Chapter 1: Introduction to Apps Mail

Table of Contents

Map of Apps Mail

Display Density settings

Key differences from Outlook

Reading mail

Organizing and searching

Keyboard shortcuts



Starred items

Email notification

Spell check



Out of office responder

Additional features

Keyboard shortcuts


List of keyboard shortcuts

Mail delegation


Delegating access

Remove delegated access to your account

Apps Mail labs


Turn on Labs and try experiments

Turn off Labs and experiments

Map of Apps Mail

Sidebar links


Custom school Apps logo uploaded by administrator to customize the inbox

Compose Mail opens a new message window

Inbox shows your conversations (the number in parentheses indicates how many unread conversations you have).

Starred shows you only messages you've marked with a star (use stars to mean whatever you'd like).

Important shows messages

Chats lists your archived Chat conversations.


Sent Mail shows messages you've sent

Drafts houses messages you've started and saved to work on later

Spam is where we send the messages we think are suspicious

Trash is where messages you delete end up; you can empty the trash whenever you feel like it

Custom labels are used to categorize and identify messages you receive. The number in parenthesis indicates unread conversations, the color next to the label name indicates the color assigned to the label.

Contacts lists the email addresses of people you've corresponded with; you can add more details as you see fit

Tasks lets you enter and track to-do lists

Display Density settings

Gmail automatically adjusts the amount or “density” of information on a page when you adjust your browser1 window or when you use different sized screens (when you view your Gmail account on a small computer monitor versus a large one, for example). The “Display Density” setting affects how much space you see between labels, around inbox sections, and between individual messages in your inbox.

If you prefer a denser view no matter what size your monitor, then you can set a limit on your default density. This setting reflects the lowest density--the most space--permitted for your account. If you make your browser window smaller or move to a smaller screen, Gmail will still automatically resize to a higher density so that you can navigate your inbox with ease, but it will never be less dense than you requested.

Here's how it works:




Small screen

Medium screen

Big screen

Flip through full-screen previews of these density settings.

To adjust this limit, just follow these steps:

  1. Click the gear icon at the top corner of your inbox.
  2. Choose from Comfortable (least dense), Cozy, and Compact (densest).

If you don’t see an immediate change, it’s because your browser is currently smaller than permissible with the selected density. In this case you’ll see that the setting is annotated with “on larger screens.” We also annotate the density that Gmail is currently using with “current view.”

Changing this setting doesn’t affect any other Google products you use.

Key differences from Outlook

Reading mail

 Individual messages


To make the transition from Microsoft Outlook as smooth as possible, learn how you can accomplish the same tasks in Google Apps Mail. Check out some differences and discover new features along the way to jump-start your switch and unleash your productivity.

One of the major differences between Google Apps Mail and Outlook is the way they each list your email messages. Outlook lists incoming email individually, regardless if it's a new message or a response to a prior email message. Apps Mail helps you manage messages more efficiently by listing groups of emails, called conversations.

Conversations are a collection of messages with the same subject line. When you click to read a conversation, you'll see all of the back and forth email responses that happens over the course of a single email conversation.

Lengthy email exchanges are simplified by keeping everything together -- no more hunting around to find bits and pieces of the same conversation!

Besides keeping your Inbox less cluttered and more organized, conversations also allow you to manage messages as a group. Any action you take on a conversation will affect all its contents. You can archive, delete, move, and label entire conversations with a few clicks.

Note: Users have the ability to switch between conversation view and the traditional message-based unthreaded view. When a user switches to unthreaded view, messages are no longer grouped together into a conversation, and each message is shown as a separate entry in the inbox. The inbox is still sorted in reverse chronological order.

Organizing and searching

 Folder and rules

 Labels, filters, search and priority inbox

Four Google Apps Mail features make organizing and finding mail in your account a snap: Labels, Filters, Search and Priority Inbox. In combination, these features will allow you to categorize, search, and automatically process your mail in powerful ways. By reducing the time and energy spent organizing your mail, you can get back to more productive activities.

1. Labels

While you won't find folders in Apps Mail, you can use labels to organize email messages. Because multiple labels can be applied to the same conversation, you have the flexibility to manage conversations that may fall under more than one category.

