Gmail basics

A reader is having difficulty navigating Gmail:

“I do not like the Gmail at all because there is no address book of contacts, the symbols mean nothing to me beside the trashcan, don’t know what the others mean.”

Gmail is the most popular email provider in the U.S. and has over 1 billion active users worldwide. Gmail does indeed have Contacts, and there’s an easy way to tell what each of the inbox icons represents.

Let’s start with the basics. Here’s a look at the basic Gmail inbox with a default theme.

To the left, you’ll see your labels/folders and to the right, your messages.

It’s pretty clear how to create a new message; just click that big Compose button at the top left.

Let’s check out what’s happening at the top of the inbox.  At the very top, you have a search box where you can search your messages by sender, subject, or a phrase that’s contained in the email.  Just type in what you’re looking for and click the magnifying glass icon.

Let’s check the icons at the top of your inbox.   To the far left, just below the search box, you have the select box.  You can tick it to select every message visible on the page you’re viewing.

Or click the drop-down arrow next to it and choose to deselect all, select all, or only choose certain kinds of messages like read, unread, or starred.

Next to that is the refresh button. Click the circular arrow to refresh your inbox.

Remember, if at any point you aren’t sure what an icon does, just hover the cursor over it to see the label.

Next to the Refresh icon, you’ll see a three-dot menu button. Click it, and you’ll have the option of marking all messages as read. You’ll get additional options if you have individual messages selected.

As you move right, you’ll see the number of messages in your inbox and how many are displayed at the moment. You can use the arrows to navigate through the pages of your inbox.


Click the lined icon next to it to choose how you want your inbox to display messages. Choose No split if you don’t want to preview messages, Vertical split to see the preview at the right, and Horizontal split for a preview on the bottom.

The keyboard icon allows you to change your language input and the gear icon brings up Settings.

Next, we’ll look at your options for sending and creating messages.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.