GMail Basics

Google Mail or Gmail is part of Google Apps at Elmira College that includes Calendar, Docs (storage and Web-based word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation programs), Sites, Talk, and Contacts. 

Quick Overview of Gmail

Gmail includes the following features:
  • Search the exact message you want without worrying about sorting, 
  • Block spam before it gets to your inbox, group your related sent messages with responses into conversations, 
  • Built-in text, voice, or video chat, labels and filters to manage your conversations, 
  • Get your mail on the go using mobile devices, 
  • No ads in EDU version
  • Storage is massive – 25 gigabytes! 
  • You can archive your mail with attachments during your entire career at Elmira College. 
  • However, Google Docs is a more efficient way of managing related documents such as assignments and projects. 

Related Links to this Tutorial

Getting Started

  • Log on with your username (e.g. mtwain15) and password. For public lab computers do not check Stayed signed in.

Creating Conversations

  • Choose Mail Settings > Labels and choose the Labels tab. 
  • Click the show link for each System label to display these items in your Mail page's left sidebar. We will create personal labels later.
  • Click the inbox menu to the left to bring up the current list of messages in your inbox, which not surprisingly are always marked with the label inbox, although it does not appear in this view. 
  • Compose a test message to yourself.
    • Click the red Compose button in the left menu bar.
    • As you type the address in the To: box Google will display the nearest matches in its lookup directory until you find the one that you want. A real timesaver! In this example use your own e-mail address.
    • Type your subject and text. 
    • Click the Send button. (Note in the menu only items that apply to a new message appear.)
    • Choose the menu item Sent Mail to verify that your message has been sent. 
    • Click the Inbox to bring up your test message appropriately addressed from me (that's you.)
  • Check the box and click the Delete button (trash can icon) to delete the message.
  • Click the Trash label in the left sidebar. 
  • Check boxes before messages you want to delete.
  • In this case we will click the Delete Forever button. Items that have been in the Trash for more than 30 days will automatically deleted.
Attention! If you click the Empty trash now link then all messages in the Trash are forever deleted whether boxes are checked or not.

Gmail organizes related sent and received messages into conversations, sometimes referred to as "threads'. A conversation organizes these messages like a stacked deck of cards. 

  • Let's build a conversation. Pick a partner and have one of you start the conversation by e-mailing the other choosing an interesting topic of discussion.
  • Once the second partner has received the message click the reply button and send a response. 
  • Repeat this process until the conversation has four messages. 
  • Explore your conversation's stack of cards by clicking on each card (message). 
Turn off conversations: If you prefer to view e-mail as separate messages and not threaded conversations, then choose Mail Settings and click the General tab. Check Conversation view off, scroll down, and click to Save changes. 

Click Save Changes before leaving the Settings page

Exploring the menu system 

Let’s explore the Gmail menu system, which includes the System Labels in the left sidebar and for checked message(s) a row of buttons whose functions are explained below.

  • Try these menu items
    • Click the white star icon before a message to mark it with a yellow star
    • Next click the Starred label to bring up the marked message. Of course you can star as many messages as you want. For example, you may want to star items that come from mom.
    • Click Drafts to bring up any messages that you are currently working on but have not yet sent. Be sure to always save your drafts.
    • Click Sent Mail to list all messages that you have composed and sent.
    • Click All Mail to bring up all your messages including those that have been archived and moved to the Trash. The only messages that will not show are ones that have been deleted forever.
    • Click Spam to display messages that have filtered as spam. GMail is among the best mail services in filtering messages that none of us want to see in our inboxes. Check here regularly because on occasion there are valid messages. If so, check the message you want and choose Move to inbox. Keep in mind that all messages that have been in Spam more than 30 days will be removed.
    • Check messages that you want to hide from your inbox and click the Archive button. You can always retrieve your archived mail by clicking the All Mail label or using Google Search. 
    • Let's explore your Mail page's footer (storage available, Details, Privacy Policy). Google Apps provides 25GB (25,600 MB) of storage, which should suffice for many years. In the example below 128MB of 25,600MB is less than 1% of use!

Organizing Your Mail - Labels and Filters

Labels are used instead of folders to organize conversations that can be retrieved and searched for in many ways. However, unlike folders you can apply more than one label to each message

For example the message James Shorts (in the figure to the right) tagged as ETV, Family, and Jokes can be retrieved by choosing any one of the three labels.      

Creating New Labels

  • First check the box(es) before related message(s) before creating a new label that organizes them.  
  • Click Label button and choose Create new label. 
  • For example type WECW in the New Label box and click OK
  • Set the color for your label by clicking the box to the left of WECW and choosing one of several options as shown in the diagram below.
  • All checked messages will be labeled with WECW and chosen color. 

Gmail Search

  • Use Gmail's Search button to bring up messages based on found text you typed. 
  • For more precise control over search criteria click the Search box drop icon to bring up a multitude of options. In this example From = Burleigh and Subject = Information Technology Announcements.
  • Below is the found search based on the above criteria:

Filtering and Labeling Messages 

Let's add labels based on search and filter criteria. 
  • Check the box for one of the community announcements that includes the phrase SPAM Alert in the subject. 
  • Under more actions choose Filter messages like these (see diagram below).
  • We want to filter messages from to include only spam alerts so let's type Spam Alert in the subject box. 
  • Click Create filter with this search.
  • Follow steps 1 - 5 below, that is:
    1. Check Apply the label:
    2. Choose New Label from the drop down menu.
    3. Enter Spam A lerts
    4. Click the Create button.
    5. Check the box Also apply filter to matching conversations. This will filter and apply the label to messages that are already in your inbox or have been archived.
  • Click the Create filter button.
  • There you have it. Click the new Spam Alert label to display your filtered messages! 
Tip! If you would like to apply a label to a group of e-mail addresses separate them in the Create a Filter From box with OR. Example From: OR  OR