What Is Gmail? Google’s Gmail is one of the world’s leading email providers. It competes with the likes of Microsoft’s Outlook and Yahoo’s Yahoo Mail, as well as countless others. Gmail can be configured for personal, professional and enterprise-level users.

Today, Gmail is one of the most widely used email clients around the world, with almost a third of the market share:

Gmail: While “Gmail” might be synonymous with efficient communication and productivity, it’s much more than just a sleek interface and a massive storage capacity. It’s a digital juggernaut that revolutionised the way we send, receive, and manage email. But how did this free service go from a Silicon Valley experiment to a global phenomenon used by millions? And what are the key features that keep it at the top of the email heap, even against competitors like Outlook with its simplified “Focused Inbox”?

This exploration dives deeper than just “Inbox Zero” or sorting emails into neatly labeled folders. We’ll dissect the genesis of Gmail, unravel the secret sauce of its success, and examine the innovative features that continue to cement its dominance. We embark on a journey to understand why Gmail isn’t just an email service, it’s a communication and productivity powerhouse.


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Gmail was launched in 2004 with a clear purpose: to provide a better email experience than anything else available at the time. It aimed to address common frustrations with traditional email services, such as limited storage space, complex interfaces, and lack of advanced features.


Gmail’s story is one of innovation and continuous improvement. From its initial launch with 1GB of storage (a revolutionary concept at the time) to its current suite of powerful features, Gmail has consistently pushed the boundaries of what an email service can be. Key milestones in its history include:

  • 2004: Gmail launches with 1GB of storage, significantly exceeding competitors.
  • 2007: Conversation view revolutionizes email organization by grouping messages based on threads.
  • 2008: Gmail Labs is introduced, allowing users to test and experiment with new features.
  • 2011: Labels and filters are added, offering advanced email organization and management.
  • 2014: Two-factor authentication is implemented for enhanced security.
  • 2018: Gmail’s AI features begin to roll out, including Smart Compose and Smart Reply.

Key Features:

Today, Gmail boasts a wide range of features that make it a valuable tool for individuals and businesses alike. Some of the most notable include:

  • Massive storage space: 15GB of free storage, with additional options for purchase.
  • Powerful search: Quickly find specific emails using keywords, filters, and operators.
  • Labels and filters: Organize your inbox with custom labels and automated filters.
  • Conversation view: Group emails based on threads for a more organized view.
  • Integrated apps: Access Google Calendar, Drive, Docs, and other apps directly within Gmail.
  • Keyboard shortcuts: Master Gmail navigation and actions with customizable shortcuts.
  • Offline functionality: Access and compose emails even when you’re not connected to the internet.
  • Security features: Two-factor authentication, encryption, and spam filtering keep your emails safe.
  • Integrations: Connect Gmail with a variety of third-party apps and services.
  • Advanced features: Smart Compose, Smart Reply, Undo Send, and other AI-powered features enhance efficiency.
  • Mobile apps: Access your Gmail account and manage emails on any device.
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Gmail is the second most popular email client around the world. Image credit: Statista

What Is Gmail?

Gmail has been around for almost two decades, having launched in 2004 and was initially seen as a joke due to being announced on April 1st 2004. This led to the service being announced by major players of Google the same day to clarify that Gmail wasn’t a hoax.

So how can you describe the amazing success and popularity of Google’s in-house email client? Some of the biggest reasons include the fact that it’s free to use, and accessible from any computer or device with a web browser.

However, that’s just scratching the surface. Let’s look in a little more detail at everything Gmail has to offer.

Getting Started with Gmail

  1. Create a Google Account: If you haven’t already, create a Google account which grants access to Gmail and other Google services like Drive, Docs, and Calendar.
  2. Access Gmail: Go to mail.google.com and log in with your Google account credentials.
  3. Explore the Interface: Familiarize yourself with the interface, including the inbox, navigation bar, compose button, and search bar.
  4. Import Contacts: Import your contacts from other email accounts or social media platforms for easier communication.
  5. Compose and Send Emails: Click the “Compose” button, add recipients, subject line, and message content, and click “Send.”
  6. Manage Your Inbox: Use labels, filters, and stars to organize your inbox and prioritize emails effectively.

