Gmail interface

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File:Gmail login page.png
Gmail's log-in page (July 2009)

The Gmail interface makes Gmail unique amongst webmail systems for several reasons. Most evident to users are its search-oriented features and means of managing e-mail in a "conversation view" that is similar to an Internet forum.



Gmail makes use of Ajax, employing browser features such as JavaScript, keyboard access keys and Web feed integration.[1]


Gmail inbox (July 2009)

Users can construct "advanced searches" using either the Advanced Search interface or search operators in the search box. Search options include search for phrases, message sender, message location and message date.[2] There are also undocumented search operators like "language:russian" that can be helpful.

Users can run filters by using an interface similar to the Search Options dialog (see searching below). Gmail allows users to filter messages by their text; by their "From", "To", and "Subject" fields; and by whether or not the message has an attachment. Gmail can perform any combination of the following actions upon a message that meets a label's criteria:[3]

  • archiving (i.e. removing the message from the Inbox)
  • marking as "starred"
  • marking as read
  • applying a label
  • moving to the trash
  • forwarding to another e-mail address

Gmail recognizes related messages by subject and groups them into "conversations" where associated messages appear listed one after another, with the newest messages at the bottom. If a conversation has more than approximately 100 messages, it splits into separate sections. Reply or forwarded messages from some local (like local Yahoo! Mail) accounts split up conversations because their subjects contain parameters in the local language, instead of "Re" or "Fwd:".[4]

To organize messages further, users can label e-mails. Labels provide a flexible method of categorizing e-mails since an e-mail may have any number of labels (in contrast to a system in which an e-mail may belong to only one folder). Users can display all e-mails having a particular label and can use labels as a search criterion. In addition, important e-mails can be flagged with a star, so that a user may find an important e-mail more quickly than searching through the entire inbox.[5]

Unlike other email web clients, Gmail does not permit users to see the size of an email message or to sort email (for example, alphabetically by subject).[6]


Gmail automatically saves contact details when forwarding e-mails to a previously unknown recipient. If the user changes, adds, or removes information near an e-mail such as the name while sending any e-mail, it also updates that in the contact list, unless the user is using basic HTML view, designed for people with slower internet connections or browsers that do not support AJAX. When a user starts typing in the To, CC or BCC fields it brings up a list with the relevant contacts, with their name and primary e-mail address. More information, including alternate email addresses, can be added on the Contacts page. These contacts can also be added to a group, which makes sending multiple e-mails to related contacts easier. Images can be added to contacts, which will appear whenever the mouse is over the contact's name.

Users can import contacts (in several different ways) from Microsoft Office Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird, Eudora, Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail, orkut, and any other contact list in a CSV-format file. Gmail also allows a user to export their contacts to CSV.[7]


A year after Gmail was announced, Google introduced Rich Text Formatting, which allows the font size, color and text-alignment to be customized, as well as the embedding of bullet points and numbered lists.[8]

Gmail also features Autosave — a system for avoiding loss of data in case of a browser crash or other error. During the composition of an e-mail, Gmail automatically saves a draft copy of the message and of any attachments. Although messages begin to be saved once a minute, saving times vary depending on the size of the message. Draft messages that are discarded are not recoverable.[9]

Gmail places the cursor above quoted text when replying, which encourages top-posting. Regardless of the formatting of received messages, Gmail's conversation view defaults to showing only unique content, in chronological order.


By default, Gmail uses an unencrypted connection to retrieve user data, encrypting only the connection used for the login page. However, by replacing the URL with, users can force Gmail to use a secure connection, reducing the risk of third-party eavesdropping on users' information, such as emails and contacts, which are transmitted in plaintext as JavaScript data in the page source code. As of July 2008, it is possible to configure Gmail for HTTPS access only through the Settings option - this prevents any insecure access via HTTP. POP3 and IMAP access uses Transport Layer Security, or TLS.

