Monday, October 3, 2011

Keyboard Shortcuts in GMail: Part 2

The more I learn about GMail, the more I find it is a fairly ingenious email application, but there are several hidden gems in GMail that are not exactly undocumented, but are rather unknown to most.  Foremore among them are keyboard shortcuts, which allow you to use your keyboard to register actions rather than mousing to a button each time.

I covered Part 1 of keyboard shortcuts, including the help, Compose and Archive shortcuts.  Below are three more keyboard shortcuts that form the family of actions we most often take on pieces of e-mail:

R - Reply to a message.  Again, there is no hint or menu that tips you off that simply pressing the R key will start a reply.  Just try it while reading a message.  Press R and presto!  You have a reply started without your hands ever leaving the keyboard.

A - Reply to all.  This one is just like the Reply command above, except of course your response goes to everyone in the original message rather than just the sender.  Of course, this explains a mystery from Part 1 of keyboard shortcuts where the A key was not used for Archiving.  The developers at Google likely figured Reply to all was a more often used command than Archive, and this reserved the letter A for Reply to all.  (Remember A for Reply to all; E for Archive.)

F - Forward a message.  Again, fairly straightforward.  Press F and GMail automatically starts a Forward message so you can pass along your inbound message to someone else.

Now here is one more major trick that I really like, and it helps you bust out of GMail's limitation of sticking to one window: Add the Shift key to any of the above commands and your reply or forward will open in a new window, leaving your original message neatly in its own window.  Play around with this feature and you will really look and feel like a pro.  Having multiple GMail windows open lets you cut/copy and paste between messages much more easily.

In the screenshot to the right, I wanted to reply to my friend Rodney, and I used the Shift + R keyboard shortcut.  Instead of starting my reply in the same window, addition of the Shift key opened a new window with my reply, and made it easy to cut and paste information into my Reply.

It's a pretty sweet trick, will make you look like a GMail black belt, and may just make your life easier too.