Customizing Your Gmail Experience

  1. Personalize Your Theme: Choose a theme that suits your taste and enhances your visual experience within Gmail.
  2. Configure Inbox Settings: Adjust the inbox layout, message density, preview pane, and other settings to optimize your workflow.
  3. Create Custom Labels and Filters: Design personalized labels to categorize emails and set up automated filters to sort them automatically.
  4. Utilize Keyboard Shortcuts: Learn keyboard shortcuts for common actions to navigate efficiently and save time.
  5. Integrate Apps and Extensions: Connect Gmail with other apps like Trello, Evernote, or Boomerang to enhance functionality.

Mastering Search in Gmail

  1. Utilize Basic Search Operators: Use keywords, operators like “AND,” “OR,” and “NOT,” and specific criteria like sender, recipient, date, and attachments to refine your search.
  2. Search by Label or Filter: Search within specific label categories or filtered emails for focused results.
  3. Utilize Advanced Search: Access the advanced search bar for more complex queries with specific parameters and filters.
  4. Save Frequent Searches: Save frequently used searches for quick access and efficient retrieval of relevant emails.
  5. Search from the Compose Window: Search for relevant contacts or information directly from the compose window while drafting emails.

Ensuring Gmail Security

  1. Enable Two-Factor Authentication: This adds an extra layer of security by requiring a code from your phone in addition to your password.
  2. Review Security Settings: Regularly review and update your security settings, such as recovery email addresses and phone numbers.
  3. Be Aware of Phishing Scams: Stay vigilant and avoid opening suspicious emails or clicking on links from unknown senders.
  4. Use Strong Passwords: Create unique and strong passwords for your Gmail account and avoid using them for other online services.
  5. Report Spam and Phishing: Report any suspicious emails to help protect yourself and others from online threats.
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Great Features of Gmail

Gmail has many great features, some of which you may already know about if you’re a frequent user of Gmail or other email clients. In fact, one of its biggest selling points is that you can access all the features of an advanced email inbox, in a free and user friendly package.

Some of the features link to other Google GSuite apps such as the Google Calendar, Drive, Docs and Sheets, which makes a user’s Gmail account a full platform filled with opportunities.

This may sound minor, but it offers some massive concrete benefits. Let’s look at how.

Connected to your Google Account and Other Google Apps

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Gsuite includes a wide range of different tools and apps. Image credit: Google

As said above, users Gmail can connect many different Google Apps. This allows users to keep on top of their life easily and all in the same place. One of the apps that can connect to Gmail is Google Calendar.

From within gmail users can then add events to their schedule easily without needing to access a separate app. Users can then set up emails to remind themselves of events within their life.

Driving tests, weddings and much more will never be forgotten again, once a user gets a grip of making events within Gmail. Gmail also automatically populates some appointments from your inbox into your calendar.

Users can also connect Google Keep to their Gmail. If you have never used Keep before, it is a great place to keep a record of notes. It is more or less a sticky note app. One of the great features of Keep, is users can keep notes, lists, photos and even audio within Keep.

This is something you can’t do within sticky notes.

There is also a place to create tasks within Gmail. With all the three features (Calendar, Keep and Tasks), users will get notified within their emails about deadlines from notes and tasks and about events from their calendar.

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Step-by-Step Setup and Usage Guide for Gmail

Getting Started:

  1. Create a Google Account: Go to https://support.google.com/accounts/answer/27441?hl=en and follow the on-screen instructions to create a Google Account. This same account will grant you access to Gmail and other Google services like Drive, Docs, and Calendar.
  2. Access Gmail: Open your web browser and navigate to https://mail.google.com/mail/. You will be prompted to sign in using your newly created Google Account credentials.

Exploring the Interface:

  • Inbox: This is where all your incoming emails are displayed.
  • Compose: Click this button to create a new email.
  • Labels: These are user-created categories for organizing your emails.
  • Filters: These are automated rules for sorting emails based on specific criteria.
  • Search: Use this bar to find specific emails using keywords, filters, and operators.
  • Navigation Bar: Provides quick access to features like Contacts, Calendar, and Drive.

Sending and Receiving Emails:

  1. Compose a New Email: Click the “Compose” button.
  2. Enter Recipients: Type the email addresses of the recipients in the “To” field.
  3. Add a Subject Line: Briefly summarize the email’s content in the subject line.
  4. Write Your Message: Compose your email message in the body of the email. You can format the text, add attachments, and use emojis.
  5. Send the Email: Click the “Send” button.

