You likely use it all the time, but you may not know all the things you can do with email to get the most out of it. Whether you’re a fan of free services such as Apple Mail, Gmail, iCloud, Microsoft’s Outlook.com or Yahoo! Mail, consider these tips and tricks to unlocking lesser-known yet powerful features.
Be aware: Some of these may work with more than one email provider, so don’t hesitate to experiment in your email program’s Settings or Options menu.
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Change signatures on Apple Mail
Some tips that are built into the desktop experience on Macs:
Replace your signature. You can do this with virtually any email program, but many of us are lazy and stick with the default signature. If you want to change the signature to something tied to you, such as plugging your website, blog or podcast, change the email signature by going to Mail | Preferences | Signatures and choose your account or all accounts. On an iPhone go to Settings | Mail | Signature to add a new one.
Preview more than two lines. By default, Apple Mail displays two lines of an email in the inbox as a preview before you need to open the entire email. You can change this by going to Mail | Preferences | Viewing and choosing from one to five lines. On an iPhone, go to Settings | Mail | Preview.
Enable Siri in Mac Mail. You might already use Siri, Apple’s proprietary voice-enabled personal assistant. But when enabled for use in the Mail app, Siri can do some handy things for you without you invoking it, such as adding someone to your Contacts or calling out events to add to your Calendar.
To enable, click the Apple icon at the top of your screen, followed by System Preferences | Siri | Siri Suggestions & Privacy... . Find Mail on the left and check the box to the left. Now when you receive an email that includes a Siri suggestion, you can click to add to your Calendar or Contacts, as examples.
On an iPhone, go to Settings | Mail | Siri & Search. You’ll have seven toggle switches you can decide to enable based on your preferences.
Gmail has offline capabilities
One of the most popular email services in the world, Google’s Gmail has many handy attributes.
Offline access. Back in the “olden days” before 2018, Gmail users had to be connected to the internet to read and reply to emails. Gmail now offers offline capabilities so you can search, write, respond to, delete or archive up to 90 days of email just as if you were online — but all without access to an internet connection. Go to Settings | Offline | Enable offline mail.
Snooze, nudge. Google has a Snooze button — it displays as a clockface when you hover over emails on desktop — to put off emails to a time that is ideal for busy types, such as those trying to manage a business. If an email doesn’t need an immediate response, tap to snooze it, and it will pop up at the scheduled time for you to deal with it.
The Nudges feature will remind you to follow up and respond to messages so nothing slips through the cracks. Essentially, Gmail will offer quick reminders that appear next to email messages it thinks you need to respond to. Google leverages its artificial intelligence (AI) technology to determine what’s important.
Smart replies. Gmail’s Smart Reply feature saves you time by suggesting three quick responses to emails based on their content. You allow Gmail to scan messages for keywords, but people are not reading your personal stuff. This is Google’s AI at work. Smart Reply gives you more relevant and personalized responses the more you use it.
For instance, if Gmail sees you reply with “Thanks!” more often than “Thank you,” it will suggest the former response going forward. You can select one of the three suggested replies, tweak them or ignore them and type your own response.
Automatically change case in Outlook
Some tips to saving time and avoiding frustration using Microsoft Office:
Stop SHOUTING. Have you ever written an email to someone and when you look up at the screen you realize you accidentally tapped the caps lock key? It seems like you’re YELLING AT SOMEONE in the email.
Chances are you would’ve manually deleted everything you wrote in uppercase and wrote it all over again in lowercase. That’s a waste of time when you can simply highlight the text in question and hold down the Shift and F3 keys simultaneously. Doing so will change the case from lower to upper or vice versa. This shortcut for Windows users works in Outlook, PowerPoint, Word and other Microsoft programs.
Talk instead of type. Did you know that talking could be three to four times faster, and more accurate, than typing? If you’re on a smartphone or tablet, press the little microphone icon on the virtual keyboard and start talking.
You’ll see the words appear in real time, and don’t forget to say punctuation, such as “comma,” “period” and “question mark.” You can talk really quickly, but talk clearly. Enunciate your words.
In Outlook on a Windows PC, think about your message, then click Dictate at the top. But any time you use voice-to-text, remember to read what was typed before you send, just in case your computer misunderstands.
Send email at the right time. Entrepreneurs and others should take heed: If you want to increase the chances of your message being read, send your email just before 9 a.m., what experts consider the best time because most people start their workday then. That way, your email will be one of the first in the inbox.
On the flip side, right before noon might not be ideal because recipients are more focused on lunch. Resist late night, weekends or holidays because those messages could end up in the abyss.
However, if you like to get work done during these blackout times, you can schedule your emails to be sent later. With Outlook — one of the paid versions rather than the free Outlook.com web version — start a new message, click Options near the upper-middle of the screen, select Delay Delivery | Do Not Deliver Before. Now select the date and time when this message should be delivered using the drop-down boxes. Write your message, click Send and it’ll hang in your outbox until your specified time.
The process works more easily on a Mac computer. Write your email, and click the down arrow that looks like a “v” beside the Send icon in the upper left corner. You see an option to Send Later... . Select it and choose the time you want to send the message.
Pro tip: Your computer needs to be on and Outlook running, even in Sleep mode, for your email to send at the specified time.
Yahoo! Mail’s smart search
One of the oldest web mail services, the free Yahoo! Mail is still one of the most popular.
Smart search. Ever tried to look back to find an important email? Rather than endlessly scrolling, Yahoo! Mail has some useful search tools built in that let you find a specific email even if you can’t remember many of the details about it. For example, when you want to find messages from a specific person, click Search and use the from: command. In the Search box at the top of the screen, type from: Maya to find all messages from your daughter Maya.
If you need to find messages containing a specific word in the subject line, use the subject: command — for example, subject: birthday. The command to: should be used in case you need to find emails you sent to a specific recipient, like to: email@example.com.
Add additional accounts. Like Gmail and Outlook, Yahoo! Mail lets you put other email accounts in one place. This is handy and was only introduced a couple of years back.
If you have more than one email account — such as AOL, Gmail, Hotmail, Outlook.com, even multiple Yahoo! accounts. — you can let Yahoo! Mail be your primary site for all email activities. If you change your mind, you can always remove or unlink accounts. To get going on the Yahoo! Mail website, click the Profile icon, tap Add another mailbox, select an email provider and then enter your email address and password when prompted.
Many people who learn keyboard shortcuts kick themselves for not adopting them sooner, because you can get through your mailbox much faster. Here are some for Yahoo! Mail. Press Command and these other keys simultaneously:
- Command m. Check mail.
- Command n. Create a new message.
- Command shift n. Create a new message in a separate window.
- Command control a. Select all emails.
- Command r. Reply to an email.
- Command a. Reply to all.
- Command k. Mark email as read.
- Command f. Forward a message.
- Command control s. Save email as a draft.
- Command control enter. Send a message.
Marc Saltzman is a contributing writer who covers personal technology. His work also appears in USA Today and other national publications. He hosts the podcast series Tech It Out and is the author of several books, including Apple Watch for Dummies.