Keyboard shortcuts save time. Each of us likely has memorized a few that we use consistently. Some of the most common work across programs: C for Copy, V for Paste, and P for Print are among the first ones I learned decades ago. Sure, we could perform the same procedures by clicking on the correct menu with the mouse and then choosing the appropriate item from the menu. Keeping hands on the keyboard and using a few keyboard shortcuts saves seconds. And seconds add up quickly for the knowledge worker.
When you spend a great deal of time in email, keyboard shortcuts help you get in and out faster. This article examines some Gmail shortcuts worth learning.
First, turn on these two things…
For any keyboard shortcuts to work, someone must turn on that option.
- Click the gear icon in the upper-right corner within Gmail.
- Click “Settings.”
- On the “General” tab, scroll to “Keyboard Shortcuts” and select “Keyboard shortcuts on.”
- Scroll to the bottom of the page and select “Save Changes.”
Second, turn on “Auto-Advance.”
- Click the gear icon.
- Go to “Settings” and click the “Advanced” tab.
- Find “Auto-advance” and click “Enable.”
- Click “Save Changes.”
- In “Settings,” click the “General” tab. Scroll to “Auto-advance” and bullet “Go to previous (older) conversation.”
- Click “Save Changes.”
What does Auto-Advance do? Read an email. When you then either archive it or delete it, what do you see? Gmail returns to the full email list. To see the next email, the user must click it. With “Auto-advance” turned on, the next email appears with no click. Time saved…one mouse click for every email every day.
“Saving one mouse click is nothing. Saving two or three clicks on every email every day is significant.”
Getting from “In” to “Empty” with Keyboard Shortcuts
Start at the top of the list of emails and click the first one. The mouse can now have a rest. Once you’ve read the email, what can you do with it?
- Reply: Don’t touch that mouse! Instead, hit the letter “r” and start writing your reply.
- Forward: Hit the letter “f.” (Seems logical, right?) The cursor will be on the “to” line for you to start keying the address. Use the “Tab” key to move to the body of the message. Edit the message as needed and send.
- Forward to your digital task list: How many emails sit in your inbox for days, weeks, or longer because they serve as reminders of things to do? A “to-do” belongs on your digital task list. Hit “f.” I wish there was a keyboard shortcut to allow you to edit the subject line, but there’s not. You have to resort to the mouse. Change the subject so that it reflects the name of the task…something clear, such as “Call Mary about the XYZ project.” Amend the body of the email as needed and send.
- Archive: You’ve read the message and taken appropriate action. What do you do with the email now? Many times, you want to hang onto that email just in case you need it in the future. The proper thing to do is archive it. Hit the “e” key, and it’s done.
- Delete: Other emails aren’t worth saving. Delete them. You can hold the “Shift” key and hit the “#” key. Personally, I find that combination awkward, especially when trying to fly through a list of emails. So, I created my own keyboard shortcut. You can too. In Gmail, click the gear icon in the upper-right corner. Choose “Settings” and click the “Keyboard Shortcuts” label. You now see all of the keyboard shortcuts and can edit them. Look for “Delete” on the list. In addition to “#” (which requires the “Shift” key), I added another. In the blank square, I inserted “\” (just above the “Enter” key. It makes for a very easy way to delete.
The old saying “Little strokes fell great oaks” comes to mind. Saving one mouse click is nothing. Saving two or three clicks on every email every day is significant.