Although email clients such as Mozilla Thunderbird use TLS when sending email, it is not used when the email is sent from the Gmail servers to the destination domain's mail exchangers, unless supported, so at some stage the user's email message may still be transmitted in unencrypted plain text.

Gmail offers spam filtering: the system automatically deletes messages marked as spam after 30 days. Users can disable the spam-filtering system by creating a rule to make all messages skip the spam filter. POP3 users can only check the Spam folder manually via the web interface, as only emails sent to the Inbox can be retrieved via POP3. This is a technical limitation of POP3. Currently about 75% of email sent to Gmail accounts is filtered as spam.[10]

IP addresses of webmail Gmail users are disguised in order to protect security.[11]

Gmail automatically scans all incoming and outgoing e-mails for viruses in e-mail attachments. If a virus is found on an attachment the reader is trying to open, Gmail will try to remove the virus and open the cleaned attachment. Gmail also scans all outgoing attachments and will prevent the message from being sent if a virus is found. Gmail also does not allow users to send or receive executable files or archives containing executable files.[12]

Gmail became one of the first major e-mail providers to sign outgoing mails with Yahoo!'s DomainKeys signatures.

In the past, Gmail has had severe trouble with security which allowed a full account compromise via Cross-site scripting vulnerabilities affecting the homepage or information disclosure through a file which was stored on Google's server and included all the Email contacts of the currently logged in user. The vulnerability was quickly patched after the initial disclosure on the Internet.[13][14]


Gmail supports plus-addressing of e-mails. Users can send messages to addresses in the format, where extratext can be any string, and will arrive in the inbox of This allows users to sign up for different services with different aliases and then easily filter all e-mails from those services. In addition, if users receive spam messages directed to an e-mail address with the extra text, they will know what services have leaked out their e-mail address. However, some websites do not accept email addresses containing "+", even though the mail-address specification permits use of them.[15]

Gmail allows the user to add other email accounts to be used as optional sender addresses on outgoing email. The system carries out a verification process to confirm the user's ownership of each email address before it is added. "Plus-addresses" can also be added as sender addresses in a similar way. Moreover, any of the additional addresses can be set as the default address.[16]

When using this feature, the address chosen will appear in the "From:" field of the message header. However, the SMTP envelope sender address will contain the name of the Gmail account used to send the message. Thus the underlying Gmail account address remains readily available: it will typically appear in a "Sender:" header field, or occasionally in the subject field. Some mail clients will write "From: [] On Behalf Of..." upon reply, making the situation very obvious.

Optionally, users can set a different "Reply-to:" address for each "send as" address.

Gmail does not recognize dots as characters within a username. Instead, it will ignore all dots in a username. For instance, the account receives mail sent to,, etc. Likewise, the account receives mail sent to This can help in setting filters for incoming mail. However, when signing in, it is necessary to include any dots used in the creation of the account. Also this does not work in Google Apps for Your Domain. In Apps, each username variation must be entered as a nickname by the domain administrator.[17][18]

Mail Fetcher

In addition to adding extra email addresses, Gmail has a feature called "Mail Fetcher" that allows users to add up to five additional accounts to retrieve mail from via POP3. Once accounts are added, the program asks the user if they want to create a custom sender address automatically if they have not yet done so manually. This feature does not support retrieving mail from IMAP servers, nor does it support sending messages through an external SMTP server.[19]

Product integration

File:Gmail chat.png
A chat window in Gmail

Google Talk, Google's service for instant messaging, can be accessed through a web-based interface on Gmail's site. The web-based interface is able to support voice and video calling and voice messages if the Google Talk client is running in the background. All messages are archived to the Chats mailbox in Gmail unless 'Off the Record' is enabled in Google Talk. If the fellow chatter suddenly has to go offline, any and all further messages sent will be delivered to that person via e-mail, including the entire conversation had previously. Another Google Talk integration feature is voicemail, where the message is sent to the recipient's Gmail inbox; as well as synchronizing contact pictures. On 4 December 2007, Google announced integration with AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), allowing Gmail users to login to their AIM accounts and send instant messages to and see the online status of AIM users.[20][21][22]

On 11 November 2008, Google announced video chat, which Gmail integrates into its web-based client. Windows XP, Vista or Intel-based Mac is required with a supported browser (IE, Firefox, Chrome, Safari 3+).[23]

Google Calendar offered Gmail integration soon after its announcement on 13 April 2006. Events can be added while writing a message that get stored on the main Calendar interface[clarification needed]. Recipients who use Gmail will then receive an invitation to the event, which they can accept or decline. Furthermore, Gmail attempts to recognize event dates and locations within e-mails, and gives users the option to add the event to a calendar, similar to Microsoft's Exchange Server.

Gmail offers further integration with some other Google products. Documents, spreadsheets and presentations can be opened using Google Docs, without downloading the file to a hard disk first. Also, pictures can be sent directly from Picasa using a Gmail account.

Browser support

Gmail's HTML version will work on almost all browsers. The modern AJAX version will work with most modern browsers, including (but not limited to):

Although officially unsupported, Gmail also works in Konqueror when the browser identifies itself as Firefox 1.5+. However, the new code introduced on 29 October 2007 has more stringent requirements; users must upgrade their browsers to Firefox 2.0+ or to Internet Explorer 7. This can cause a minor issue for some users, as several new features operate only in Gmail's newer version.[24][25][26][27][28][29][30]

Google has included a note at the top of several help pages, reiterating this differentiation between the two versions of the code:

AIM, colored labels, group chat, and rich emoticons only work in the latest version of Gmail, currently available for Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox 2. Please upgrade your browser to take advantage of these new features.
Various Gmail Help Center articles[27][28][29][30]

Gmail also offers a "Basic HTML view". This allows users to access their Gmail messages from almost any computer running browsers that do not fully support the more advanced features (such as Internet Explorer 4.0+, Netscape 4.07+ or Opera 6.03+) or running browsers with JavaScript disabled. Gmail's Help Center provides a list of fully supported browsers. Gmail has recently also become available as a downloadable application for mobile phones as well as WAP-enabled mobile phones. It also works on the PSP and PS3, Nintendo Wii's Internet Channel and Nintendo DS Browser web browsers but is not fully supported.[31][32]

Language support

File:Gmail inbox in Japanese.png
Gmail supports multiple languages, including the Japanese interface shown here

The Gmail interface currently supports 52 languages, which include most of the US English features, including: Arabic, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese (simplified), Chinese (traditional), Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English (UK), English (US), Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Gujarati, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Kannada, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Malay, Malayalam, Marathi, Norwegian (Bokmål), Oriya, Polish, Punjabi, Portuguese (Brazil), Portuguese (Portugal), Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Sinhala, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Tagalog (Filipino), Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu and Vietnamese.[33]


Google has developed several subsidiary applications for Gmail.

Gmail Notifier, an official tool offered by Google, displays a small icon in the notification area (see taskbar) in Microsoft Windows and on the right-hand side of the menu bar in Mac OS X, indicating the presence of new mail in one's inbox. It also has a feature that makes Gmail the default mail-client for mailto links. It does not, however, download new messages. Users of Linux have a choice of several unofficial notifiers.

On 10 February 2006 Google introduced "Gmail For Your Domain". All companies who participated in the beta testing gained permission to use Gmail throughout their own domains. Since then, Google has developed Google Apps, which includes customizable versions of Google Calendar, Google Page Creator and more. With various editions available, it targets enterprises as well as small businesses.[34]

On 2 November 2006 Google began offering a mobile-application based version of its Gmail product for mobile phones capable of running Java applications. In addition, Sprint Nextel announced separately that it would make the application available from its Vision and Power Vision homepages and which it will preload onto some new Sprint phones. The application gives Gmail its own custom menu system: one much easier to navigate than a Web-based application running on a cell phone. Gmail's message threading also shows up clearly and the site displays attachments, such as photos and documents, in the application.[35][36]

