Essential Shortcuts to Browse through Gmail Faster

Mark O'Neill 13-03-2008

Gmail Shortcuts Much has already been said on Make Use Of about keyboard shortcuts but I want to focus specifically on the ones I use most often. I’ve often found that it’s easy to be totally overwhelmed by the sheer volume of shortcuts out there (who can remember them all?) so I’m going to boil it down for you to the absolute essentials and ignore the rest. Today, it’s Gmail.



So when we are looking at our Gmail inbox, what are the shortcuts we need to remember to open our emails? Answer : J, K and enter.

K takes the black arrow to the newer email (upwards), J to the older (downwards) and enter opens the email. Just move the black arrow to the email you want to open then hit enter. Try it.

Gmail Inbox Shortcuts


Upon opening your email, you can then use your up and down arrow to scroll up and down through the email.


When you’ve finished reading the email, the next important shortcuts become : R to reply, F to forward, ! (shift and 1) to mark as spam, e to archive, s to star and # to trash. There are MANY others but these are the most important ones in my opinion. Memorise these first before you go learning any others. Remember, the important ones first.

So when you’ve finished with an email, how do you get back to your inbox? Easy. Just press U. Now you’re back at home base. Easy isn’t it?

Want to send someone an email? Hit C to compose an email.



Now you want to go to another folder. This is where it gets interesting and it becomes a little like Google Desktop or Launchy. At the inbox, hit the letter G (obviously!) and that brings up this box :


If you then type the first letter of the folder / label you want to go to, it starts to give you options :



If it doesn’t offer you the correct folder the first time, just use the up and down arrow to scroll through the folders until it gives you the correct one. Then press enter twice to be taken to that folder. Then as before, use J, K and enter to scroll up and down the list of emails and enter them. Then U to go back to the label list then U again to go back to the inbox. Just keep remembering that U always takes you home and you’ll be fine.

To apply a label, just open the email by hitting enter then press L and that opens this box :


Then again, use the up and down arrow to find the correct label then press enter to apply the label. Now press U to exit the email or e to archive it.


The only other two shortcuts that you should remember right off the bat are N & P if you have more than one new reply to a conversation. N takes you to the next New reply and P takes you the Previous reply.

As you can see, most of the shortcuts are pretty logical and if you make an effort to learn them, it won’t be too long before they are burnt into your brain and become second nature.


Download Gmail Cheat Sheet to learn and master keyboard shortcuts. Download print and stick it somewhere near your PC.

Essential Shortcuts to Browse through Gmail Faster gmail cheat sheet

Next time, I’ll be taking a look at the essential daily shortcuts for Google Reader which will help you get through hundreds of RSS feeds in a single swoop.

Related topics: Email Tips, Gmail, Google.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Nathaniel
    May 23, 2018 at 5:27 am

    Doesn't Work.

  2. Mark Roman
    November 19, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    Ive found a company selling Gmail Shortcuts Stickers, ,has anybody bought this yet? Could you let me know if it works just like the free ones from Gmail?

    Thanks. Mark

  3. Adrian
    July 16, 2009 at 1:43 am

    Thanks for the shortcuts. I did pick up some new tips, but there is one thing I really want to do that isn't shown. It shows you how to delete using the #, but that kicks you back to the main Inbox. Is there a way to just go through your list of messages and hit something to delete a message after you've read it and then go straight to the next message? That's what I was used to doing in Yahoo mail, but Gmail seems to be against deleting messages at all and there are some I just don't want, like Facebook updates and stuff.

    • Mark O'Neill
      July 16, 2009 at 5:48 am

      You should really delete from the main inbox. If you open each message THEN delete it then you may end up opening spam mail before you realise it's spam. Some spammers can tell when their messages have been opened and that just confirms to them that your email address is valid - which leads to more spam.

      Better you review your emails from the inbox and delete from there.

  4. Stephen Lark
    March 16, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    The mixture of uppercase and lowercase for the keyboard shortcuts is
    confusing, as all these keyboard shortcuts are actually lowercase
    (i.e. j rather than J, k rather than K etc.

  5. susan
    March 15, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    In Better GMail, you have to make sure that BOTH Folders4Gmail and one of the macros options are enabled for the labeling shortcuts to work.

    Now that I've figured that out, a gigantic THANK YOU for help in dealing with the single biggest thing on my GMail wishlist -- an easier way to label. Mille grazie!

  6. Mark O'Neill
    March 14, 2008 at 5:18 am

    Sorry, yes, some of them are specific to Lifehacker's Better Gmail but most of them are taken straight from Gmail's official shortcuts list. To see the list, just go to your Gmail inbox then hit your question mark key.

    I completely forgot that some of them were specific to Better Gmail. I've been using Firefox for so long that I forget that the extensions are even there!

  7. thomas anderson
    March 13, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    You forgot to mention that 'x' checks the checkbox.

  8. Jeenu
    March 13, 2008 at 8:25 pm

    My Gmail inbox doesn't recognize shortcuts G and L!

    • Travis Quinnelly
      March 13, 2008 at 10:12 pm

      It's macros...Mark's probably using the Brilliant Firefox extension Better Gmail 2 by Gina Trapani, or even the Greasemonkey script. If you're using Firefox, you can use either of these methods to get the macros...if you're using IE, I'm sorry.

    • sean
      March 14, 2008 at 1:44 pm

      make sure you turn on the keyboard shortcuts in settings.