Email is notorious for stressing out some Gen Zers and others who prefer the immediacy of chat apps over a cluttered inbox. But the old electronic postal system still has its fans, who perhaps prefer its slowness – or its usefulness for composing longer messages, delivering attachments and organizing the digital paper trail. Many apps include shortcuts to streamline mail management, so if you often browse your inbox on your phone, here are some of those time-savers for Google’s Gmail and Apple’s iOS Mail.
Define your scans
Filing or emptying messages lets you take immediate control of your inbox – and you can do it with your thumb, thanks to the messaging app’s “swipe” controls. For example, you can assign one action (like “flag”) to a left swipe and choose another (like “archive”) for your right swipe. And Delete is always an option.
In the Gmail app for Android, tap the menu icon in the upper left corner, select Settings from the list, then choose Swipe Actions. Tap the Edit button to select an action for the left and right swipe gesture. The iOS version uses different wording but similar steps.
To configure your swipe actions in iOS Mail, tap the Settings icon on the iPhone Home screen, select Mail, then choose Swipe Options. Choose the action you want to assign to the Swipe Left and Swipe Right functions.
Want to delete a bunch of messages all at once? In Gmail, tap the icon next to each spam message in the inbox, then tap the trash can icon. In iOS Mail, first tap the Edit button, then select Messages and tap Trash in the lower right corner of the screen.
Filter your mail
Your phone’s notification settings can let you know when new emails arrive. If you want to view recent messages in a different way, you can add a messaging widget to your home screen.
On most phones running Android 9 or later, tap an empty area on the home screen until the Widgets menu appears. Select Gmail or another mail widget you want to use, then drag it to where you want it on the home screen.
On an iPhone running iOS 14 or later, press your finger on an empty area of the Home screen (or Today screen) until the icons start wiggling, then press the + button in the upper left corner. In the Search Widgets box, enter “mail”, which brings up the option for iOS Mail – or Gmail, if you use it; note that sometimes the widgets are finicky. Make your selection, then tap the Add Widget button on the next screen.
In iOS Mail, you can also long-press the inbox preview to see more than one message and get a menu of actions to reply to, forward, or report it.
Take care of business
Times when you’re waiting for a meeting (or other event) are a good time to manage your mail. Most email apps offer several productivity features.
In a new Gmail message, tap the paperclip icon at the top of the screen to add an attachment, such as a photo or a file stored on your Google Drive. You can tap the three-dot More menu on a newly received message and add it to your Google Tasks list. Do you want to respect office hours and set a message to send later? After composing the text, tap the More menu in the top right corner of the screen and choose Schedule Send.
To add an attachment in Apple’s iOS Mail app, start a new message and tap an empty area where you want to insert the file. In the toolbar that appears above the keyboard, tap the icon of the type of file you want to attach; Apple’s Mail Drop feature can send a 5 megabyte attachment using its iCloud service. Tap the square icon to the right of the camera icon to scan a new document and attach it to the message. Need to annotate this file or sign a form? Tap the pen icon to mark it on the screen with the stylus or fingertip.
Leave these lists
A major cause of inbox overload can be a constant stream of mailing list messages from organizations and merchants. If you decide you no longer want to continue reading (or delete) these missives, scroll to the bottom of the post and look for a link to unsubscribe or change your email preferences. Most legitimate companies include these options.
The iOS Mail app often displays an Unsubscribe button at the top of a mailing list message. Hit the button and confirm your intention to leave the list – and your inbox becomes a little more manageable.