How to restore the delete function to the Android Gmail app

How to restore the delete function to the Android Gmail app

Summary: For reasons beyond my comprehension, Google's latest Android Gmail app defaults to archiving messages instead of deleting them. Fortunately, it's easy to fix.


There I was, innocently fiddling with my Gmail while waiting for a movie to start Friday night on my Motorola Droid 4 Android smartphone, when I tried to delete a message... and I discovered that the latest update to the Android Gmail program wasn't letting me delete messages. What the heck?


Instead the app was defaulting to archiving my messages. I didn't want this. A lot of people didn't want this.

A typical user response to the change read, "Why take away the delete button? Getting 100s of emails daily, I use my phone to delete while waiting in lines and other places. Please bring the delete button back. Having to do the two steps is a drag." Agreed!

You could wait to see if Google will change its top-level menu choice to letting you easily delete messages again or you can do it yourself. Fortunately, it's an easy fix.

Simply go to Settings on your Android device and head to General Settings. Once there, select "Archive & delete actions." This will give you three options: Show archive only; Show delete only; or Show archive and delete. If, like me, you just want to go back to deleting messages while you're standing in line, just pick delete. Then back out to the main application. Your new setting should automatically be saved.  You'll once once more be  to dump your unwelcome messages into  the trash can icon.

If you want, as I do, you can also set your Gmail so that you can delete, or archive, messages by swiping them from the inbox top-level view. You do this by selecting "Swipe to delete" from the General settings menu. 

Scared you'll delete an important message? Don't worry. By default, Gmail won't permanently get rid of a message for 30 days. Your recently "deleted" messages are actually kept under the Trash label. From there you can return them to the inbox or some other folder.

If you're really afraid of zapping messages, you can can add suspenders to your e-mail safey belt by  going to the Action Confirmations section of General Settings and click on "Confirm before deleting."

Me? I never confirm before deleting and I may pull a message out of Gmail's virtual trash can once every two or three months. I much prefer being able to throw my mail out without an hassle than keeping unwanted mail lying around.

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Topics: Android, Google, Mobility, Networking, Unified Comms, Google Apps

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  • sweet!

    I never use archive and this update annoyed me too. nice to see it can be changed.
  • Seriously?!

    From the Summary:
    "For reasons beyond my comprehension, Google's latest Android Gmail app defaults to archiving messages instead of deleting them."

    Google can't mine the data in your messages if they are deleted. [Unless they move deleted messages to another group of servers where you can no longer access them, but Google still can.]

    Considering Google's business model, this default action makes great sense.
    Rabid Howler Monkey
  • If you delete a message accidentally...

    ...just put in a Freedom of Information request. The government has a copy.
    Tony Burzio
    • LOL

      yes, they will deny it at first but they have to reply within 10 days. They are a bit quicker to supply you with any of your passwords you might have forgotten, though.
    • Follow up

      An NSA insider has just leaked details about a new NSA reminder app for IOS and Android that can send you alerts and reminders about things in your daily life, like, "Where did I leave my car keys?".
  • Yeah

    After swearing for 10 seconds I checked the settings and found out how to restore it.
  • I have to admit

    Its fascinating to see software design driven by the NSA...
    • The design is driven by Google's business model

      That the 3-letter agency you mention also likes Google's business is purely secondary.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
  • They also do this in Voice messages and I don't think there's a fix

    And it's similarly infuriating there.
  • Thanks

    Thanks for pointing this out. Google is going a bit nuts with these changes.
  • I was more annoyed with the Big Color Squares

    Yes, loosing the delete button annoyed me too, but at least I was able to figure out how to get around that pretty quickly (using Menu -> Delete ... and now being able to just delete with a button again is much better, thanks!).

    But those Huge Color Squares with random letters in them? What the poo?!? The majority of my email isn't from individuals, so I had no idea those were supposed to be "sender images". Thankfully, those can be turned off too, also in General Settings, by unchecking "Sender Image - Show beside name in conversation list".

    Now my inbox looks normal again, and I can delete! Awesome!
    • And yes, it's a bit ironic ...

      ... that my avatar is a Big Color Square with letters in it. Shut up.