Master Gmail for Android with these tips and tricks

Gmail remains the productivity king, and there are plenty of tools offered to you on Android for bringing that unruly inbox under control.

gmail android
Derek Walter

Gmail is still king

One of the primary draws to Android for me was Gmail. This was back when a dedicated Gmail app was an Android exclusive and it was fabulous for my productivity.

Fast forward to today, and Gmail is still essential. Even though Google makes a version for rival Apple's iOS, you still have a ton of capabiliites that work better on Android. Outside of the pain of typing on a mobile device, you can do just about anything with Gmail on Android as on the desktkop.

Get more done and manage that pile of email more efficiently by putting these Gmail tips to work for you.

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All your email in one place

It's easy to accumulate a lot of email addresses. You may have a personal Gmail address, an Exchange account for work, and posibly that Yahoo address from years ago that you have to hang onto for your fantasy baseball league.

Gmail for Android can host them all in one place so you don't have to jump around to different email apps. The Exchange functionality isn't as full-featured as Outlook for Android, but if you just a basic ability to send and receive those messages, it'll do the job just fine.

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Jump right in

If you're one of the few and proud with Android 7.1, the app shortcuts are worth adding in to your workflow. 

When you touch and hold the Gmail app icon you'll get a list of any accounts you've added and a compose button. It's a quick and easy way to go right to a specific account or fire off a new message. The compose button will go to your default account, but you can use the drop-down menu in the message to change where you're sending it from.

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Get all your email in one place

Gmail has long had the ability to send and receive emails from other accounts. You can use Gmail on the desktop to send messages with the "send as" feature, which is useful when you're forwarding messages from another account, accessing them through POP3, but then routing them out through Gmail.

On Android, you can initiate a message from any of these accounts. Touch the from menu and then choose the email address you want to send it from. Any of your "send mail as" accounts will appear, along with any Exchange or Google apps accounts you've authorized. It's another helpful workflow to keep all your email in one place.

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Archive and more

One of the marquee features of Gmail is the ability to archive a message and never worry about the need to delete. 

But you don't have to keep everything forever. In the settings, you can switch the default action for swiping on a message from archive to delete. You have some additional customization from this section, such as eliminating the sender image or turning off swipe actions altogether. 

Auto-advance is handy if you want to zip back to the conversation view after archiving or deleting a message. If you haven't done so, take some time and toy around in the General Settings section to see what else might customize the experience better for you.

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All your inboxes at once

If you do use multiple accounts, one of the advantages of keeping them all in the Gmail app is the “all inboxes” view. This gives you a combined inbox of all your different email accounts on one screen. 

There isn’t much visual differentiation, so you’ll have to pay attention a little more if you have a bunch of accounts coming to the same place. However, this eliminates the need to jump around to different accounts or email apps when you want to see if anything new has arrived.

priority inbox
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Priority Inbox

Gmail's Priority Inbox is an attempt to filter out the noise so you can focus on just the important stuff. It's not quite as good as the Inbox app when it comes to automatically organizing your mail, but it does an admirable job at eliminating some of the junk that probably flows through your Gmail each day. 

From the slide-out menu, select Priority Inbox to see what the view looks like. Messages with the yellow arrow should fill the screen, as those are ones that Gmail thinks are important. 

It's not a perfect system, but usually it gets rid of the superfluous messages and contacts you don't engage with so you can focus on more pressing emails.

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Manage labels

All of your Gmail labels will be right there when you need them. But by default, Gmail syncs the last 30 days of messages from each of the different categories, which in most cases ought to be enough for mobile use.

However, if you don’t want to wait for older messages to download you can go to Settings > Manage labels and choose All for any particular label or the inbox. This may be handy if you tend to frequent areas with pitiful Internet connectivity and don’t want to be without an important message or bundle of emails.

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Create a signature

You’ve seen those taglines at the end of an email before: “Sent from my iPhone.”

Perhaps you’ve even wondered why the person just doesn’t turn the thing off. However, there might be a point to setting such a custom signature. If you tell the recipient you’re on a mobile device they might be more forgiving of the occasional typo or short response.

Perhaps it’s just a pleasant greeting you want to pop in. Either way, in Settings > Signature you can set a signature that will be attached to the end of an email you send from Gmail on Android. The signature can be specific to each account if you’re using multiple email addresses.

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Set your vacation responder

It’s good to take a break from email once in a while, especially if you’re headed off on a vacation. You can control the vacation responder right on Android. Go to Settings and choose the specific account you want to set this up for. 

Touch Vacation responder and choose beginning and ending dates along with the message. You can only send this to those in your address book if you’d rather not alert everyone to your absence.

As a reminder, you’ll need to enable this for each specific email account that Gmail accesses.

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Customize your notifications

Gmail gives you a fair amount of control over the type of notifications you receive. Go to Settings, choose an account, and then turn on notifications. Once that box is checked, touch the sound option to choose a ringtone that will accompany each new email.

You can also dictate whether you get pinged for every new message and if you want your phone to buzz when it arrives. Label notifications are for those messages that you've assigned to go directly to a label when they hit your inbox. Take a few minutes and customize this to your liking.

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Android Wear

When you enable notifications, they'll automatically ping your Android Wear watch as well. Swipe left to archive, delete, reply, or view the message on your phone. 

Personally I get a ton of email so I turn off notifications in order to avoid the perpetual vibrations that come from new notifications. But if want to make sure you don't miss an important message, getting the alert on your Android Wear watch is the best way to do it.