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Origin of Gmail[edit | edit source]

On March 31, 2004 Google said they would release a free e-mail account with 1,000 Megabytes (ca. 1GB) for every user. Many thought it was an April Fool's joke, but it wasn't. It was an innovative addition to the rather stagnant area of free web-mail services.

On Gmail's 1st birthday, Google gave every Gmail user 2GBs of space, which was nearly unheard of at the time. The login page has a ticker showing the amount of free storage space currently offered (ca. 15GB as of 2021).

Originally, the invitations were sent out to a relatively small number of 'elite' internet users, and some journalists. The journalists could review the email service, and in the process create quite a buzz about the service. These users were given different numbers of invites by which they could give a select number of others access. New users also got invites and so the user-base grew by word of mouth.

After a few years in "beta", Google has opened the service up to everyone to use.

Features[edit | edit source]

The backbone of Gmail is a powerful Google search engine that quickly finds any message an account owner has ever sent or received. That means there's no need to file messages in order to find them again. For this reason, the Gmail interface implemented no folder structure. It did, however, introduce labels. Instead of placing an email in a single folder, conversations could be categorized with multiple labels. Another innovation amongst web-mail interfaces was the concept of conversations by which emails are grouped together with their replies.

Other features:

  • Utilizes JavaScript and cookies heavily.
  • Powerful spam filtering
  • Email Content-sensitive advertising
  • Interface available in multiple languages.
  • Automatic forwarding, POP3 and (limited) IMAP access
  • Many fully supported browsers

Obtaining an account[edit | edit source]

Simply go to the Gmail website and click "Create an Account".

Gmail basic

Now you (might) have Gmail. So it's time to learn how to use Gmail. Soon you think it's easy, and will be able to say "That's right, Gmail is easy to use."

The Design

Gmail was created to be extremely easy to use, with as many useful features as possible, while omitting unnecessary options. All the standard e-mail features you'd expect are here, including automatic filters, easy forwarding and replying, and group mail composition. So, what sets Gmail apart from the rest?

Quick Previews

Whether you're looking at your inbox through your customized Google homepage, the Gmail Notifier, or in your inbox, you'll notice that Gmail gives you more than the sender name and the subject. After the subject (in bold), Gmail uses any extra space available to give you a quick preview of the e-mail's content.

Easy Searching

In your inbox, you can use the convenient search box to find any keyword in your inbox and archives. If you don't find what you're looking for, you can expand your search to include spam and trash.


Do you have an e-mail that you just can't throw away? If you don't want it to clutter your inbox, simply select the checkbox next to the e-mail, and click Archive. The e-mail no longer appears in your inbox, but you can easily access it through the search feature or by choosing All Mail in the left navigation.


This feature is the equivalent of "flagging". To set an e-mail apart from the rest and include it in a special category, click on the hollow star next to any e-mail. (You can also choose Add Star in the drop-down menu of any e-mail.) To star multiple e-mails at once, check them all, and choose Add Star from the drop-down menu.


If you'd like to keep all your online shopping receipts together or create a category for e-mails from friends, family members or email lists, you can create a label by clicking on New Label... in the drop-down menu. To apply a label, click on the label you want to apply in the drop-down menu.

Auto Contact Additions

When someone e-mails you who is not already in your address book, Gmail automatically adds the e-mail address and contact name to your address book. As you type a name or e-mail address into the To: box, Gmail will suggest matching names and e-mail addresses from your current contacts.


Emails in the trash are automatically deleted forever in 30 days.

Send mail

Need to send an email?

Gmail makes it very easy to send emails to your friends. First log into your Gmail account. Once you have logged into your account, you will notice a prominent link under the Gmail logo that reads, "+ Compose". The "+ Compose" link is the link you will be pressing whenever you send an email.

Analyzing the screen

Once you click the "Compose Mail" link within your Gmail account, the page will change. You will be taken to a new page where you will actually write your email, or better said, compose your email. Lets analyze this new page.

First you will notice that there are three new buttons that have appeared. These buttons are in the following order: Send, Save Now, and Discard. The Send button is only pressed once you have completed composing your email in order to send the email to the addressee. The Save Now button is used to save the email to your account's draft folder in order to access it, and maybe finish writing the email, in a later time. The Discard button is used when you would like to discard the email or better said, delete the email. Take note that when you discard an email it is deleted and unrecoverable.

