Five secret tricks only serious Gmail ninjas need to know

With great power comes great responsibility. If you click into this article, be sure to pay attention to the warnings.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

If you're serious about Gmail, then you know there are a ton of hidden secrets buried inside Google's popular email client. Here are five I employ regularly to get my job done. If you live in Gmail, and you're willing to roll up your sleeves, these tricks will power up your Gmail chops. But be careful. Heed the warnings.

#1 Find messages between specific dates

Search is at the core of Gmail. The search drop down offers a lot of helpful options, but the form only lets you select messages within a certain number of days of a given date (and that number maxes at one year). If you want to search for a more specific time, or over a longer time, you'll need to use the after: and before: search tags.

To use these, you'll need to give Gmail dates. I've always been most successful using the format YYYY/MM/DD with my searches, so if you want to specify Christmas in 2016, you'd use 2016/12/25. if you want to find all messages from 2015, for example, you could use "after:2014/12/31 before:2016/1/1". Notice that I've used the dates just before and just after in order to include the whole year.

#2 How many is "many"?

Have you ever done a search in Gmail, only to have the results show as "1-100 of many"? You're not alone. But how many is many? You could just click the right arrow until your finger becomes numb, or you could try this trick.

First, go ahead and create a new label. You do this by clicking "Create new label" from the Gmail menu on the left of your screen (hint: it might be under the More button). I call mine "Count". For the most accurate results, next go to Settings and on the General tab, turn Conversation View off.

Okay, now you're set.

Before we start, though, here's an important warning. This process can take a long time and render your Gmail account inaccessible for a while. It may even prevent you from opening a new tab or window to view your Gmail. I told you, this was for serious users. Don't fret. When Gmail is done doing its count, it will update the page and you will regain access to your messages.

Now, type your search. Want to know how many messages you've sent since you started your job in 2010? Let's use the last trick we discussed and type "is:sent after:2010/7/1 before:2017/7/7" into the search bar, as an example. Remember that I've found year/month/day works best for searching. The "is:sent" indicates you only want to look in the Sent Items folder.

Your search probably returned "1-100 of many." Let's fix that. First, click the Select All button that's just above all the individual check boxes for messages. Then, just above the first message, there will a note saying "All 100 messages on this page are selected. Select all messages that match this search."

Go ahead and click that. It should be relatively quick. Here's what won't be quick. Go to the label drop down, select your Count label, click its check box, and then hit apply. You'll be asked to confirm a bulk action and, if you do, Gmail will assign all the selected messages to the Count label.

Remember my warning. This could take a while and render your email box inaccessible.

Eventually, though, your email will become responsive again and there will be a number next to Count in the mailbox menu on the left. Boom! Now you know.

#3 Make a group out of a set of regularly-mailed contacts

If you regularly mail a specific set of recipients, you can combine their email addresses into a group. Let me be clear: this is not an excuse for spamming. This trick is useful if you're on a project team, in a department, or part of a group. Use it for a reasonable number of recipients or you may find yourself getting spanked by Google.

With that out of the way, here's how you do it.

Go ahead and compose a message and type the email addresses of everyone you want in the group into the To field. One you've done that, click the word "To" at the beginning of the list. You'll see a Select Contacts pane pop-up.

At the bottom of the pane, hit "Save as group." That's it. Give the group a name. Now, when you want to send a message, just type the name of the group into the To field, and you'll send to the whole group.

#4 Show only unread email

This one's easy. It's another power search string in Gmail. Type "is:unread" in the search box. There you go.

One gotcha: you may find you have a lot more unread email than you were expecting. I've apparently ignored 72,598 messages. On the other hand, I do complete my articles on deadline. I wonder if there's any correlation between those two facts?

#5 How to get Gmail tech support from a human

This one is a Jedi-level trick, so don't abuse it. Free Gmail accounts don't normally have much in the way of human or individual tech support. But sometimes, you really, really do need some help.

I've found that because I have a G Suite account, for which I pay all of five bucks a month (plus another five for my wife), I can get human tech support. My G Suite account has a dashboard login, and that dashboard has a support center, with a tech support phone number and an authentication number.

Even though my free Gmail account isn't part of my G Suite account, I've found most support reps more than willing to be very helpful solving problems. They'd prefer to support my G Suite email account, of course, but they've been kind and gotten me out of a couple of worrisome scrapes with good cheer. So pay the five bucks and you can (probably) talk to a human, too.

You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.

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