By clicking on a label, you can view a chronological list of all conversations that have been tagged with that particular label. Unlike folders, messages with multiple labels will display in each label.

2. Filters

Create filters that automatically label, archive, delete, and forward messages and let Apps Mail do the work for you. You can control which actions are taken based on the message subject, who sent the message, what text is included, whether it has an attachment, etc.

To get started with filters, click the Settings link in your account and select the Filters tab

or click on the drop-down arrow in the search box, enter in any criteria, and then select Create filter with this search

A new dialog box will open and you will be able to apply additional parameters for your filter. Make sure you click Create Filter

Choosing to create a new filter lets you specify what messages you want to filter and test how the filter will work.

3. Search

Not sure if the message you're looking for is covered by your labels and filters? Not to worry, searching in Apps Mail is the best way to find messages. Try it and you'll find the same attributes that Google is known for: laser accuracy and blazing speed.

Start at the search bar at the top of the page and type whatever you remember from the message (e.g. text from the subject or message body, the recipient, etc.). You can also refine your query by using search operators or the advanced search option to hone in on messages with specific senders, recipients, subjects, labels, attachments, or date ranges.

4. Priority Inbox

Priority Inbox is a view of your inbox that automatically helps you focus on your most important messages. Priority Inbox splits your inbox into three sections: “Important and unread,” “Starred,” and “Everything else”. Messages are automatically categorized as they arrive in your inbox.

To learn more about Gmail’s priority inbox, please watch this video.

Gmail uses a variety of signals to predict which messages are important, including the people you email most and which messages you open and reply to (these are likely more important than the ones you skip over). And as you use Gmail, it will get better. You can improve the ranking in Priority Inbox by clicking the important buttons next to an email or conversation to indicate the sender or topic are important.

Note: If you have set up Priority Inbox on your desktop version of Gmail, you will now see the same sections in your Google Apps mail account. You’ll also see importance markers in your inbox, so you can quickly identify which messages are important.

Keyboard shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts

 Keyboard shortcuts

As with Outlook, Apps Mail provides keyboard shortcuts to efficiently navigate and take swift action on your email. To bring up a full menu of keyboard shortcuts, press Shift + ? when viewing your email.  Check the Settings area to make sure keyboard shortcuts are enabled.


2 types: compose mail and replies to messages

1 signature for all mail, Labs for more

You can set a default signature that will be applied to all sent messages. To set up your signature, visit the Settings under the General tab.

Rich text signatures are available in Apps Mail allowing you to add your own formatting, images and links to your email signatures. If you have configured your Gmail account to also send mail using the Send mail as/custom ‘from’ feature, then you can now also have a unique signature for each these other addresses that you’ve added to your account.

[For Labs-enabled Domains] You can add advanced features to your Signature in Apps Mail by enabling some experimental labs features. The Signature Tweaks lab lets you modify where your signature is placed in email messages, and the Location in Signature lab adds a map displaying the location from where you sent the email directly in the signature.




Apps Mail allows you to undo actions that you take on your messages. For example, if you moved your message to the wrong folder, press the z key to undo the action or click Undo in the yellow bar that will appear at the top of the page. While typing or editing a message, you can also press Ctrl - z to undo your last action.

[For Labs-enabled Domains] If you tend to send emails too hastily, enable the Undo Send lab. After initially sending your message, you'll have a couple of seconds to reconsider and undo sending the email message.

Starred items

Red flags

Starred items

In Apps Mail, you can mark priority messages just as you can add a red flag in Outlook. Simply click the star icon (next to the sender's name) to star a message (click it again to remove the star). To see all the messages that you've starred, click the Starred link on the left side of your account.

[For Labs-enabled Domains] You can enhance the starring feature by enabling the Superstars Lab in your account settings. This experimental feature allows you to use different types and colors of stars by toggling through a handful of icons, giving you another way to prioritize and flag your email.

Email notification

Notification for new email

Gmail notifier

To have email notifications pop up in the corner of your screen when you receive a new message, you can download the Google Talk client (Windows only) or the Gmail Notifier (Windows & Mac).

