had proposed it backwards, with J for next and K for previous, based on the reasoning that most of the time you want to read the next message, so that should be the first key. But all the old vi users at Google convinced him to reverse it. He grudgingly did so, but only if the team promised to change it if they got complaints. They never received any complaints, so the keys have stayed.

Shift+C: Compose new mail in Gmail in a new window

Don’t bother with the regular “C” to compose; get in the habit of using Shift+C to compose a new mail in a new window, where it doesn’t interfere with your normal work.

From the regular Gmail screen, just hit Shift+C (after you’ve enabled keyboard shortcuts, per the previous post). A new window appears. Remember you can use the standard Alt+Tab to switch windows, or Ctrl+W to close the window (without saving or sending) if you change your mind about composing a new message.

Gmail! How to enable keyboard shortcuts

This week we’ll cover keyboard shortcuts for Gmail, the free online e-mail service from Google.

First things first: In order to use keyboard shortcuts with Gmail, you have to switch them on. (They’re off by default.) To enable keystrokes, follow these steps:

  1. In your favorite browser, log in to your gmail account.
  2. Click on “Settings” in the upper right (next to your e-mail address).
  3. In the default General tab, select the “Keyboard shortcuts on” radio button.
  4. Click the “Save Settings” button at the bottom of the page.

You can reference this list of keyboard shortcuts for reference, or stay tuned here.