Essential Gmail Keyboard Shortcuts & Customization

Gmail is an integral part of our lives. It has become a way to communicate with others, share ideas and collaborate on projects. However, one downside is that it can be time-consuming because you’re constantly switching screens between your email inbox and other apps. This tutorial will show the key Gmail shortcuts designed to help you be more efficient.

Why Use Gmail Shortcut Keys?

While the mouse is a computing advancement, it isn’t always the fastest way to perform a software task. Oftentimes, a keyboard equivalent is a quicker input method because you don’t have to find specific icons or menu options. This is one reason why macro keyboard apps like ActiveWords or Alfred are appealing.

Gmail has almost 100 keyboard shortcuts, but I’m going to stick to the essentials. In this case, essential is defined as something you would routinely use instead of something needed infrequently.

I’ve also indicated whether keyboard shortcuts can apply to an individual email, conversation, or folder. By folder, I mean a Gmail list based on a label. So, for example, I would consider the Inbox label as a folder. The advantage of folders is that you can act on more than one email by checking what you want.

How to Turn On Gmail Keyboard Shortcuts

The first thing you want to do is to verify that you’ve turned keyboard shortcuts on. Otherwise, your efforts will be useless.

Toggle for Gmail keyboard shortcuts.
Gmail setting for Keyboard shortcuts
  1. Open Gmail
  2. On the top-right toolbar, click the settings icon. Settings gear icon.
  3. Click the See all settings button.
  4. Click General from the top menu.
  5. Toggle the radio button for Keyboard shortcuts on.
  6. Scroll to the page bottom and click Save changes.

One Keystroke Wonders

You can do all these items with 1 keystroke. They tend to be some of the most frequently used commands and the easiest to learn.

Create EmailcFolder
Snooze EmailbFolder or Email
Archive EmaileFolder or Email
Forward EmailfIndividual email
Reply to EmailrIndividual email
Reply to AllaIndividual email
Move EmailvFolder or Email
Open More Menu. (period)Folder or Email
Mark Email Important=Folder or Email
Remove Important Marker– (hyphen)Folder or Email
Rotate Star IconssIndividual email
Add or Remove Labell (lowercase L)Folder or Email
Search Email/Folder or Email

Please note that the command for Forward email is for a specific email. This is different from setting up gmail forwarding rules

Going Places with the G Key

These shortcuts use two letters, and the first one is always g followed by the letter after the + sign. These shortcuts allow you to jump between sections of Gmail or navigate to Google Contacts or Google Tasks. Sadly, there isn’t a shortcut to get you to Google Calendar.

Go to Inboxg + iFolder or Email
Go to Starred Emailsg + sFolder or Email
Go to Snoozed Emailg + bFolder or Email
Go to Sent Emailg + tFolder or Email
Go to Draft Emailg + dFolder or Email
Go to All Emailg + aFolder or Email
Go to Google Contactsg + cFolder or Email
Go to Google Tasksg + kFolder or Email
Go to Specific Labelg + lFolder or Email

Working with Conversations

Based on your Gmail settings, you might group email items with the same subject into “conversations” or “threads.” There are several shortcuts I use with them. However, there is no shortcut to reverse the date order of conversations. You can ignore this section if you have the view setting off.

Toggle for Gmail conversation view in Settings.
Gmail conversation view setting
Mute a conversationmEmail thread
Expand a conversation;Email thread
Collapse a conversation:Email thread

Shift into a Higher Gear

The entries below are a tad more involved simply because you have to use the Shift key. However, the rewards are worth the effort because you will frequently use these actions.

Delete emailShift + 3 (#)Folder or Email
Reply in New WindowShift + rEmail
Mark email as readShift + iFolder or Email
Report Email as SpamShift + 1 (!)Folder or Email
See all shortcutsShift + ?Folder or Email

Control & Command

This section is where we have a slight twist. Windows users should use the Ctrl key, whereas MacOS people should use the Command key. ⌘ Within the table, I’ll use Ctrl/Cmd, and you can use the one for your operating system. These are keyboard modifier keys.

Send EmailCtrl/Cmd + EnterEmail
Apply boldCtrl/Cmd + bEmail
Apply italicsCtrl/Cmd + iEmail
Apply underlineCtrl/Cmd + uEmail
Insert linkCtrl/Cmd + kEmail
Remove all formattingCtrl/Cmd + \Email

Customizing or Remapping Gmail Shortcuts

If you work with many programs or have dexterity issues, you might want to remap your shortcuts. This means instead of using Google’s assigned keystrokes, you can make your own. For example, Google has “m” for “mute conversation,” but I’ve never used that command. However, I often move conversations and would prefer to assign it to “m.”

  1. Open Gmail
  2. On the top-right toolbar, click the settings icon Settings gear icon..
  3. Click the See all settings button.
  4. Click Advanced from the top menu.
  5. Toggle the radio button for Custom keyboard shortcuts.
  6. Scroll to the page bottom and click Save changes.
  7. Log out of Gmail.
  8. Log back in.
  9. Go back to settings and you should see a new menu option for Keyboard Shortcuts.
  10. Click Keyboard Shortcuts.
  11. Scroll down the Action column to find your shortcut. (In my case, I first removed the “m” for “mute conversation” and then applied it to open “move to” menu.
  12. Click Save Changes button.

While the above Gmail shortcuts don’t cover the whole spectrum, they are the essentials. In addition, mastering these keyboard shortcuts will allow you to simplify other tasks such as deleting Gmail email items.