Managing Your Inbox:

  • Labels and Filters: Create labels for different categories of emails (e.g., Work, Personal, Social) and set up filters to automatically sort emails into these labels.
  • Stars: Star important emails for easy access later.
  • Snooze: Temporarily remove emails from your inbox and have them reappear at a later time.
  • Delete: Delete unwanted emails from your inbox.
  • Archive: Move emails to the “All Mail” folder without deleting them.

Customizing Your Gmail Experience:

  • Themes: Change the appearance of your Gmail inbox by choosing from a variety of themes.
  • Settings: Configure various settings like inbox layout, message density, and keyboard shortcuts to personalize your experience.
  • Apps and Extensions: Integrate Gmail with other apps and extensions to enhance functionality (e.g., Trello, Evernote, Boomerang).

Advanced Features:

  • Smart Compose: This AI-powered feature suggests words and phrases as you type, helping you compose emails faster.
  • Smart Reply: This feature suggests short and relevant replies to emails, saving you time and effort.
  • Undo Send: Accidentally sent an email? Undo send allows you to retrieve it within a few seconds.
  • Offline Access: Enable offline access to access and compose emails even when you’re not connected to the internet.


  • Two-Factor Authentication: Enable two-factor authentication to add an extra layer of security to your account. This requires a code from your phone in addition to your password when logging in.
  • Strong Passwords: Create strong and unique passwords for your Gmail account and avoid using them for other online services.
  • Phishing Awareness: Be cautious of phishing scams and avoid opening suspicious emails or clicking on links from unknown senders.
  • Security Checkup: Regularly review your security settings and update them as needed.

Additional Resources:

Different Folders and Categories

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Gmail allows you to create files and folders to organise your emails. Image credit: Google

Another great feature of Gmail is the different folders and categories, all your emails can be added and moved between folders. Overall there are three categories emails can go into. These are the Primary, Social and Promotions categories.

They help to filter emails, making it easier to find and prioritise emails. With the only possible changes being the name of the categories. For instance within Outlook instead of the three categories there are two, a ‘focused’ and an ‘other’ category.

Within Gmail you can add your own folders. Adding folders can be one of the most helpful features of an email. Having different folders for different types of email or for emails from a certain address can be very helpful.

This allows for users to filter different content within their email. For instance if a user gets emailed their payslips, they could then make a folder named ‘Pay’. This could then be a folder the user can move all their payslip emails into.

Similarly if a user is subscribed to a newsletter, they could create a folder for each of the newsletters.

Being able to create folders and having categories is the most helpful feature of any email system. It helps to filter content a lot more, making finding emails easier and keeping your email tidy and clean. Especially if your emails are filled.

Search Function in Gmail

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It’s also easy to search for your files in Gmail. Image credit: Google

Within almost every email client, you will find a search bar. Again it is a very helpful feature. If you’re anything like each one of us at ProfileTree, your emails are probably filled. Not that it’s filled with important emails because you’ll find more and more emails could be considered spam.

To help with this, always have a backup email you use to help filter emails even more and your main inbox isn’t littered with random emails.

With the search bar, users can then search their thousands of emails for one specific email using a keyword. For instance a user could search for ‘Payslip’. If the user has their payslips within a separate folder, all the payslip emails will be shown separately.

The only problem would be any email featuring the word payslip will show also. Although it is still a good way of filtering emails to find a certain email easier.

Gmail’s search bar is a mighty tool, but it has its limitations. It can only unearth buried treasures within your received messages, leaving a vast ocean of emails you’ve sent out unexplored. This might seem like a minor inconvenience, but for professionals and businesses heavily reliant on email outreach, it can be a significant roadblock. These native tools only search received messages – services to find email by name enable more outbound connection and outreach.

Here’s where third-party email search services come in, acting like spelunkers venturing into the uncharted territory of your sent emails. These tools empower you to search emails by recipient name, subject line, or even keywords within the body text, regardless of whether they’re in your inbox or outbox. This unlocks a trove of possibilities:

  • Track campaign performance: Analyze recipient engagement by easily finding all emails sent for a specific campaign, gauging open rates and click-through rates with ease.
  • Refine your outreach strategy: Gain insights into how you’ve interacted with individual contacts in the past, ensuring your future emails are personalized and relevant.
  • Improve client communication: Quickly retrieve past conversations with a specific client, ensuring continuity and seamless service.
  • Boost overall efficiency: Reduce wasted time scrolling through endless threads and folders by pinpointing the exact email you need with a few precise keywords.

