5 handy hidden features in the Gmail Android app

Email is inherently a bit of a pain. And while Google’s Gmail service is generally pretty pleasant to use, it certainly has some room for improvement — especially on the mobile front.

But as is so often the case with Google products, what you see isn’t entirely what you get. The Gmail Android app has some super-useful hidden touches you’ve probably never noticed lurking beneath its surface — easily overlooked features that can make your mobile email experience more powerful, efficient, and effective. so here are 5 handy hidden features in the Gmail Android app

1. Advanced email formatting commands

The Gmail Android app’s email composing screen seems like a pretty bare-bones affair, but long-press on any open space whilst writing a new email — and by golly, goodness goshness, look what you’ll find:

5 handy hidden features in the Gmail Android app

Tap that “Format” option, and how ’bout that? It’s a full slate of advanced text formatting commands for composing your message. You can style any part of your email with bold, italic, or underlined text; you can change your email’s font color or background color; and — an occasional life-saver — you can clear out all existing text formatting with a single tap.

2. Custom swipe gestures

Ever wish you had an easy way to snooze messages from your inbox — or maybe even to mark them as unread without having to do a complicated finger-tap dance? Prepare to be pleased.

Go open up the Gmail Android app’s settings (by tapping the three-line menu icon in the upper-left corner and scrolling down until you see the “Settings” option). Tap “General settings,” then select “Swipe actions.”

5 handy hidden features in the Gmail Android app

There, you can configure exactly what action is associated with swiping an email to the left and to the right from your inbox or from any other message list view. Set things up the way you want — using, if you’re so inclined, the old Inbox-like arrangement of a right swipe for archiving and a left swipe for snoozing — and then swipe away to your heart’s content (and with the optional occasional cackle).

3. An end to accidental actions

It’s all too easy to tap an icon by mistake when you’re managing email on the go, but Gmail actually has a spectacular way to keep yourself from doing something stupid on accident. It’s an extra step of confirmation for the worst kind of errant email presses — archiving or deleting a message you weren’t done with yet or hitting the Send button before your draft was finished. And it takes only a few quick tips to get it set up and activated.

Mosey your way back to the “General settings” area of the Gmail settings, scroll down to the very bottom of that section, and look for the “Action Confirmations” heading — and there, activate whichever bits of added confirmation will give you extra peace of mind:

5 handy hidden features in the Gmail Android app

The one thing worth noting is that the archive and delete confirmations don’t, vexingly, work with the swipe-based gestures we were just discussing for those commands. That’s especially unfortunate since Gmail’s swipe gestures are all too easy to activate by accident when you’re trying to use Android 10’s awkwardly overlapping system-wide Back motion. But hey, some protection is still better than no protection, don’t ya think?

4. A less annoying Promotions tab

The Gmail Android app’s Promotions tab is both a blessing and a curse. It gives you a great way to keep less pressing messages out of your main inbox view, but it also throws in some ads and does some funky stuff with the order of your email.

There’s not much you can do about the ads, annoyingly, but you can stop the app from reordering messages and putting what it considers to be the “high value” promotions above everything else — as seen here, where my Gmail Android app for some reason decided I should see a week-old message about a subscription audio service over numerous more recent messages (including, slightly lower in the list, a more recent and relevant email from the same freakin’ service):

5 handy hidden features in the Gmail Android app

(And yes, the ad in that top section is particularly lovely, too, isn’t it? Just a hair too personal of an assumption to make, if you ask me. Cut it out, Google.)

To get back to a fully chronological, normal-style view, jump back into the Gmail app’s settings — and this time, tap the address of your Google account, then tap “Inbox categories” on the following screen.

Scroll all the way down to the bottom of the screen that shows up next. See that option labeled “Enable Bundling of Top Email”? Uncheck it.

Gmail Android App: Promotions setting

Back your way out of there and then bask in the delight of having your emails once again presented in proper order, even if you can’t completely eliminate those pesky Promotions tab ads.

5. A less nudgy inbox

While we’re on the subject of disabling annoying features, you know how Gmail does that thing now where it “nudges” you to respond or follow up to messages that have been sitting in your inbox for a while? If you find that to be more bothersome than beneficial, head back into the app’s settings and once again select your Google account.

Scroll down till you see the option for “Reply and follow up.” Tap it, then uncheck both options on the screen that follows — for “Suggest emails to reply to” and “Suggest emails to follow up on.”

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