Spell check

Automatic spell check

Manual spell check/browser

With Apps Mail, there are two ways to make sure nothing is misspelled:




[For Chat-enabled domains]

Apps Mail provides a chat feature for those times when you want to quickly check in with your colleagues. Instead of waiting for email replies, exchange instant messages and get tasks done faster.

To start chatting, type in a coworker's email address into the chat gadget (on the left side of your Inbox) and select 'Invite to chat' in the drop-down menu that appears.


Once your coworker accepts your invitation, you'll see a colored dot next to names in your chat list. When they are online, the colored ball is green, red if they are busy, yellow if they are idle, and gray if they are offline. If they are also available by video chat, then you will see a camera icon. Click their name in the list to start a chat conversation.

You can also make voice and video calls with Apps Mail's chat feature after downloading the voice and video chat plug-in. If you're chatting with a contact that has a camera icon next to their name in your chat list, click Video & more at the bottom of your chat window to start a voice or video chat.




Google Apps Mail also allows you to keep track of to-do lists in a similar way to Outlook's tasks feature. The 'Tasks' link appears on the left side of your account by clicking the drop-down arrow next to the mail link. Click on 'Tasks' to open the to-do list window. In the tasks window, click the '+' icon to get started and add a task. Once you've completed a task, check it off the list.

Out of office responder

Out of office responder (Exchange Server only)

Vacation Responder

When you're away from your email, set up an automatic reply for your incoming messages. In the Vacation responder section of your Settings page, enter a message and turn the auto-response on or off as needed. If you don't want people who are contacting you for the first time to receive your auto-response, select 'Only send to people in my Contacts.'

[For Labs-enabled Domains] To preset your vacation responder during a specific time range, you can enable the Vacation Time! lab -- this feature lets you assign a start and end date for your auto-response.

Additional features


Custom label colors, email templates, calendar gadget

Throughout this document, sections marked with "[For Labs-enabled Domains]" describe features that are only available if your domain has enabled the special "Labs" feature of Google Apps Mail. While these features are still considered experimental, they are a great way to customize your Inbox to make it work for you. In addition to the Labs features mentioned in this document, there are a number of additional options, including offline access to Mail, custom label colors, adding pictures to chat, custom keyboard shortcuts, and more.

To enable Labs features, click the Labs link at the top right of your page in the Settings drop-down menu (or click Mail Settings, then select the Labs tab). If you do not see Labs enabled in your account, contact your domain administrator for additional information.

Please note: If your domain does not have labs enabled, or you have not turned on labs yet for your account, you will not see these options.

Keep in mind that Apps Mail is a web application, which means that features can be updated and added without the trouble of downloading or installing updates. Because of this, Apps Mail will continually add new functionality to help you be even more productive. To stay updated on new releases and changes to your Mail, check in on the Google Apps Updates Blog.

Keyboard shortcuts


Keyboard shortcuts help you save time by allowing you to never have to take your hands off the keyboard to use the mouse. For example, instead of clicking "compose" to open a new message, you can press 'c'.

You'll need a Standard 101/102-Key or Natural PS/2 Keyboard to use the shortcuts.

In order to use keyboard shortcuts, you need to turn them on. To turn these case-sensitive shortcuts on or off, click Settings, and then pick an option next to Keyboard shortcuts.

Throughout the remaining chapters and lessons, there will be a <Keyboard shortcuts> section that will denote how to accomplish a task using shortcuts instead of navigating with the mouse.

List of keyboard shortcuts

You can also access a list of keyboard shortcuts by typing "shift-?"

Shortcut Key





Allows you to compose a new message. <Shift> + c allows you to compose a message in a new window.



Puts your cursor in the search box.


Move to newer conversation

Opens or moves your cursor to a more recent conversation. You can hit <Enter> to expand a conversation.


Move to older conversation

Opens or moves your cursor to the next oldest conversation. You can hit <Enter> to expand a conversation.


Next message

Moves your cursor to the next message. You can hit <Enter> to expand or collapse a message. (Only applicable in 'Conversation View.')