Next we will notice there is a To: field on the page. This field is where you type the email address of the person you are sending the email to. For example, if you are sending an email to Linus and his email is then you will type into the To: field. You can also send the same email to multiple email address by adding a ; between email address. For example, I can send an email to more than one friend by typing their emails into the To: field in the following format:;

The next text field that we see is the Subject field. This is where you type the subject of the email. The subject will be seen by the person that you are sending the email prior to he or she opening the email. It is good practice to include descriptive but short subjects whenever possible.

Last but not least, we have the body field. This field is not labeled as body but that is what it is called. The body field is where you will be writing your email.

How to send the email

Once you have filled in each field you will be able to send the email. This is done by pressing the Send button which is located at the bottom of the screen. Try to send an email to your self in order to practice the fine art of email composing.

Read mail

How Do You Know You Have Mail?

The easiest way to check is to log into Gmail. Once you've logged in, your Inbox tab will be bold in the left-side navigation, and it will have the number of new e-mails in parentheses. Additionally, you can see which ones are new, because they are bold and highlighted in white, whereas read e-mails are highlighted in light blue. If you use your customized Google homepage, a preview of your Inbox and the first 5 e-mails appears by default in the top right-hand corner. If any of the top 5 e-mails in your inbox are new, they will be bold in your homepage module. If you use the Gmail Notifier, the grey Gmail icon in your task manager will turn blue when there is unread mail. When mail is received, it will give you a quick preview of your new mail.

Reading Your E-Mail

Once you've logged into your Gmail account, reading your e-mail is as easy as clicking on the e-mail you'd like to read. You can click anywhere on the e-mail you'd like: the subject, the sender's address, or the date - they'll all take you to the same place. If the e-mail is new (has not been read), the line highlighting this particular e-mail will be white. If it has been read, it will be light blue. If you are using your personalized Gmail homepage, you can click on the Inbox link to read all of your mail or on any of the first 5 e-mails in your inbox to view it directly.



Searching mail is the greatest benefit of Gmail! Using Google's search interface, it's quick and easy to find messages.

Take a peek at the two buttons to the left of the entry bar: There's a button to "Search Mail". This makes it easy to enter a phrase and hit the search mail button.

Search Options

Searching Gmail, just like Google, can be very simple or very sophisticated.


One great benefit of Gmail is that when you receive an e-mail from someone who isn't already in your contacts list, Gmail automatically saves the e-mail address and the display name. You can add more information such as this person's real name, phone number, etc. by clicking the contacts hyperlink on the left panel of the Gmail webpage once logged in. If you don't want to keep any automatic contact entries, you select the addresses you don't want and delete them.

The huge benefit of the autosave is that when you are sending a new e-mail and start to type an address, Gmail gives you a dropdown menu to select names from. For example: If I was sending an e-mail to and my contacts had, and I could just click the appropriate one after typing just "Te."

Import and Export of Contacts As Gmail has continued to grow and expand features one of the more profound areas has been in managing the export and import of contacts.

This feature is extremely useful in assisting users in a move from or to an Outlook or Outlook Express mail client.

To Export Contacts 1) Go into your contact list and notice on the top right hand portion of the contacts area the text link "Export". 2) After clicking this option a small window will open asking what type of format you would like to export your contacts to. 3) Once this decision has been made with the provided radio buttons click the "Export Contacts" button. 4) At this point you can save the file and close the small window.

To Import Contacts 1) Go into your contacts list and notice on the top right hand portion of the contacts area the text link "Import". 2) You will need to have a .csv (Comma Separated Value) file. This is typically the format that Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express export address books to. Keep in mind that additional formatting may be required for Gmail to accept the file. 3) Once this has been done you will see a failed message or see that all of your contacts are listed in this area.


Stars is one of many organization systems in Gmail.

How to[edit | edit source]

You might want to star messages for different reasons - to mark it as über-important, as a temporary filing system, or just for fun. If you want to "star" a message, there are several ways that you can. If you are in a mailbox view (i.e. "Inbox," "All Mail," "Sent Mail"), then listed on the very left of the subject line is a small white star - the easiest way to star a message? Simply click on that star, and watch it turn from white to yellow, indicating the change in status from "unstarred" to "starred." One can also use this technique when viewing a message (noting that the subject line will have moved to the top of the page).

If you want to star multiple messages, you can select them using the radio boxes (check boxes) and then select "Add Star" from the drop-down menu at the top of the page.

