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17 must-know Gmail keyboard shortcuts

17 must-know Gmail keyboard shortcuts

min read

Wondering what Gmail keyboard shortcuts exist today? Well, wonder no longer. 

Gmail shortcuts are commands you can activate by touching certain buttons on your keyboard simultaneously. With shortcuts, you can speed up a few routine email tasks and make navigating the different folders and emails within your Gmail account way easier.

Plus, keyboard shortcuts can save you seconds on the hour, minutes on the day, and hours over the course of a month. For real: this study by ed-tech firm Brainscape found that keyboard shortcuts for Microsoft Windows 10 were saving people up to 64 hours annually, or eight work days per year. Using shortcuts in your Gmail could have a similar effect, so let’s dig into the details together.

<a href="#enable-shortcuts" class="anchor-link">Enable shortcuts in your Gmail account</a>

<a href="#list-of-shortcuts" class="anchor-link">Find the list of shortcuts in Gmail</a>

<a href="#use-keyboard-shortcut" class="anchor-link">Use a keyboard shortcut in Gmail</a>

<a href="#useful-gmail-shortcuts" class="anchor-link">Useful Gmail shortcuts</a>

<a href="#troubleshoot-shortcuts" class="anchor-link">What to do if your Gmail keyboard shortcuts aren’t working</a>

<a href="#customize-gmail-shortcuts" class="anchor-link">Customize Gmail shortcuts</a>

<a href="#streak-shortcuts" class="anchor-link">Streak shortcuts</a>

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Here’s how to enable shortcuts in your Gmail account

The first thing you’ll need to do is turn on your Gmail keyboard shortcuts. That’s because these shortcuts (unlike the ones built into your OS like ctrl+alt+delete) won’t work unless you activate them. Fortunately, activating said shortcuts is easy. Just complete the following steps.

  1. Open up your Gmail account.
  2. Click on the gear symbol in the top right of the screen.
  3. Click See all settings.
  4. Scroll down until you see Keyboard shortcuts. Helpful hint: if you don’t feel like scrolling, use the classic shortcut of ctrl+F and type in “key”. Your browser will jump right to this section.
  5. Select Keyboard shortcuts on.
  6. Lastly, scroll down to the bottom of the page and hit the Save Changes button. That’s all there is to it!
A screenshot of Gmail "Keyboard shortcuts on" section in the Settings

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Where to find the list of shortcuts in Gmail

To find the list of shortcuts you can use in Gmail, simply use this shortcut: shift + ? (makes sense, doesn’t it). 

This will pull up a complete list of Gmail shortcuts in a format that’s perfectly legible for computer programmers, and difficult to read for everyone else. If you’re not a programmer, hit Open in a new window.

This will bring up a new tab where the list is formatted within a Google article about Gmail keyboard shortcuts. The list is broken up into these sections:

  • Compose & Chat
  • Formatting text
  • Actions
  • Jumping
  • Threadlist selection
  • Navigation
  • Application

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How to use a keyboard shortcut in Gmail 

It’s really quite simple: you just need to hit the right keys. For those of you who use a Mac instead of a PC, please note that you’ll hit the ⌘ key, better known as the command key, instead of the control key.

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What are the most useful Gmail shortcuts?

That depends on what you’re trying to do. Let’s take a page out of Google’s book and discuss the shortcuts by topic. 

Compose & Chat

1. Insert a link (⌘/Ctrl + k)

No more hovering over that little sideways paperclip. Once you’ve copied a link, press Ctrl + k, and the link window will pop up. Input the link and the display text, and you’ll be good to go.

2. Send email (⌘/Ctrl + Enter)

No need to move your mouse to send an email. Fire away with Ctrl + Enter, and don’t look back.

3. Add CC recipients (⌘/Ctrl + Shift + c)

If you need to copy someone or multiple people on an email, this is your go-to shortcut.

4. Add BCC recipients (⌘/Ctrl + Shift + b)

Much like the CC recipient shortcut above, only use “b” instead of “c” to blind-copy people on your email.

5. Move around a conversation (p for previous, n for next).

Have a very long, confusing email thread to untangle? Press “p” to move to the previous message, and “n” to move to the next one. 

