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How To Turn On And Use Custom Gmail Keyboard Shortcuts

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Gmail is easily one of the best, most popular email clients around and that’s not without good reasons. Among those, is the fact that Gmail includes a lot of custom functionality, including the ability to enable and set custom keyboard shortcuts. The primary issue with that, of course, is that isn’t immediately clear to the day-to-day user.

In fact, it can be difficult to learn about deeper customizations even for those who might consider themselves power users. However, if you’re looking for how to make your keyboard shortcuts in Gmail custom, that’s actually quite easy to accomplish. And, as you undoubtedly know since you’ve landed here, that’s exactly what this guide sets out to teach.

You’ll need to turn on custom Gmail keyboard shortcuts first

In Gmail, custom keyboard shortcuts aren’t actually available by default so you’ll need to start by learning how to turn those on first. The process can feel a bit involved. But it isn’t difficult. The primary reason it can feel overwhelming is that there are simply so many options in the Gmail settings, to begin with. But, if you know where you’re supposed to look, it is fairly straightforward.

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Albeit, with one glaring caveat, as is often the case with how-to guides. This only presently works in a desktop browser or in desktop mode on non-desktop platforms via the web.

  1. Navigate to Gmail.com in your favorite browser
  2. Click or tap — on touchscreens — the gear-shaped Settings icon. That’s located at the top right-hand side of the UI
  3. Under the “Quick Settings” subheading, near the top of the pop-out Settings menu, select the “See all settings” button
  4. In the top bar of the resulting Settings UI, select the option that reads “Advanced.” That can be hard to spot, chiefly because there are no separators between options. But it should, more precisely, be located near the top right-hand corner of the UI
  5. In the resulting menu, look for the option that reads “Custom keyboard shortcuts.”
  6. The setting has a default selection of “Disable”. So you’ll need to select the radial button next to the “Enable” option
  7. Then scroll to the bottom of the page and select the “Save Changes” button to apply the new setting. This step can take some time, depending on several factors. Gmail will take you back to the main Gmail home page once the setting is applied. Don’t navigate away until that happens or you’ll need to repeat these steps again after first turning off custom keyboard shortcuts
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If you still don’t see the shortcuts, reload Gmail using the refresh button on your browser or by closing the tab and then opening Gmail in a new tab. Conversely, you may also need to activate keyboard shortcuts, to begin with. Those can be activated by following steps 1 through 3 above. Then, in the “General” settings tab, by scrolling down and selecting “Keyboard shortcuts on” under the “Keyboard shortcuts:” subheading.

Now you can customize your shortcuts

Now that custom keyboard shortcuts are active in Gmail, it’s time to learn how to actually make turn them into custom shortcuts. Namely, by customizing them. And this process is relatively straightforward as well.

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  1. Re-open the Settings UI, following steps 1 through 3 above
  2. Under the full Settings menu, locate “Keyboard Shortcuts” in the top bar UI. Specifically, that’s where you previously located “Advanced” in the steps above
  3. Select the Keyboard Shortcuts option to open that tab
  4. Gmail will display a list of available keyboard options, in a grid-style view. With a descriptor for the action performed and text fields to enter the custom keyboard shortcuts. You can leave the shortcuts the same and add a second option for the same action in the secondary “or” field. Or, conversely, you can change the options altogether by simply entering new keyboard shortcuts
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If you forget your keyboard shortcuts

Now, there are a lot of keyboard shortcuts to remember in Gmail. Although it will undoubtedly become easier to remember those you utilize most often. If at any point, you forget the shortcuts, Gmail also has a solution for how to remember — rather than just to set — custom keyboard shortcuts. Namely, by using the “?” shortcut.

Of course, if you need a full refresher, you can also always navigate back to the Keyboard Shortcuts settings UI using the steps above for customizing those. And, if you need to reset them to their defaults, there’s an option at the bottom right-hand side to accomplish that. Or you can turn them off following the above steps to turn them on. But by selecting the “Disable” option instead of “Enable” in step 6.