Previous message

Moves your cursor to the previous message. You can hit <Enter> to expand or collapse a message. (Only applicable in 'Conversation View.')

o or<Enter>


Opens your conversation. Also expands or collapses a message if you are in 'Conversation View.'


Return to conversation list

Refreshes your page and returns you to the inbox, or list of conversations.



Archive your conversation from any view.



Archives the conversation, and all future messages skip the Inbox unless sent or cc'd directly to you. Learn more.


Select conversation

Automatically checks and selects a conversation so that you can archive, apply a label, or choose an action from the drop-down menu to apply to that conversation.


Star a message or conversation

Adds or removes a star to a message or conversation. Stars allow you to give a message or conversation a special status.


Report spam

Marks a message as spam and removes it from your conversation list.



Replies to the message sender. <Shift> + r allows you to reply to a message in a new window. (Only applicable in 'Conversation View.')


Reply all

Replies to all message recipients. <Shift> +a allows you to reply to all message recipients in a new window. (Only applicable in 'Conversation View.')



Forwards a message. <Shift> + f allows you to forward a message in a new window. (Only applicable in 'Conversation View.')


Escape from input field

Removes the cursor from your current input field.

<Ctrl> +s

Save draft

Saves the current text as a draft when composing a message. Hold the <Ctrl> key while pressing s and make sure your cursor is in one of the text fields -- either the composition pane, or any of the To, CC, BCC, or Subject fields -- when using this shortcut.



Moves the conversation to Trash.



Opens the Labels menu to label a conversation.


Move to

Moves the conversation from the inbox to a different label, Spam or Trash.

<Shift>+ i

Mark as read

Marks your message as 'read' and skip to the next message.

<Shift>+ u

Mark as unread

Marks your message as 'unread' so you can go back to it later.


Archive and previous

Archives your conversation and moves to the previous one.


Archive and next

Archives your conversation and moves to the next one.



Undoes your previous action, if possible (works for actions with an 'undo' link).

<Shift>+ n

Update current conversation

Updates your current conversation when there are new messages.


Move cursor to chat search

Moves your cursor directly to the chat search box.


Remove from Current View*

Automatically removes the message or conversation from your current view.

  • From 'Inbox,' 'y' means Archive
  • From 'Starred,' 'y' means Unstar
  • From 'Trash,' 'y' means Move to inbox
  • From any label, 'y' means Remove the label

* 'y' has no effect if you're in 'Spam,' 'Sent,' or 'All Mail.'


Show more actions

Displays the 'More Actions' drop-down menu.


Show keyboard shortcuts help

Displays the keyboard shortcuts help menu within any page you're on.

Combo-keys - Use the following combinations of keys to navigate through Gmail.

Shortcut Key



<tab> then<Enter>

Send message

After composing your message, use this combination to send it automatically. (Supported in Internet Explorer and Firefox, on Windows.)

y then o

Archive and next

Archives your conversation and moves to the next one.

g then a

Go to 'All Mail'

Takes you to 'All Mail,' the storage site for all mail you've ever sent or received (and have not deleted).

g then s

Go to 'Starred'

Takes you to all conversations you have starred.

g then c

Go to 'Contacts'

Takes you to your Contacts list.

g then d

Go to 'Drafts'

Takes you to all drafts you have saved.

g then i

Go to 'Inbox'

Returns you to the inbox.

g then t

Go to 'Sent Mail'

Takes you to all mail you've sent.

* then a

Select all

Selects all mail.

* then n

Select none

Deselects all mail.

* then r

Select read

Selects all mail you've read.

* then u

Select unread

Selects all unread mail.

* then s

Select starred

Selects all starred mail.

* then t

Select unstarred

Selects all unstarred mail.

Mail delegation


You can delegate access to your Gmail to another person so they can read, send, and delete messages on your behalf. For example, you can delegate e-mail rights to an admin in your organization, or you could delegate your personal email access to your spouse. The delegate can also access the other person's contacts by clicking the Contacts link. Clicking the To, Cc, or Bcc links in the mail compose window will also bring up your contacts.

