29 essential Gmail keyboard shortcuts that will save you hours

Sometimes it’s OK to take shortcuts in life, especially when it comes to doing tasks like sorting through emails. There are over 80 Gmail keyboard shortcuts designed to help people save time. We don’t know if anyone has ever memorized and used all 80, but there are definitely some essential Gmail keyboard shortcuts that you should know. 

Even memorizing just a few of these shortcuts can save you hours of time over a year, and you can use that time for more important things. We’ll break the list into shortcuts for mailbox management and shortcuts for writing emails. 

Shortcuts for mailbox management 

1. Open keyboard shortcut help (?)

2. Select a range of conversations (Shift)

3. Select particular conversations (⌘/Ctrl)

4. Select all conversations (* + a)

5. Deselect all conversations (* + n)

6. Select read conversations (* + r)/unread (* + u)/starred (* + s)/unstarred (* + t)

7. Mark as read (Shift + i)/unread (Shift +u)

8. Mute conversation (m)

9. Report as spam (!)

10. Delete (#)

11. Reply (r)

12. Reply all (a)

13. Forward (f)

14. Expand an entire conversation (;)

15. Collapse an entire conversation (:)

16. Previous message in an open conversation (p)

17. Next message in an open conversation (n)

18. Open conversation (o) or (Enter)

19. Go to Inbox (g + i)/Starred (g + s)/Snoozed (g + b)/Sent (g + t)/Drafts (g + d)/All mail (g + a)

Shortcuts for writing emails

1. Compose (c)

2. Bold (⌘/Ctrl + b)

3. Italics (⌘/Ctrl + i)

4. Underline (⌘/Ctrl + u)

5. Send (⌘/Ctrl + Enter)

6. Insert a link (⌘/Ctrl + k)

7. Indent less (⌘/Ctrl + [)

8. Indent more (⌘/Ctrl + ])

9. Insert a numbered list (⌘/Ctrl + Shift + 7) or bulleted list (⌘/Ctrl + Shift + 8)

10. Send (⌘/Ctrl + Enter)

How to switch on Gmail shortcuts

It’s possible to activate keyboard shortcuts in Gmail

About a third of Gmail’s shortcuts are automatically on all the time. These mostly deal with text formatting and composing a new email. But to get the most out of Gmail keyboard shortcuts, you’ll want to turn the rest of them on. Here’s how:

  1. Head to Gmail
  2. Click the Gear Icon and select See All Settings
  3. Scroll down in the general tab to Keyboard Shortcuts and click On
  4. Click Save Changes at the bottom of the settings menu

19 Gmail shortcuts for mailbox management

Here are the most useful Gmail keyboard shortcuts for managing your mailbox. These work in Inbox or Conversation views (or both). 

1. Open keyboard shortcut help (?)

The most important shortcut to remember is that ? will open up the entire cheat sheet of keyboard shortcuts. If you want to learn more or refresh your memory, this is a good shortcut to memorize. The popup screen will also let you toggle keyboard shortcuts on and off. 

2. Select a range of conversations (Shift)

If you want to select a block of conversations in a mailbox, click the first email in the series, press Shift, then click the last email. 

3. Select particular conversations (⌘/Ctrl)

To pick and choose emails, hold the Command/⌘ (Mac) or Control (Windows) button, and click on each conversation you want to select. 

4. Select all conversations (* + a)

Hold Shift and 8 (for *) and then click a to select all conversations on the first page. At the top, you’ll have the option to select every message in the mailbox. 

5. Deselect all conversations (* + n)

To deselect any selection you’ve made, hold * and click n

6. Select read conversations (* + r)/unread (* + u)/starred (* + s)/unstarred (* + t)

Likewise, you can select only read conversations by using * and r, unread with u, starred with s, and unstarred with t

7. Mark as read (Shift + i)/unread (Shift +u)

You can mark one or more emails you’ve selected as read with Shift and i. Or, change them to unread with Shift and u

8. Mute conversation (m)

If you no longer need to keep up with a particular email thread, you can select it and mute it with m

9. Report as spam (!)

Got a shady email you don’t want to open? Select it and click ! to report it as spam. 

10. Delete (#)

The number sign (or hashtag) will delete any email you have selected or are viewing.

11. Reply (r)

Click r to reply to a selected email (or when viewing). 

12. Reply all (a)

The a key sets up a reply-all email when reading a message. 

13. Forward (f)

And you can forward emails with f

14. Expand an entire conversation (;)

This is one of our favorite shortcuts. When reading a long thread of back-and-forth messages, the ; (semicolon) will expand every email so you can easily find information in old messages.

15. Collapse an entire conversation (:)

After you’ve found what you need, click the : (colon) to collapse the conversation.

16. Previous message in an open conversation (p)

When you have a long email thread, you can scroll back through past emails with p. This will only highlight the email, not open it. 

17. Next message in an open conversation (n)

You can scroll back down toward the present time with n

18. Open conversation (o) or (Enter)

Once you have a selected message you want to open in an email conversation, click o or Enter to open it. 

19. Go to Inbox (g + i)/Starred (g + s)/Snoozed (g + b)/Sent (g + t)/Drafts (g + d)/All mail (g + a)

We’ve combined a few “Go to” commands here, all beginning with the g key. Pair it with i to jump to the inbox, s to go to starred emails, b for snoozed, t for sent, d for drafts, and a for all mail. Master these and you’ll be lightning quick. 

10 Gmail shortcuts for writing emails

It’s easy to write emails in Gmail without using the mouse

Now, here are some of the most useful keyboard shortcuts for writing emails. 

1. What is the shortcut for creating a new email? (c)

To start a new message, click c whether you’re in a mailbox or viewing a conversation. 

2. Bold (⌘/Ctrl + b)

Google uses the same formatting shortcuts for Gmail as are in Google Docs, Word, etc. ⌘/Ctrl and b will embolden your text (make it bold).  

3. Italics (⌘/Ctrl + i)

For quotes and other emphatic points, use ⌘/Ctrl and i for italics.

4. Underline (⌘/Ctrl + u)

Make sure your text stands out and underline it with ⌘/Ctrl and u

5. Remove formatting (⌘/Ctrl + \)

So maybe it was a bad idea to use the underline, italic, and bold functions at the same time. To get rid of everything, highlight the text and click ⌘/Ctrl and \ (backslash).

6. Insert a link (⌘/Ctrl + k)

You don’t need to put a super long link in the body of your email that takes up four lines. Instead, highlight a few words and click ⌘/Ctrl and k to insert a link. 

7. Indent more (⌘/Ctrl + ])

If you’ve ever hit the tab key in a compose window you know it just cycles through the different buttons and fields you can select. To add an indent, hold ⌘/Ctrl and ] (closed square bracket). This will only allow you to add one indent. 

8. Indent less (⌘/Ctrl + [)

To take away the indent, use ⌘/Ctrl and [ (open square bracket).

9. Insert a numbered list (⌘/Ctrl + Shift + 7) or bulleted list (⌘/Ctrl + Shift + 8)

Lists can make things extra clear. Use ⌘/Ctrl + Shift + 7 to insert a numbered list, and ⌘/Ctrl + Shift + 8 to insert a bulleted list.

10. Send (⌘/Ctrl + Enter) 

Finally, when you’re done composing your email, you can send it with ⌘/Ctrl and enter.

Learn and conquer

Learning these shortcuts takes a bit of work, but the time you can save using them will far outweigh the little effort at the beginning. Assimilate them and conquer your inbox as an email writing machine.