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Please note the content of this section has been sourced from GCFLearnFree.org pages which are presented here in a format that lends itself to easy reading with a screen reader. You can go direct to the GCFLearnFree.org site by activating the following link GCFLearnFree.org

The information presented here refers to accessing Gmail via a non mobile device such as a laptop or tablet, it is provided to give useful background information regarding the Gmail solution for managing emails. This information will help you understand how the Gmail mobile application works.

Also note, in the following information, when you are requested to 'click' on any button screen reader, readers will have to locate the suggested button or link, on their current screen and then activate it in accordance with the screen reader requirements.

Gmail is a free email service provided by Google. In many ways, Gmail is like any other email service: You can send and receive emails, block spam, create an address book, and perform other basic email tasks. But it also has some more unique features that help to make it one of the most popular email services on the Web.

Google accounts

Creating a Google account will be needed to access Gmail because this email service is one of the many services offered by Google to registered users. Signing up for a Google account is free and easy, and naming your new Gmail address will be a part of the signup process. This means whenever you're signed in to Gmail, you are automatically signed in to your Google account. You'll be able to easily access other Google services like Google Docs, Calendar, and YouTube. Creating a Google account also means you'll be a part of Google+, Google's social networking service.

Of course, you don't have to use any of these features, you may prefer to focus only on email for now. 

Gmail features

Gmail offers several useful features to make your email experience as smooth as possible, including:

Spam filtering. Spam is another name for junk email. Gmail uses advanced technologies to keep spam out of your inbox. Most spam is automatically sent to a separate spam folder, and after 30 days it is deleted.

Conversation View. An email conversation occurs whenever you send emails back and forth with another person (or a group of people), often about a specific topic or event. Gmail groups these emails together by default, which keeps your inbox more organized.

Built-in chat. Instead of sending an email, you can send someone an instant message or use the voice and video chat feature (if your computer has a microphone and/or webcam).

Call Phone. This feature is similar to voice chat, except that it allows you to dial an actual phone number to call any phone in the world. It's free to make a call to anywhere in the U.S. or Canada, and you can make calls to other countries at relatively low rates.

Get to know the Gmail non mobile interface

When you're working with Gmail, you'll primarily be using the main Gmail interface. This window contains your inbox, and it allows you to navigate to your contacts, Mail settings, and more. Also, if you use other Google services like YouTube or Calendar, you'll be able to access them from the top of the Gmail window.

Click/Activate the buttons in the interactive below to learn about the different parts of the Gmail interface.

Using the Gmail interface

Left Menu Pane

The left menu pane allows you to compose a new email, navigate to your mail, view your sent mail, and manage your labels, among other tasks.

Setting up a Gmail account

Setting up a Gmail account is easy. You will begin by creating a Google account, and during the quick signup process you will choose your Gmail account name.

To create a Gmail address, you'll first need to create a Google account. Gmail will redirect you to the Google account signup page. You'll need to provide some basic information like your name, birth date, gender, and location. You will also need to choose a name for your new Gmail address. Once you create an account, you'll be able to start adding contacts and adjusting your mail settings.

To create an account using any browser

Go to www.gmail.com.

Clik the Create account button.
The signup form will appear. Follow the directions and enter the required information.

Review Google's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, click the check box, then click Next step.

Here, you'll have an opportunity to set up recovery options. Recovery options are helpful if you forget your password or if someone tries to access your account. If you don't want to set up recovery options at this time, click Done.

Your account will be created, and the Google welcome page will appear.
Just like with any online service, it's important to choose a strong password, in other words, one that is difficult for someone else to guess.

Signing in to your account

When you first create your account, you will be automatically signed in. Most of the time, however, you'll need to sign in to your account and sign out when you're done with it. Signing out is especially important if you're using a shared computer (for example, at a library or office) because it prevents others from viewing your emails.

To sign in:
Go to www.gmail.com.
Type your user name (your email address) and password, then click Sign in.

To sign out:
In the top-right corner of the page, locate the circle that has your first initial (if you've already selected an avatar image, it will show the image instead). To sign out, click the circle and select Sign out.

Mail settings

Occasionally, you may want to make adjustments to Gmail's appearance or behavior. For example, you could create a signature or vacation reply, edit your labels, or change the theme. These adjustments can be made from your mail settings.

To access your mail settings:

Click the gear icon in the top-right corner of the page, then select Settings.
Going to mail settings.
From here, you can click any of the categories at the top to edit the desired settings.
Like all major email providers, Gmail lets you keep an address book of contacts so you don't have to memorize everyone's email addresses. 
You can also add other contact information, like phone numbers, birthdays, and physical addresses.

To add a contact:

In the Gmail drop-down menu, select Contacts.
Your contacts screen will appear. 

Click Add new contact.
Type the person's name or email address. If they have a Google+ profile, it may appear below. 

Click Create to add the contact.
You can also type additional contact information if desired. 
All changes you make will be saved automatically.

To edit a contact:

In the Gmail drop-down menu, select Contacts.
Click the contact you want to edit.
You can now make any changes you want to the contact.

By default, when you send an email to a new address, Gmail adds the address to your contacts. 
You can then go to your contacts to edit the person's information as needed.

Importing mail and contacts

You may already have a contact list from another email address, and it would be a lot of work to re-enter all of this information manually. Gmail allows you to import your contacts from another email account, and you can even import all of your email messages from that account. Several email providers are supported, including Yahoo!, Hotmail, and AOL.

To add other accounts:

Click the gear icon in the top-right corner of the page, then select Settings.
Go to Accounts and click Add a POP3 mail account you own. 

You can then follow the instructions on the screen to import your mail.

Sending an Email

Writing an email can be as simple as typing a message, or you can use text formatting, attachments, and a signature to customize your message.

When you write an email, you'll be using the compose window. This is where you'll add the email address of the recipient(s), the subject, and the body of the email, which is the message itself. You'll also be able to add various types of text formatting, as well as one or more attachments. If you want, you can even create a signature that will be added to the end of every email you send.

The compose window

In the left menu pane, click the Compose button.
The compose window will appear in the lower-right corner of the page.
You'll need to add one or more recipients to the To: field. 
You can do this by typing one or more email addresses, separated by commas, or you can click To, to select recipients from your contacts, then click select.
Selecting recipients from contacts then clicking the select button.
Type a subject for the message.
In the body field, type your message. 
When you're done, click Send.

If the person you are emailing is already one of your contacts, you can start typing that person's first name, last name, or email address, and Gmail will display the contact below the To: field. You can then press the Enter key to add the person to the To: field.

Adding attachments

An attachment is simply a file (like an image or document) that is sent along with your email. For example, if you are applying for a job, you might send your resume as an attachment, with the body of the email being the cover letter. It's a good idea to include a message in the body of your email explaining what the attachment is, especially if the recipient isn't expecting an attachment.

Remember to attach your file before you click Send. Forgetting to attach a file is a surprisingly common mistake.

To add an attachment:

While composing an email, click the paperclip icon at the bottom of the compose window.
A file upload dialog box will appear. Choose the file you want to attach, then click Open.
The attachment will begin to upload. Most attachments will upload within a few seconds, but larger ones can take longer.

When you're ready to send your email, click Send.
You can click Send before the attachment finishes uploading. 
It will continue to upload, and Gmail will automatically send the email once it's done.

Email formatting

Gmail allows you to add various types of formatting to your text.
Click the formatting button at the bottom of the compose window to see different formatting options.

Responding to an Email

In addition to sending emails, you'll be receiving emails from others. After you read an email, there are a few actions you can take, including opening an attachment (if there is one), replying to the message, forwarding it to someone else, or if you don't have time to deal with the email adding a star to remind yourself to read it later. If you'll be out of town for several days or more, you can also create an automatic vacation reply so people know you're unable to check your email.

Reading email

By default, any email you receive will go to your inbox. You'll be able to tell which emails are unread because they'll be bold. You can also see the name of the sender, the subject of the email, and the first few words of the email body. This means even before you select an email, you can tell quite a few things about it.

From your inbox, click the email you want to read.
The email will open in the same window.

In addition to reading the email, you have several reading options.
You can click show details to see the email addresses of the sender and any other recipients, as well as the date the email was sent.

You can click the Star next to the name of the sender to remind yourself to read the email later.

Alternatively, you can click More and select Add star from the drop-down menu.

You can Reply, Reply to all, or Forward the email to someone else.
You can click Newer or Older on the right side of the window to view the next email (or previous one).

You can go Back to Inbox.

Opening attachments

Sometimes you'll receive emails that contain attachments. Generally, you will need to download an attachment to view it. However, many common file types, like Word documents and images, can be viewed within a browser window. If the attachment is an image, you'll also see a smaller copy of the image—called a thumbnail—inside the body of the email. You can tell which emails contain attachments because they will have a paperclip icon to the right of the subject.

To open an attachment:

Open the email message that contains the attachment.
Click the Download icon to save the attachment to your computer. If your computer asks whether you want to Open or Save it, choose Save. You can then locate the file on your computer and double-click it to open it. Alternatively, you can click View to open the file within your browser if it is a file type that Gmail recognizes.

