Gmail hints

by Richard on December 8, 2005

Gmail must surely be one of the best webmail services out there. An there’s more on offer than first appears.

Keyboard shortcuts
Sometimes it’s easier to keep your hands on the keyboard, isn’t it? Gmail provides a useful set of keyboard shortcuts to make things happen that would otherwise call for some highly energetic pointing-and-clicking.
For example, to create a new message hit the c. To go to your contact list, hit g followed by c. Handy, eh? There’s a full list at the Gmail help center.
(Keyboard shortcuts are not switched on by default: they have to be activated through Settings

Using Gmail as storage
A Gmail account provides over 2Gb of space for your mail. Using the Gmail drive shell extension, Windows users can also use this space as external storage. The extension provides a new drive to your computer under the ‘My Computer’ folder. Sounds good, though I can’t claim to have tried it (not being much of a Windows user).

Disposable email addresses
Gmail effectively provides an unlimited number of email addresses on the one mailbox, allowing users to create disposable addresses for such things as subscribing to websites, forums and newsletters. It works like this: Gmail will ignore anything that follows a “+” character in the first part of a Gmail address. So johnsmith at is treated in the same way as johnsmaith+1 @, or johnsmith+sub, or pretty much anything else. (You can’t use spaces, of course. Or another “@” sign)
So you could subscribe to an online service as you+service at gmail, and all the email from that service will find its way to you. If you find you start receiving spam at that address, first you’ll know who has dobbed you in with the spammers and you’ll be able to do something about it. Simply create a filter that puts everything sent to that address into the Deleted Items box. Bob’s your father’s brother!

Finding stuff
You’d expect a service provided by Google to be pretty good at searching, and you’d be right. Gmail provides some very handy searchy-type things. I particularly like the options for searching by date, provided by (strangely enough) clicking on Show Search Options.

Getting Gmail
If you don’t have a Gmail account and would like one, and we’re friends, I’ve got some more invites to give away. (But if we’ve never met, chatted, emailed or otherwise communicated let me give you a firm but polite refusal in advance)

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }


Beth 12.08.05 at 2:24 pm

Richard - I would kill for a gmail account. So in the unlikely event you should run out of friends who want one, I would be eternally grateful, and would happily buy you coffee and a sticky bun when I’m home in Swansea over Christmas!


Richard 12.08.05 at 2:51 pm

The invite is on its way. I might take you up on that bun!


Swan 12.08.05 at 3:31 pm

I have to try using those custom email addresses and also explore the search feature more! Thanks for those hints.

Here’s another hint: If you have a non-gmail address, but would like all the gmail features, get a gmail account and forward your email there. You can even add your old email address so it can show in the From field of your email (Google verifies that you own that old address, too).


Beth 12.08.05 at 4:53 pm

Happy Beth! I will hand-deliver sticky bun if necessary… and you may even be treated to some of my extra-special homemade green Christmas Tree biscuits! But we could always try to pry Fabricius out for a hot drink some time…


Jonk, Finland 12.09.05 at 10:52 am

Good stuff! But I would like to comment on the disposable email addresses. I think it’s kind of rare to have +-signs in an email address. So as soon as the spammers figure this out (and they surely will) they could just match “” in their list and remove everything starting from “+” and ending in the character before “@”. ??


Richard 12.09.05 at 1:09 pm

You’re right, of course Jonk. Then we’ll be back to relying on gmail’s junk filters, which do seem to be very capable.

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