Back in the old internet days, people rarely changed email addresses. Today is a different story with people changing jobs and having multiple email addresses. Sometimes email programs don’t want to let go of the old addresses and keep displaying them for us, which can present problems. This happened to a friend of mine who mistakenly sent an email to a colleague’s old work email address. I’ll skip the embarrassing parts and show you an easy way to remove these stale or unwanted addresses from the Google’s auto-complete list.
Understanding How Google Captures Email Addresses
Part of the problem arises because of Google, like many email programs, notes who you’ve sent an email to. If you type in an address in the To: box, Gmail stores that info in your Google Contacts. In the example below, Google will automatically add a record for Jane.Doe to my Contacts once I click the Send button.
If you were to click the Contacts link while in Gmail, you would see Jane’s new record that only has the email address.
A similar process happens if I hit Reply to an email and send it. Google assumes that I correspond with the email address and automatically adds to my Contacts.
Google Email Suggestions
To make it easier, Google also shows these email addresses and names when you start typing in the To: box of an email. They call this feature “auto-complete” and the matching emails and names are displayed by the frequency of use. Using the test example above of Jane Doe, you can see Google has added her name to the suggestion list.
Editing Gmail Autocomplete Suggestion List
The key to removing or changing an email address is to edit the underlying contact record. You can:
- Delete the contact record
- Delete a contact’s email address
- Change or add a contact’s email address
The steps are pretty much the same although there is a slight twist if you’re using Google Contacts Preview which I mention further down.
- Log into your Gmail account
- Click the down triangle next to Gmail. Your URL will show someting like: https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#contacts
- Select Contacts from the drop down menu
- Enter in the contact’s name or email in the search bar and select their record.
- Click in the contact’s email address field. Once you click in the text box, a trash icon shows to the right. You can either edit the address and click Save Now on the top right or click the trash can icon to delete.
- If you no longer want the contact record, you can click More and select Delete contact.
- Sign out of Gmail and log back in.
Now, when you compose and email message and start typing in the To: field, your changes should be reflected.
Google Contacts Preview
After I wrote this article, Google made some changes and introduced a “Preview” mode. The contacts screen looks different and the URL will shows as: https://contacts.google.com/u/0/preview/all.
What’s interesting is if I enter in “jane.doe”, I get entries from my Contacts and some extra ones. It looks like they are related to Google+. The good news is you can still delete the correct entry. Click the three vertical dots to see More Actions.
While Google is smart in many ways, sometimes you need to offer a helping hand and edit your Google Contact records. Otherwise, you could find yourself sending correspondence to old email addresses that may no longer be attended.