Downloading an attachment.
You should generally only open an attachment if it's from a trusted source. Some attachments can contain viruses, especially .exe files. If you don't recognize the sender or if you don't know why someone is sending you the attachment it's safest not to open it.

Replying to emails
Most of the time, you will be replying to an email someone else sends you instead of composing a new message. When you reply, the recipient's email address will automatically appear in the To: field, so you won't need to worry about choosing the recipient.

Replying only to the sender
Sometimes you'll receive emails where you're not the only recipient, and you'll need to decide whether you want to reply just to the person who sent the message or Reply to all (the sender and all recipients). For example, if you're collaborating with a group of people via email, you'll probably want to Reply to all so everyone gets the message. However, if you want to send a more private message to the sender, you'll need to select the Reply option so the message stays between the two of you.

Replying to all

While viewing the message, click Reply at the bottom of the message. If the message was sent to multiple recipients, you will also have the option to Reply to all. Alternatively, you can click the Reply arrow to respond to the message.

You may want to double-check the To: and Cc: fields to make sure you're sending your message to the correct people. If you are replying to all recipients, the additional recipients will appear in the Cc: field.

Type your message in the Body field, then click Send.
To see the text of the original email while you're replying, click the gray button in the lower left-hand corner of the window, right above the Send button.

Forwarding emails

You can also choose to forward an email. This basically works the same as replying, but it's used to send the email to someone who wasn't one of the original recipients. Just like a reply, the original message will appear as a quote. It's usually a good idea to include a brief message of your own to explain why you're forwarding the email.

To forward an email message:
While viewing the message, click Forward at the bottom of the message. 
Alternatively, you can select Forward from the More drop-down menu next to the Reply arrow.

Type the recipient's email address in the To: field, or click To to choose a recipient from your contacts. If the person is in your contacts, you can start typing the person's name and that contact's email address should appear.
Type your message in the Body field, then click Send.


Sometimes when you view an email, you'll notice that it's grouped with several other related emails. This is called a conversation. Gmail groups related emails into conversations to help keep your inbox as neat and organized as possible. Instead of selecting a single email from your inbox, you're actually selecting the entire conversation, and you can then choose to view or minimize individual emails.

When you're viewing your inbox, you can tell how many messages there are in each conversation by finding the number next to the name of the sender.
The number indicates how many messages are in each conversation

To view or minimize individual emails:
From your inbox, select a conversation.
All of the messages in the conversation will appear to be stacked on top of one another. Click a message to expand it.

Click the top part of the message again to minimize the message.Clicking the top of a message to minimize it.

Adding a vacation reply

When you go on vacation, you may be unwilling or unable to check your email for several days or more. The email will still be in your inbox when you get back, so it may not be a problem. However, if someone sends you an urgent message that needs a response the same day, this person may not realize that you won't receive the message in time.

You can prevent this by creating a vacation reply, which will automatically send a reply to anyone who emails you. Your vacation reply can contain any message you want, but usually it will include the date you plan to return and your contact information while you are out of town (or possibly the contact information of a coworker who can handle questions while you're gone).

To add a vacation reply:
Click the gear icon in the top-right corner, then select Settings.

Scroll down until you see the Vacation responder section. Click the First day field to choose the date you want the vacation reply to start. If you want, you can also choose a Last day, but it's not required.

Type the desired subject and message.
If you want, you can place a check mark next to Only send a response to people in my Contacts. However, if you think you might receive an urgent message from someone who is not in your contacts, you can leave it unchecked. When you're finished, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click Save Changes.

Managing Email

As you use email more and more, your inbox can become cluttered with old messages. It's important to keep your inbox organized so you can find messages when you need them. The simplest way to deal with email clutter is to delete unwanted messages. But you can also archive messages to move them out of your inbox, or you can apply labels to your messages based on the category they're in.

Deleting unwanted messages.

No matter how many emails you receive, you'll probably never run out of space. Gmail gives you enough space to hold countless emails and their attachments. However, it's a good idea to delete messages you don't want to make it easier to find the ones you do want.

While viewing the message, click the Delete button.
If the message is a part of a conversation, the entire conversation will be deleted. 
If you just want to delete one message in a conversation, click the drop-down arrow in the top-right corner of the message and select Delete this message.

Dealing with spam

Usually, spam—or junk email—is automatically sent to your Spam folder, so it never gets to your inbox. However, some spam still gets past Gmail's spam filter. Instead of simply deleting these messages, it's best to Report them as spam so Gmail knows to filter them out in the future. The process is the same as deleting a message, except that you'll click the Report spam button instead.

Messages in your Spam folder are automatically deleted after 30 days, so you'll never have to worry about deleting them manually.