Unstarring is intuitive once you understand how to star - you can do it by clicking on the yellow star we talked about before, or using the radio boxes (check boxes) and drop down menu.

Operator[edit | edit source]

You can use the operator is:stared in your filters to avoid deleting your starred messages.

Gmail advanced

Now that you have learned the simple things in Gmail, we can go on to more difficult things

This section contains:

Signing messages with PGP or Hashcash[edit | edit source]

Q: How do I "sign" messages I send through Gmail, with either PGP or Hashcash ? (I'm trying to send email to someone who is so paranoid about spam that his spam filter automatically deletes all incoming email, unless it's signed with PGP or HashCash)

Back - Content - Next


Filters can filtrate your incoming mails, and put them into labels, archive them automatically or delete them.

Create a filter[edit | edit source]

When you make a filter you click the little "Create Filter button" beside the search bar. Now you see a big yellow box, where you can choose what the massages have to contain or be like, should it filtered or not. If you click the test search button you can see what messages it will filter. After choosing the options you click the "Next Step" button.

You will see a new box, here you choose the action of the filter. Here is a description of the actions:

  • "Skip the inbox" The message will be archived (Gmail version of "archived" - see below)
  • "Star it" Give the message a star.
  • "Apply the label" Puts the message into a label.
  • "Forward it to" Forward the mail to another Mail account.
  • "Move to deleted items" Delete the message.

Note: when you "archive" a message, all this means is the messages has its "Inbox" label removed. It does not changes its read/unread status etc. So, in the second screen, using "Skip the Inbox" with "Apply the Label:[ ]" would move incoming mail matched by the filter automatically into a separate "folder" in Outlook speak. If the message is left unread, then the label will the appear in bold with the number next of unread messages next to it, just like the Gmail "Folders" behave (e.g. Spam, Trash).

Of course you can choose more than one action, so you can star and archive a message at the same time. Gmail-filters-actions.png

Advanced filters[edit | edit source]

The titles that Gmail gives each filter are in fact the "script" that it uses to parse each email. In other words, if you cut and pasted the entire title into the "Has the words" box, you would get the exact same filter. This obviously is silly--the interface generated that filter in a much easier fashion. But, it opens up new possibilities. For example, you now can do AND's and OR's to generate complex filters. So something like (subject:(biking)) AND (from:(foo) OR from:(bar)) would match all messages about biking that came from either foo or bar.

The symbol | (found on the same key as \), means OR. So you could write biking | helmet, which would be similar to (biking) OR (helmet), in the preceding paragraph.

Here are a few "super" filters.

  1. Create label bookmarks, in the to: box type in,, and in the from: box, type in, apply label bookmarks, archive now. Now, when you email yourself you won't clutter your inbox.
  2. Create label attachments. Check the Has attachments, label it attachments, archive it (if preferred). Now any email you have that has attachments, get labeled attachments. Making it easier to stay organized.
  3. Use Gmail as a multimedia holder. do the following: create filter, in the has words box, type filename:mp3, apply label music, check the latest updates

If you have another format and don't want to make a separate filter, do the following: filename:mp3 | filename:wav. Refer to 2nd paragraph (above) for what | means.

Google offers a range of documented and undocumented search and filter operators that can be used to fine-tune a filter.

Weakness in filter pattern matching[edit | edit source]

One weakness is that Gmail filters on match on ASCII letters. In fact, only case-insensitive ASCII. So for example, I get a bunch of messages that nicely have a subject that starts with [Bike]. One would hope that matching on [Bike] in the subject line would grab these emails and nothing else. But, matching on [Bike] is exactly the same as matching on bike. So it matches, BIKE, Bike, bike, and obviously the intended [Bike].

Invite a friend

Look on the left options bar. You will see links to compose messages, go to the inbox, view a particular label, etc. Down at the bottom, right below the label box, is the invite box. This tells you how many invites you have left and provides a box in which you can put an email address. Just put the email address of the recipient and click Send Invite.

Your GMail account may not have this box enabled, however. If there is no Invite box available, Google advises you to "be patient", as they randomly allow some users to issue invites, and other users must wait. Finally each user only has a limited number of invites they are able to offer at any given time, and you may need to wait for further invites to be available.

Right now, every user can invite, but in fact this is not needed. GMail is now available for everyone and everybody can register.


What are Labels?