Google Apps provider branding

Google Apps Partner Edition, a service targeted at ISPs and portals, provides brand-customizable Gmail accounts, along with other Google services (such as Calendar and Docs).[37]

For example, users of Sky Broadband can access their emails from a customized Gmail interface with 10 GB of storage space.[38]


Gmail themes library

Google started offering users a choice of themes on 19 November 2008 and currently has 31 different themes, ranging from the original light blue color to designs with image backgrounds and transparencies.[39]


The conversation view groups related messages in a linear stack which a user can expand and collapse. There is no option to differentiate messages that branch off from the original thread. This can occur when mail is sent to multiple recipients who respond individually. Labelling (tagging) is limited to message threads.[40]

Some users can experience difficulties when submitting e-mail addresses from the Gmail address book to the addressee line on the compose e-mail window. The "Autocomplete" feature can cause problems and does not work under all browsers or operating systems. However, it is possible to open the composed message in a new window so the address book can be opened, or another instance of Gmail can be opened in another window to access the address book. Gmail's current documented help on this issue states: "While Gmail doesn't currently support the functionality to open your Contacts list while composing a message, we're testing many new features to improve our service."[41]

Although Gmail's advertisements have received praise for not obtruding, they can take up more space than Flash-based banners when up to six "sponsored links" appear next to an email. Additionally, when activated, opening emails makes the Web Clips RSS-feed bar display another sponsored link. Often the number of advertisements displayed in the Web Clips bar outnumbers the number of RSS feeds the user has requested. However, when a Gmail message is sent to another email address of a different provider, there will be no advertisements in the message unlike most other webmail providers.[42]

When a Gmail mailbox reaches capacity, users cannot search for emails by size in order to delete the largest ones first. The web interface can help in this situation by searching for emails with attachments, but it does not indicate the sizes of those attachments.[6]