Archiving messages

Sometimes you may want to remove emails from your inbox, but you don't want to delete them. Gmail allows you to archive messages so they will no longer appear in your inbox. Because you can still access archived messages, it's a safer alternative to deleting.

To archive a message:
While viewing the message, click the Archive button.

In the left menu pane, click the more drop-down arrow and select All Mail.
It will then display all of your messages, including archived messages and the messages in your inbox.

Managing multiple messages

If you're deleting, archiving, or reporting spam, you can take action on several messages at a time by selecting them in your inbox. Simply place a check mark next to each message you want to manage, then click the desired button. You can also click the top check mark to select all of the messages that are currently visible.

Working with labels

Labels allow you to organize your messages and make them easier to find. Applying a label to a message is like putting it into a folder, with one important difference: You can apply more than one label to a message. For example, if you received a message about a company trip, you could label it as Travel and Work. You can choose to label only the most important messages, or you can label every single one it's up to you. You can create new labels whenever you need to, and you can also choose a color that will make the label stand out.

To apply a label to a message:
While viewing the message, click the Labels button. A drop-down menu will appear with a list of labels.
Place a check mark next to all of the labels you want, then click Apply.

Now, when you view your inbox, you'll be able to see the label next to the message subject.
The label appears next to the subject

To create a new label:
While viewing the message, click the Labels button, then select Create new.
Type a new label name, then click Create. The new label will be applied to the message.

Viewing labeled messages.

Once you've added labels to some of your messages, you can easily view all of the messages that contain a particular label. This is where all of the time spent labeling messages pays off. For example, you may want to view messages with the label Travel so you can see everything that pertains to an upcoming trip.

To view labelled messages:
In the left menu pane, click the name of the label you want to view.
Gmail will now display only the messages containing the label you selected. 

The name of the label you chose will appear in the search bar.

To view all of your messages again, click Inbox in the left menu pane.
Some labels may be hidden. If you don't see the label you want, click the More drop-down arrow to view the hidden labels. 
From here, you can also click Manage labels to control which ones are hidden.

To choose a label color:
In the left menu pane, find the label you want to change.
Click the drop-down arrow to the right of the label name.
The drop-down arrow next to the label name
From the menu, select the desired color.
The label will update to reflect the new color.

Creating filters

Filters can save you a lot of time by automatically performing actions like labelling or deleting messages as soon as they arrive in your inbox. You can create filters that look for a specific sender, recipient, subject, or specific words that are contained in the body of the email.

To create a filter:
Open an email message. Ideally, this message should be similar to the emails you want to filter.
Click the More actions button, then select Filter messages like these.

In the box that appears, type one or more search criteria. One or more fields may already be filled in based on the email you opened, but you can edit the criteria if necessary. In this example, we're only looking for messages that are from Facebook. Click Create filter with this search to select actions you want to apply to the filter.

Filtering messages by sender
Place a check mark next to the desired action. If you want to apply a label, you'll need to choose the label from the drop-down menu.
If you want to apply the filter to existing messages that meet the criteria, place a check mark next to Also apply filter to (x) conversations below.
Click Create Filter

To edit or delete filters:
In the top-right corner of the page, click the gear icon, then select Settings.
Click Filters and Blocked Addresses at the top of the screen to view a list of filters that are currently active. 
You can then edit or delete the desired filters.

Search mail

The search mail feature allows you to perform a Google search in your email. This means you can find any message, no matter how new or old. It searches every part of the message, so you can find a message even if you don't remember who sent it or if you never labelled it.

To search for a message:
At the top of the page, type some search terms in the Gmail search box, then click the search button.
Your inbox will display your search results. 

You can click an email to read it, or you can try a different search.
If you're still not finding what you're looking for, you can click Show search options to perform an advanced search.

Gmail for mobile devices

If you have a mobile device, there are two main ways to access your Gmail account:

Option 1: The native email app on your device. If you have multiple email accounts through different email providers (such as a personal email and a work email), you may find the native email application to be more convenient because it allows you to view and manage all of your messages in one place.

Option 2: The official Gmail mobile app, available for iOS and Android. If you're already an experienced Gmail user, you may prefer using the official Gmail app. The app looks and feels similar to the desktop version, and it includes some custom Gmail features that may not be available in the native email app on your device.

To set up Gmail with the native email app:

Keep in mind that this process may vary depending on your device.

Navigate to the email settings on your device, then select Add Account.
Select Google.
Follow the instructions to connect your account.
When you're done, you'll be able to send and receive emails from your Gmail account in the Mail app.

Remember, if you're using the native email app on your phone, it will look different from the official Gmail apps.

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