Labels are a feature found exclusively in Gmail. It's more or less the same as the Folder feature found in other web mails like Yahoo! Mail & Hotmail, but definitely simpler & quicker to use.

It is a simple way to set up links to find your emails quickly, and this system is used in conjunction with their Archiving system.

How do I setup a label?

To set up a label, check the box next to the mail you want to label. Then go to the drop-down menu and click "Add New Label". Type the label name into the pop-up. Now you will see a green box on your lower left listing all the labels you have made. Click on it to find all emails with a given label.


You can use the operator label: in your filters or searchings.

For example, label:saved shows the email that you marked with a tag called saved.

Forwarding and POP/IMAP

To use your Gmail account with a third party mail service, you can configure it to work with POP3 or IMAP.

Enabling POP3/IMAP[edit | edit source]

  1. Log onto your Gmail account at
  2. Click settings in the top right corner
  3. Click the "Forwarding and POP/IMAP" tab
  4. Click Enable POP for all mail or Enable IMAP
  5. Click save changes


What are GMail Settings?[edit | edit source]

Settings in Gmail allow you to change the display language, show a certain number of conversations per page, turn keyboard shortcuts on/off, set indicators, show/not show snippets, create a signature, set a vacation responder, set outgoing encoding, send mail as a different account, change Google account settings, manage labels, manage filters, set forwarding, manage POP, manage chatting in GMail and manage webclips.

How do I Access Settings?[edit | edit source]

On the top right-hand corner, next to your email address, click settings.

The TO CC BCC Fields

An intuitive, selectable drop down list with matches from your contacts list is provided as a recipients are typed in. This includes those added explicitly to your contacts and those added automatically after a certain threshold of communications has been reached.


Gmail chat is a relatively new instant messaging client which is compatible with other IM networks. At present it is only available to users of GMAIL and Google talk.

The Google Talk applications implement XMPP (the Jabber protocol). Clients which can use this protocol are widely available, so the lack of official Google clients on non-Windows systems is not an issue.

Using Jabber and associated technologies it is possible to talk to users of Google Talk even if you have a different Jabber client and do not have an account with Google.


Last tips



~ DISTRIBUTING any type of copyrighted files is ILLEGAL (unless, of course, you have permission to distribute the music from the author or the publisher). ~

Gmail is extremely handy if you want to send mp3 files to friends. It takes a while, but when Gmail is ready sending your mp3 message, it copies a version of your message to your sent items. This way, you can have all your mp3 files online, wherever you go, without any use of electronic equipment.

If you want to subscribe to a service using a Gmail account, you can use the plus addressing technique -- a modified name of your account that you use to keep track of that subscription. As an example, if your account is, and you want to subscribe to the newsletter "bestnewsletter", you can use the the emails will still go to your account, but looking the "to:" field will you will have This can then be used for a filter, and one can understand who is giving away the account to spammers.

Deletion[edit | edit source]

If you store all your messages, you can excess the quota. To avoid this, you can use filter.

For example, you can create a filter with the operators is:starred and label: (i.e. label:saved, if you created the label saved and marked all your important messages with this label) and select Delete it.

You can go to the Trash to read your messages. After reading the message, if it is an important one, you can star it and press the "Move to Inbox" button to save it. Your starred messages are not going to be moved to the Trash again, creating the indicated filter (with the "is:starred label" in the "Doesn´ t have" field).

The emails in the Trash are automatically deleted forever in 30 days.


Gmail as Default e-mail program[edit | edit source]

Set Gmail as the default mail program on Start Menu of Windows

Gmail as a Filesystem[edit | edit source]

Gmail as a filesystem on Linux

Gmail as a Filesystem on Windows


Although this is in murky waters with the GMail terms of use, it is possible to use GMail as a filesystem (the filesystem sends mail containing the file in question to GMail to store), and GMailFs is one such implementation of this. Also there is an extension for Firefox called "GSpace" that does the same thing.



Mount a Gmail Account as a FUSE Filesystem


Gmail's huge storage (7 gigabytes) may tempt some to use it as a file storage system. Because of the tedious process of putting one attachment after another and sending it to yourself, someone has taken the liberty of developing a program to add a shell extension to Microsoft's Windows operating systems. There are many different shell extensions (it may take a bit of digging through Google's search engine), each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Here is one to try out, the most popular and well known GMail Drive! There is also an extension for Firefox called "GSpace" that does the same thing.

GMail Drive