See also


  1. Wei, Coach K.. "AJAX: Asynchronous Java + XML?". Retrieved 2008-11-13. "In fact, the developer community was jazzed about the technical approach that Google used. In February 2005, AdapativePath's Jesse James Garrett coined the phrase "AJAX" as "Asynchronous JavaScript + XML" to describe this approach." 
  2. Google (2008-03-14). "How do I use Advanced Search". Retrieved 2008-03-14. 
  3. Google (2008). "Using filters". Retrieved 2008-11-23. 
  4. Google (2008). "Conversations". Retrieved 2008-11-23. 
  5. Google (2008). "Using Labels". Retrieved 2008-11-23. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Gmail Help Discussion (February 2007). "Attachment size search". Retrieved 2008-11-23. 
  7. "How Do I Export Contacts?". Gmail. 2006-07-02. Retrieved 2008-06-01. "You can quickly export your Gmail Contacts list into a CSV file." 
  8. Google (2008). "Rich text formatting isn't working". Retrieved 2008-11-23. 
  9. Google (2008). "Saving drafts". Retrieved 2008-11-23. 
  10. BBC NEWS | Technology | Google's experimental Gmail toys
  11. User IP addresses
  12. "Title Gmail: Help Center - Can I send or receive an executable file?". Google. 2005-10-14. Retrieved 2008-06-01. "Gmail does not allow users to receive executable files" 
  13. Gmail Information Disclosure – mybeNi websecurity
  14. Google closes Gmail cross-site scripting vulnerability – InfoWorld News. Retrieved on September 27, 2007.
  15. (February 2009). "Finding out who has been disclosing your Gmail e-mail address". Retrieved 2009-02-23. 
  16. "Adding a custom 'From:' address". Google. 2008-01-29. Retrieved 2008-02-18. "Gmail's custom 'From:' feature lets you send messages with another address in place of your Gmail address, making it easier to manage multiple accounts from the Gmail interface." 
  17. "Am I receiving someone else's email?". Google. 2007-05-04. Retrieved 2008-06-01. "Because Gmail doesn't recognize dots as characters within usernames, adding or removing dots from a Gmail address won’t change the actual destination address." 
  18. "What characters can I use in usernames, passwords, and first and last names?". Google. Retrieved 2008-06-01. 
  19. Google (2008). "Mail Fetcher". Retrieved 2008-11-22. 
  20. "Gmail chat and Google Talk differences". Gmail Help Center. Google. 2007-11-29. Retrieved 2008-06-01. "If you're signed in to the Google Talk application in the background, your Gmail account will also allow you to make free voice calls from your friends' profile cards." 
  21. Davidson, Michael (2007-12-04). "Gmail + chat + AIM = crazy delicious". Official Gmail Blog. Retrieved 2008-06-01. "Today we are happy to tell you about a new feature we've started to roll out which will enable you to sign into your AIM account and chat with your AIM buddies right inside Gmail." 
  22. Gross, Grant (2007-12-04). "Google integrates AIM into Gmail". Macworld (IDG News Service). Retrieved 2007-12-04. 
  23. Uberti, Justin (2008-11-11). "Say hello to Gmail voice and video chat". Official Gmail Blog. Retrieved 2008-11-13. "That's why today we're launching voice and video chat -- right inside Gmail. We've tried to make this an easy-to-use, seamless experience, with high-quality audio and video -- all for free. All you have to do is download and install the voice and video plugin and we take care of the rest." 
  24. Dan Pupius (2007-10-29). "Code changes to prepare Gmail for the future". Official Gmail Blog. Retrieved 2008-06-01. "So recently the Gmail team has been working on a structural code change that we'll be rolling out to Firefox 2 and IE 7 users over the coming weeks (with other browsers to follow)." 
  25. Garett Rogers (2007-10-29). "New version of Gmail starting to roll out". ZDNet. Retrieved 2008-06-01. 
  26. "It pays to upgrade your browser". Gmail Help Center. Google. 2007-12-03. Retrieved 2008-06-01. "We've added some great new features to Gmail. To check them out, please upgrade your browser to either Mozilla Firefox 2.0, Safari 3.0 or Internet Explorer 7 (with Google Toolbar)." 
  27. 27.0 27.1 "About AIM in Gmail". Gmail Help Center. Google. 2007-12-07. Retrieved 2008-06-01. 
  28. 28.0 28.1 "Editing labels". Gmail Help Center. Google. 2007-12-07. Retrieved 2008-06-01. 
  29. 29.0 29.1 "About group chat". Gmail Help Center. Google. 2007-12-07. Retrieved 2008-06-01. 
  30. 30.0 30.1 "Emoticons". Gmail Help Center. Google. 2007-12-07. Retrieved 2008-06-01. 
  31. Google (2008). "Supported browsers". Retrieved 2008-11-22. 
  32. Google (2008). "Gmail for your mobile phone". Retrieved 2008-11-22. 
  33. Google (2008). "Gmail Help". Retrieved 2008-11-23. 
  34. Google Introduces Gmail For Your Domain, retrieved June 2007
  35. Google Offers Java-based Mobile Gmail, retrieved November 2, 2006
  36. Google Mail goes mobile. RSS too., retrieved November 2, 2006
  37. "Google Apps". Google. Retrieved 2007-12-08. "The Partner Edition comes with APIs that make it simple for you to provision, customize, and integrate Google Apps into your existing infrastructure. [...] We designed Google Apps Partner Edition to affordably meet the specific needs of ISP's [sic] and portals." 
  38. BskyB (2008-03-29). "". E-Mail information page. Details of powered by google email. BskyB. Retrieved 2008-03-29. 
  39. "Official Gmail Blog: Spice up your inbox with colors and themes". Retrieved 2008-11-19. 
  40. Google (2008). "Conversations". Retrieved 2009-01-30. 
  41. Google (2008). "Selecting contacts while composing". Retrieved 2008-11-13. 
  42. O'Reilly, Tim (April 2004). "The Fuss About Gmail and Privacy: Nine Reasons Why It's Bogus". Retrieved 2008-11-24. 

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