By bridging the gap between your inbox and outbox, these services transform Gmail from a passive communication hub into a proactive tool for building and managing relationships. Think of it as adding a magnifying glass to your email repertoire, allowing you to see connections and patterns that were previously hidden in plain sight.

Drafts and Trash

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You can access and edit your draft emails in Gmail. Image credit: Google

Other great features of Gmail are the draft and trash features. They’re more than likely features you have heard about, but let’s take a look at them in a little bit more detail. Very much like Microsoft Word and other office features, there is a draft feature.

It is an ideal feature for anyone who likes to loom over details before sending. It can also be used to write up an email before adding any material that is needed such as documents. As they might not be ready to send just yet.

The trash feature is another great feature. Some might think how is a trash feature a great feature? Well one of the best parts of a trash feature is that once you trash an email, it doesn’t get deleted.

So, if you accidentally trash an important email, you can get it back quite easily, unless you delete your trash. Always double and triple check your trash!

Starred Feature

Gmail starred feature screenshot
Gmail allows you to start particularly important emails. Image credit: Google

Having a starring feature is also very ideal. It allows users to prioritise their emails within the folders and categories. The best part of being able to star emails, is that Gmail has a folder for starred content.

Having a separate folder for starred emails means finding prioritised emails is very easy, otherwise there would’ve been no point in starring the email. This is one of the features on Gmail, that can save a user time when searching for specific emails.

It works brilliantly alongside the folders and category features.

Mass Select

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You can select your emails en-masse to carry out bulk actions. Image credit: Google

Most of us like to keep our email inboxes tidy. This can create a fair amount of admin throughout your working day, especially when it comes to deleting emails, or moving them into various folders.

Selecting emails en-masse allows you to perform these actions all at once, rather than doing them for individual emails. On the one hand, you can select all of your emails to perform a total wipe.

Alternatively, you can use the search function or manually sift through your emails and identify candidates for bulk deletion or sorting. This can potentially save you vital hours of admin time.

Gmail Plugins, Add-Ons and Marketplace

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There is a wide range of plug-in available for Gmail. Image credit: Google

One of the other major selling points of Gmail is the wide array of integrations, add-ons and plugins which you can easily install and make use of. These are essentially small pieces of software which bring extra functionality to your email inbox.

Some of these are aimed at organisation, productivity and time management. Others are used for more specific sales and marketing purposes, for example integrating your inbox with an email automation platform or CRM.

Gmail plugins can be found through the Google Play Store, as well as directly from the websites of your favourite SaaS brands.

How does Gmail Compare to Other Email Providers

To a large extent, this comes down to personal preference. This means that people often prefer the email client that they’ve become used to. However, Gmail has a number of huge advantages over other email providers.

For one thing, it’s probably the best free email client out there, in terms of functionality. Additionally, the enterprise level Gmail configurations remain considerably more affordable than their top competitors, like Outlook.

Additionally, Gmail’s UI is more focused around being user friendly, and attractive to interact with. By contrast, Outlook’s UI is designed to match up with the rest of the family of Microsoft Office products.

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Q: Do I need a Google Account to use Gmail?

A: Yes, you need a Google Account to access Gmail. You can create a free Google Account if you don’t already have one.

Q: How much storage space do I get with Gmail?

A: You get 15GB of free storage space with your Gmail account. You can purchase additional storage space if you need more.

Q: How can I import my contacts from another email account?

A: You can import your contacts from another email account by going to Settings > Accounts and Import > Import mail and contacts.

Q: How can I create a custom label or filter?

A: You can create a custom label or filter by going to Settings > Labels > Create new label or Filters and Blocked Addresses > Create a new filter.

Q: How do I enable two-factor authentication?

A: You can enable two-factor authentication by going to Settings > Security > Two-factor authentication.

Q: What is phishing, and how can I avoid it?

A: Phishing is a type of online fraud where scammers try to trick you into giving them your personal information. To avoid phishing, be careful about the emails you open and the links you click on.

Q: Where can I find more information about Gmail?

A: You can find more information about Gmail in the official Gmail Help Center: https://support.google.com/mail/?hl=en.


Gmail is a powerful and versatile email service that offers a wide range of features to help you stay organized and connected. By following the steps outlined in this guide and exploring the various features available, you can unlock the full potential of Gmail and make it an essential tool for your daily communication and productivity. Remember to customize your Gmail experience to your needs, stay informed about security best practices, and always use email responsibly.

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