Saturday, October 1, 2011

Keyboard Shortcuts in GMail: Part 1

GMail is probably one of my favorite applications ever because it does so darn much, doesn't require anything on your home computer except a web browser, is very customizable, has some outstanding search capabilities, and is readily available anytime anywhere, such as on my mobile phone or someone else's computer.

Because I formerly used Outlook at work, I learned the keyboard shortcuts in Outlook to avoid the back-and-forth time wasting motion of moving my right hand off the keyboard to the mouse.  A journey of just three inches does not seem like much until it is done repetitively for every single message.

Thankfully, GMail has some great keyboard shortcuts built which can save you some time.  In my customary style, I will throw out a few at a time.

One CRITICAL prerequisite: The Keyboard Shortcuts must be turned On.  They are On by default, but this could be a great thing to check, and it's easy to do.  To verify:

  1. Click the small gear icon in the far upper right, then click Mail Settings. (You'll be going here a lot as you keep learning more about GMail.)
  2. On the General tab--which should appear by default--look for the Keyboard Shortcuts section a few lines down from the top.
  3. Make sure this section is tuned to Keyboard Shortcuts On.
  4. If it is already, just go back to your Inbox by clicking Inbox on the left.
  5. If not, change the radio button to Keyboard Shortcuts On, then scroll all the way to the bottom of the page and click the Save Changes button.

The keyboard shortcuts that I think are most useful:

Ctrl + ? - Show a list of all the keyboard shortcuts.  This is a great way to review the list of dozens of shortcuts and spot the ones you think will be used most often.  Occasionally the list will trail off the bottom of your screen.  If so, just click the link marked Open in a New Window to make them easier to read.

C - Compose a new message. What a huge timesaver! No need to navigate that mouse onto that Compose Mail button.  This one seems a little counter-intuitive because there is no hint that a single keystroke on the C key will do anything.  But try it; it works.

E - Archive the message.  One of the most powerful features of GMail, archiving is available with one press of the E key.  Why E instead of A?  Well, I'm not a GMail developer so I can't say for sure, other than to report that A is reserved for something else, so stay tuned.

Hope this helps you speed along the Information Superhighway.