           >> Watch this video on delegation in Gmail

Delegating access

You won't be able to give anyone permission to change your account password or account settings, or chat on your behalf. Google Apps for Education users can specify up to 25 users. Here's how:

  1. Click the gear icon  in the upper-right and select Mail settings, and select the Accounts and Import tab.
  2. Under 'Grant access to your account,' click the Add another account link.
  3. Enter the email address of the person you'd like to access your account and click Next Step. Remember you can only enter a Google Mail address.
  4. You'll see a confirmation message. Click Send email to grant access if you're sure.
  5. The delegate will receive a verification email explaining that you've granted access to them.

Any messages someone else sends from your account will have your name listed in addition to the other person's name, so they'll show the sender as: Your Name (sent by Delegate).

If someone has granted access to their account to you, you can access it by clicking the down-arrow next to your email address in the upper-right corner. Click Switch account and choose your delegate's email address.

Remove delegated access to your account

If you no longer want to grant somebody else access to your account, follow these instructions:

  1. Click the gear icon  in the top right corner of Gmail and choose Mail settings
  2. Click the Accounts and Import tab.
  3. In the "Grant access to your account" section, click delete on any account you want to remove.

Apps Mail labs


Apps mail Labs allows you to try out experimental new features in Apps mail. Google engineers are constantly thinking of neat new ways to help you with your inbox, and Labs is a way for them to let you try it out for yourself. Think of Labs as a place to try the newest – but not necessarily the most stable – features of Apps mail. When we believe these features are useful for users and ready for prime time, we will 'graduate' them from Labs and integrate them into regular Apps mail. Tasks was the first graduate of Labs, but we plan to keep working on adding and graduating more!

Please note: Your school Apps domain administrator must turn on Labs for the school. If you are unable to turn on Labs (as reviewed in the next step), ask your school Apps domain administrator to turn the Labs service on.

In Labs you'll see a list of options to try - each of those options is called an 'experiment.' You can pick and choose which experiments to try, you don't have to turn them all on (although you are certainly welcome to!). Throughout the chapters on Apps mail we will introduce several useful Labs that can help with managing your inbox and messages.

If you're going to brave the Labs world, it's important to keep the following things in mind about these features:

So, with that in mind, If you encounter any problems while you have a Labs feature enabled, here are some things you can do:

Turn on Labs and try experiments

Want to get started with Labs? You can do this in a few quick clicks.

  1. Click Settings in the top right of your Apps mail page.
  2. Select the 'Labs' tab and identify the options (or 'experiments') you want to enable.
  3. Click the 'Enable' radio button to turn on an experiment
  4. Click 'Save Changes' at the bottom of the page.
  5. Your page may refresh but after the refresh, the experiment you just turned on will be available in your Apps mail account.

Once you've enabled Labs, you can add more Labs by clicking the Labs link in the top right side of your Apps mail page.


Don't see the 'Labs' tab in your Settings? It could be 1 of 2 reasons:

  1. Your school Apps domain administrator has not turned on Labs for your domain. Send an email or ask your Apps domain administrator to turn on Labs so you can try out some of the useful mail options.
  2. Some of the Apps mail labs aren't yet compatible with all of our supported browsers. Labs are available only in Internet Explorer 8.0+, Firefox 3.6+, Safari 4.0+, and Google Chrome. You won't see a 'Labs' tab in your Settings if you're not using the newer version of Apps mail on the browsers listed above. So keep in mind, if you're using Internet Explorer 6.0, you will not have Apps mail Labs.

Turn off Labs and experiments

If you're having difficulty with Apps mail and are currently using the Labs feature, we recommend temporarily disabling Labs as a first step.

You can do so by going to the Labs tab in your settings. If you want to turn these experimental features off for good, though, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Labs link at the top of your Apps mail page under the Settings gear icon, or click Settings in the top right of your Apps mail page and select the 'Labs' tab.
  2. Select the Disable radio button by all the options or 'experiments' you've enabled.
  3. If you want to have no experiments running, make sure that all the radio buttons in the list are marked Disable.
  4. Click Save Changes.

You can always turn an experiment back on at anytime.

Alternatively, you can add a '?labs=0' parameter to the end of the URL to see your mail without labs. For example, if you had access your email at, the 'no labs' address would be  where is your school Apps domain.