Gmail Recommended Settings

Recommended settings for using Gmail via the Web interface

When you first log in to your Gmail account, you will notice the default appearance of the Gmail interface. There are many settings that you can customize to match your own preferences. Several of the main settings are described below and where appropriate, suggested changes have been incorporated based on customer feedback.

In addition to settings that you can customize, there are also Gmail Labs that can be enabled. These labs are experimental features that have not been fully incorporated into the Gmail product. Several useful labs are discussed below. 

For more general information on how to use Gmail, please see the Google Apps Learning Center.

IMAP Setting

Follow Google's recommended IMAP settings

Mail Settings

To change your mail settings click on the Options link (denoted by a gear) in the upper right hand corner and choose Mail Settings. You will have a list of categories (tabs) across the top of your screen; they are further discussed below.


  1. Conversation view: on by default; suggest you leave it on. Conversation view groups all replies with the original message, creating what is referred to as a "single conversation" or "thread." Rather than having to wade through separate messages to find replies, you see them all together, usually making the context of the message easier to follow - much like following a conversation.
  2. Signature. Recommend you enter a signature that identifies you and provides other contact information as desired. Typical signature information might include name, title, organization, and phone number.
  3. Attachments: basic attachment is the default, allows you to attach one file at a time. Recommend you change to "Advanced," which allows you to select multiple files for upload; this option also shows the progress of attaching files (e.g., how long it is taking to upload and attach). The advanced feature does require Flash. Note: For attachments over Google's 25MB limit, consider using the Velocity service. To learn more about the service, such as security, copyright, and file retention policy considerations, see About Velocity.
  4. Desktop notifications: default is off.  This is an option only available in the Google Chrome browser. Enabling this feature gives you a pop-up bubble on your desktop when new email or new chat messages arrive. 
  5. Vacation responder: Off by default. To create and turn on a vacation message, adjust beginning and end dates and provide a message. The Vacation responder does not respond to message lists that honor the X-Message-List header. Both Google Groups and MJ2 lists ( honor this header.
  6. Keyboard shortcuts: Off by default. Many power users enjoy the convenience of being able to use keyboard combinations to do common tasks. Turn it on if you'd like to give it a try.  
    1. One helpful shortcut is the "shift C" key .... allows you to pop out a new compose message window so you can keep your inbox in view and compose a new message at the same time.
    2. See for more shortcuts
  7. Snippets: on by default. Shows not only the subject line of a message, but also the beginning of the message in your inbox. Some people prefer to have it off and only show subject line.


Labels are very similar to folders, except that they do so much more! You can apply more than one label to a message (e.g., "file" the message in more than one folder) and once you have a label, you can view all messages with that label, "move" messages to that label (they no longer appear in your inbox) and search within a label.

But the real power of Gmail is that you can use Google's search engine to do a search from your inbox and it automatically searches all mail, regardless of label, unless you specify a label. You can easily create, edit or delete existing labels.

If you have a lot of labels, you can hide some or all of them; messages can still be easily labeled or moved by using the drop down box across the top of your inbox. For more information, read Google's Using Labels.


The accounts tab allows you to change your password and set other security options, as well as change your send mail address and add other email accounts. 

Send mail as: Set by default to your address. This setting allows you to configure additional addresses to use to send mail from such as your email address.

Note: Messages you send to yourself will not appear in your inbox. They will instead be found in All Mail.


Like filters in other email clients, you can use a filter to manage incoming mail messages. You can label, archive, delete, star or forward mail based on filters you create. "Starring" an email is a way of making it stand out for any reason you might want to, such as: it's more important, you want to get back to it, it contains an action item, and so on. For more information, see Setting up Filters in Gmail.


If you want to jazz up the look and feel of your Gmail interface, test drive some of the many themes available. Easily added or removed, you can vary your look in an instant! For more information, read Google's Gmail Themes.

Google Labs

To continue to enhance your Web experience, Google takes suggestions from customers and often turns them into new services or features. The settings may eventually become part of the product, but Google considers them "not quite ready for prime time" and thus separates them from regular "settings." However, OIT has found several of these lab settings to be quite useful, as they often provide users with functionalities they have come to expect in an email client.

Please keep in mind that the settings below are recommendations only and that there are many more settings (available both in the product and as a lab) that you can also use. After considering the recommended ones below, take some time to browse all the offerings to further enhance your experience with Gmail.

From the many labs available, here are several that the Google Implementation Team has found useful: 

  1. Title tweaks: Changes the order of elements in your browser title bar to let you quickly see how many new, unread messages you have in your inbox by glancing at the title bar. For example, it would change the title from North Carolina State University Mail - Inbox (20) - to Inbox (20) - - North Carolina State University
  2. Auto-advance: By default, Gmail takes you back to your inbox after you read a message. This option allows you to automatically advance to the next (or previous) conversation instead of returning to your inbox. You choose whether you want to advance to the next or previous conversation.
  3. Undo send: If you hit send too soon, you can have a few seconds to undo the send. However, your options for undoing are only 5, 10, 15, 20 or 30 seconds. After 30 seconds, the mail has already left your inbox and is on its way to the intended receipient.
  4. Google calendar gadget: If you make use of Google calendar, this adds a box to the left column showing your calendar for the next day (sometimes more); shows upcoming events, locations, and details.
  5. Right-side chat: Moves the chat box from the lower left to the upper right hand side of your inbox. If you have a lot of labels, you might prefer to see your chat window without having to scroll down.
  6. Signature tweaks: Places your signature before the quoted text in a reply message and removes the "--" line that appears before a signature.
  7. Default text styling: Change your default styling.
  8. Preview Pane: provides a preview pane to read mail right next to your list of conversations, making mail reading faster and adding more context. This allows the Gmail interface to look more like a traditional mail client such as Thunderbird or Outlook.
  9. Canned Responses: Save and then send your common messages using a button next to the compose form. Also automatically send emails using filters.

Using Multiple Google Accounts

There are several ways that you can access both your work Gmail account and your personal Gmail account. 

  • Use a different browser for each service (e.g., Chrome for your work account and Firefox for your personal account).
  • Allow sign-ins from different accounts using the same browser. See
  • Use the "incognito window" function in Chrome (File → New Incognito Window) or the "private browsing" feature in Firefox.

Make Gmail your default "mailto" program 

To open a Gmail compose window when you click on an online mailto: link, follow the instructions for your browser or OS: