11 Tips For Navigating The New Gmail Interface

The release of the new Gmail interface went live in late April 2012 so you may have observed some changes when you logged into your dashboard for the first time. While the function of Gmail remains, the new additions to the interface make it more user friendly with lots of customizing options which are great for maximizing your efficiency and productivity. Let’s look at some tips and tricks for navigating the new Gmail interface so you can get started on creating a Gmail that works for you!

Email Options

1. Inbox Display

The default setting for emails to display in your Gmail account are set to “Comfortable“, which displays emails in large print and wide sections. You can adjust how they are displayed by clicking the “Settings” tab in the top right corner and selecting either “Cozy“, which makes the font and spacing more slim or “Compact“, which makes them… well compact! The “Compact” setting seems to make your inbox look less full and more tidy.


2. Inbox Type

There are also some great ways to sort your inbox messages that can help you be more efficient with your time. Hover over the “Inbox” tab to see a small arrow. Click the arrow to open the window of display options for your inbox. Each tab will show you what it’s best used for so you can make an educated decision on which will be the best for your Gmail purposes. You can also change your inbox sorting preferences in the menu above the email messages by clicking on that inbox type.


3. Custom Search

Of course, Google is all about searches so in addition to being able to search their engine for information, you can also search within your Gmail account by entering information into the fields to narrow your search.


4. Create A Filter

You can create a filter from within the search box by clicking “More” and then “Create Filter.” Setup how you want emails delivered from this particular subject. Since I’m looking for a car, it’s a time sensitive email. I want the email to be “Starred”, labeled as “Personal”, and “Marked As Important” so I am sure to see when something I want has become available. This is a great way to make sure important emails don’t go unnoticed because they won’t blend in with all the rest of the inbox messages.



The Settings tab is where you’ll be able to really customize the way you use your Gmail. There’s more than I can cover in this one article so we’ll just touch on some of the key features that will be useful for most people. All of the following features can be found in the “Settings” tab.

5. Buttons

You’ll notice that the default setting for the new Gmail interface buttons are now icons. Most people don’t know what the buttons are simply by looking at an icon and would rather have the words on the buttons.


Changing your buttons to a text view is easy. Simply scroll down a little to see the settings for “Button Labels”. Here, you can change the default Icons setting back to” Text”. Scroll to the bottom of the settings list and “Save Changes”. Now your buttons will have the words for their function listed on them.


Your toolbar will now look like the one below, showing you exactly what each button does.


6. Stars

Gmail’s idea of making yellow stars and yellow Important icons make it difficult to tell them apart. You can customize and color code your stars in the “Settings” tab. Drag and drop any of the icons from the “Not In Use” row up to the “In Use” row to activate them.


To use them, click on the star next to the email you want to highlight and keep clicking until you find the color code you need for that item. The colors will come up in succession of how they are arranged “In Use”.


7. Labels

Gmail uses the “Label” system instead of the typical folder filing system most email services provide. Next to each “Label” is a customization tab where you can change the color of a Label to identify it at a glance. Simply click on the color you want to use for the Label.


In that same drop down menu, you can rename, remove the label or add a sublabel.

8. Circles

Another new feature in the Gmail interface incorporates your Google+ circles into your email settings. When you “Enable” “Circles”, and enable “Show In Message List” incoming messages will display a colorful tag when the sender is from one of your Google+ circles.

You can also manage and edit your Google+ circles from within your Gmail page by hovering over the Circles tab. Click on the arrow and then Edit Circles.


Gmail Design

9. Themes

If you read my articles, you know I’m a big fan of customizing everything. Tools and sites we use on a regular basis are more interesting and fresh when they can be changed according to mood, season, or need. Gmail “Themes” are a great place to insert some color and personality to your email dashboard and if you have more than one account, the themes can help you determine which account you’re in without having to look for the address. There are several solid color or picture backgrounds to choose from in the “Themes” tab under your “Settings” menu.



10. Change The Sidebars

The default dashboard has everything on the left side of the screen. I like things balanced and don’t use chat very much so I wanted to move that feature out of the way of my everyday actions. You can also do this by clicking on “Labs” in the “Settings” tab and enabling the “Right Side Chat” lab.


11. Undo Send

How many times have you hit the send button and then realized you forgot an attachment or didn’t reply all? Hopefully you never sent an email to the wrong person but if you ever did send something that you immediately want to take back, the” Undo Send Lab” can save the day. When you enable it, it allows you to undo a sent email within a few seconds of sending. After that, well, you’re just out of luck!


I think you’ll find some very useful and colorful ways to enjoy the new Gmail interface with these tips. What changes have you made to your dashboard? What features do you use most? Come back and share your thoughts, we’d love to interact with you!

Jessica Prouty

Jessica is a Support Technician for Cytanium Hosting who loves to teach people how to use modern technology to be more productive and organized. Simple tips, tricks and tools can make anyone computer savvy! You can follow her on Twitter @learningrl or visit her blog at www.learningrl.net.

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