Too Many Clicks? Follow These Tips To Save Time With Gmail’s New Compose

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gmail efficiency tipsIn a recent poll we held here at MakeUseOf, we found that over 75% of you already use Gmail’s new compose. By reading that poll’s comments, I’ve also gathered that while many of you are using the new compose, there are things many of you find annoying. The most common complaint, and one which I agree with wholeheartedly, is the increased amount of clicking, hovering and clicking this new interface requires.

Do you want to change your text formatting? There’s now an additional click involved. Want to CC or BCC someone on an email? Here are those extra clicks again. Want to include a link? Hover, expand, click. It does get pretty tiresome. On the flip side, Gmail’s new compose really is clutter-free and very nice to look at, and this is partly due to how Google has nicely hidden all these extra buttons from view.

So can you use Gmail’s new compose and still not waste all those valuable clicks and minutes? The answer is yes, sometimes, and depends.

New Compose? What?

In case you’ve missed it, or still haven’t got around to using it, Gmail’s new compose brings new emails to a separate Windows, enabling easy multitasking, and making things look better in general. To find out more about it, you can read Justin’s quick review of all its new abilities.

Just so we’re all on the same page, this is what it looks like. You can clearly see that accessing many of the readily available options from the old interface now require extra work.

gmail efficiency tips

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New & Exciting Keyboard Shortcuts

The people behind the new compose experience are not complete idiots. They must have known that hiding many buttons from view will make them harder to reach, adding all those extra clicks into the mix. For that reason, they’ve decided to include several new keyboard shortcuts that were introduced with the new compose feature.

Unfortunately, those shortcuts were not emphasized enough, and while they do appear on the interface itself, I managed to completely miss them for the first few weeks I was using it.

I won’t keep you waiting, here is a list of very useful shortcuts that will save you considerable time while working with the new compose:

  • Ctrl+Shift+C –> Add a CC recipient to your email.
  • Ctrl+Shift+B –> Add a BCC recipient to your email.
  • Ctrl+Shift+T –> Edit the To: field.
  • Ctrl+Shift+7 –> Start a numbered list in your email.
  • Ctrl+Shift+8 –> Start a bullet-point list in your email.
  • Ctrl+K –> Insert a hyperlink in your email.

gmail efficiency

If you really hate using your mouse for extra clicks, you can make use of one of the top three shortcuts to open the top compose panel, where you can also change the sender address for this email. This still requires you to use your mouse, but at least you’ve saved the extra click. I find that being able to insert links and lists without having to click or hover over the bottom panels is a godsend, and I only wish I’d known about it before.

Of course, you can still use the usual Ctrl+B for bold, Ctrl+I for italics and Ctrl+U for underline, which means that most of the formatting options can now be accessed with your keyboard. That’s most, and not all, and if you were used to easily changing fonts and font sizes, for example, you’re in for some extra work. But there’s a way around that too:

Lab: Default Text Styling

gmail efficiency

While it can’t and won’t solve all of your problems, Default Text Styling is a great lab to enable if you’re regularly using a different font, font size or font color than usual. This is not a new lab, but if you’ve relied on the ease with which you could switch fonts, you might want to give it a try now.

To enable it, go to Settings –> Labs and search for “Default Text Styling”. Choose to enable it, and click “Save changes” at the bottom. Now, access Settings again, and under the General tab, you’ll find a new option.

gmail efficiency tips

From here, you can choose a default font, font size and font color for all your email conversations. If you like bigger fonts, for example, setting the font to Large from here will save you the need to click away at the formatting panel to increase its size every time.

It still doesn’t solve all the formatting problems, as it’s limited to only these three features, but it’s a great start.


Before writing this post, I set out to make my new compose experience better. My first and foremost wish was to find a way to switch to right-to-left writing without that extra click. In that mission, I failed. There is not keyboard shortcut, no lab and no add-on that can do that, as far as I could see. But in my quest, I found some awesome shortcuts and tricks I will definitely be using, and with luck, more will be added as the new compose feature settles in.

Do you know of other cool shortcuts that can help with Gmail’s new compose? Have you found a great hack that solves this problem? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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