Formatting Text

6. Decrease and increase text size (⌘/Ctrl + Shift + -, ⌘/Ctrl + Shift and +)

To decrease the size of your text, hit (Ctrl AND shift AND -). To increase the size of the text, do a plus sign instead of a minus sign (Ctrl AND shift AND +). If you want to change the size of words you’ve already typed, just highlight them and use these keyboard shortcuts.

7. Bold, italicize, and underline (⌘/Ctrl + b, i, or u)

To bold text, press Ctrl + b. To italicize, press Ctrl + i. And to underline, press Ctrl + u.

8. Switch up your fonts (⌘/Ctrl + Shift + 5, ⌘/Ctrl + Shift + 6)

To rotate between fonts, use these two shortcuts. One caveat here: you’ll only be able to rotate between a few fonts. If you want to use one of the other Gmail fonts, you’ll have to select it the old-fashioned way (e.g. with the mouse and the drop-down menu).

9. Remove formatting (⌘/Ctrl + \)

This is an extremely useful command if you are copying and pasting text from somewhere else and want the font of your email to have a uniform look.


10. Reply to an email (r)

Just hit “r” and start typing your reply.

11. Delete (#) and archive (e)

These two are pretty self-explanatory; no Ctrl required.

12. Mark as read (Shift + i), unread (Shift + u), important (+) or unimportant (-)

This is a quick and easy way to keep track of emails you don’t want to forget about. Whether you mark them as unread or important is up to you.


13. Go to inbox (g + i) or all mail (g + a)

Use these shortcuts to quickly navigate to your unread emails, or all of your emails (including ones you’ve read already).

Threadlist Selection

14. Select and deselect conversations

Threadlists are the conversations you have in your email inbox. Not every email becomes a conversation, but the ones that you’ve replied to become “threads.” From your inbox, you can select certain threads. (As you read this next bulleted list, please keep in mind that the asterisk symbol means hitting Shift + 8.)

  • Select all conversations (* + a)
  • Deselect all conversations (* + n)
  • Select read conversations (* + r)
  • Select unread conversations (* + u)
  • Select starred conversations (* + s)
  • Select unstarred conversations (* + t)

Once you’ve selected these threads, you can do as you please with them. For instance, you could select all deleted conversations or mark certain threads as important. 


15. Swipe through conversations (k for newer convos, j for older convos)

This is a convenient way to move through your Gmail without having to return to the inbox screen each time. When you have an email open in front of you, press k to move to a more recent email, and j to move to an older one. You can move through your entire inbox this way.


16. Compose a new email (c)

Hitting “c” will open up a new email draft, and “d” will let you compose that new email draft in a new tab.

17. Undo your last action (Ctrl + z)

We had to end with this one. This is a handy Gmail keyboard shortcut in several situations. For instance, let’s say you accidentally deleted an important email. You have no idea where in your trash it landed. Hitting Ctrl + z will bring that email you deleted back to life.

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What to do if your Gmail keyboard shortcuts aren’t working

There are a few reasons this can be happening:

  1. Sometimes you just need to turn shortcuts off and turn them on again (from your settings, as discussed earlier). 
  2. Sometimes your browser may need to be updated. 
  3. Sometimes you might have extensions that prevent you from using shortcuts.

Run through this troubleshooting list to see if you can solve the problem on your own, but if these three things don’t do the trick, visit Google’s Gmail Help Center for support.

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One last trick: you can customize Gmail shortcuts

Here are the steps to customize and create your own Gmail shortcuts:

  1. Click on the gear symbol in the top right of the screen.
  2. Hit Advanced.
  3. Scroll down to Custom keyboard shortcuts and select Enable.
  4. Click Save Changes.
  5. Refresh your Gmail.
  6. Hit the Settings gear.
  7. Go to See all settings.
  8. There will be a new tab entitled Keyboard shortcuts.
  9. There will be a list of actions. You can pop in whatever keys you’d like to turn into shortcuts.

Google aptly labeled this as Advanced, so it may be best to avoid this functionality unless you have a specific reason for changing the shortcuts.

<div class="anchor-wrapper"><div id="streak-shortcuts" class="anchor-target"></div></div>

Did you know there are Streak shortcuts, too?

It’s true: Streak has keyboard shortcuts that you can find in the Gmail Keyboard shortcuts menu. 

With our robust command palette, it’s super easy to search and jump to contacts, boxes, pipelines, saved views, integrations, and more, all right in your Gmail. With Streak, everything is set up to turn your Gmail inbox into an easy-to-use CRM.

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