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How Gmail works

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How Gmail works: You recently bought a new Android device and during its initial setup phase you were asked to create a new Gmail account . You completed the task with some ease, but after that you didn’t think about the created account and you continued to use your old email address. But now things have changed, you have discovered that Gmail is a much more complete and efficient service than the one you currently use to manage email and, therefore, you would like to know how it works. 

Well, if this is the case, I am happy to inform you that you are in the right place, at a time that could not have been better: in fact, below I will show you in detail how Gmail works on the various devices with which the service is compatible. : computer, smartphone and tablet (even in offline mode, therefore without an active Internet connection).

So, without hesitating a moment longer, make yourself comfortable, take a few minutes of time for yourself and read very carefully everything I have to say on this topic: I am sure that, at the end of this reading, you will be perfectly able to take advantage of optimally the e-mail service provided by “big G”. Having said that, there is nothing left for me to do but wish you good reading and have fun!


What is Gmail for

As I already mentioned in the opening bars of this guide,  Gmail is the email service offered and managed by Google. It is compatible with most browsers and e-mail clients for PCs, smartphones and tablets. Furthermore, in the mobile environment, it can be used through special apps for Android and iOS.

It has a large number of features aimed at optimal email management:  extremely advanced spam filters , automatic detection and blocking of  harmful / malicious emails , ability to set  custom filters and blocks , integration with third-party add-ons and much more .

Having a Gmail account, however, does not just mean having a functional e-mail box available. In fact, the same profile can be used to access the entire range of services offered by Google: Google Drive and Google Docs, Google Photos, YouTube, Maps, Play Store, Play Music, Play Film and so on.

In its free version, Gmail offers  15 GB of shared space between the various services, which can be easily increased by purchasing additional packages. There is also a professional version of Gmail, included in the G-Suite package , specifically designed for companies and which includes, among the additional features, collaborative tools and greater availability of storage space. In other words, Gmail is not just an e-mail account, but a real access key to the entire range of services provided by “big G”!

In the following bars of this guide, however, I will focus my attention exclusively on how  Gmail email works on the various platforms with which it is compatible:  AndroidiOS (therefore  iPhone ) and  PC (Web and client).

If you do not yet have a free account on Gmail, you can create it in an extremely simple way, through the platform that you consider most appropriate (smartphone, tablet, PC and so on), following the steps that I illustrated in my specific tutorial on the subject.

How Gmail works on Android

How Gmail works on Android

Did you really appreciate the potential of Gmail and would you like to set up your mailbox on  Android right away ? Nothing simpler! In this regard, I strongly urge you to use the official app of the service, pre-installed on the most modern versions of Android and strongly integrated with the entire operating system. If it is not present on your device, you can download it for free from the Play Store .

After starting the app, tap the  OK button located at the bottom and check that, on the next screen, the Gmail account you configured on Android appears when you turned on the device for the first time, then tap the  Go to Gmail button to immediately access the mailbox associated with the specified profile.

If this is not available, or if you need to configure a second email account, tap on  Add another email address and follow the simple instructions that are provided to you to login using the credentials of your interest. 

Keep in mind that, although the app works optimally with Gmail accounts, it can also be used to manage e-mail boxes belonging to other providers (eg Outlook, TIM / Alice, Libero and so on), by setting the relative IMAP parameters.

How Gmail works on Android

Once you have completed the first configuration of the app, touch the  Next and  OK buttons to immediately access the  inbox : then specify whether  to activate notifications for high priority emails by acting on the appropriate item and touch the  OK button to use the predefined display categories , ie the “subdivision” of the inbox into thematic tabs.

  • Main – contains messages received from “real” people and messages that do not fit into any of the following categories.
  • Social – messages from social networks (new contacts, notifications on messages or profiles, and so on) are grouped in this tab.
  • Promotions – as the name itself implies, this form contains the promotional messages generated by the commercial services to which you are subscribed.
  • Updates – This section groups messages related to password and device updates, changes to terms of use, account suspension, termination or activation and the like, mainly from the web services to which you are subscribed.
  • Forum – This is a tab that contains notifications of new messages from forums, mailing lists, discussion groups, and so on.

At this point, you can easily manage your mail using the simple interface of the app: tap on the preview of an email to open its content and use the buttons located at the bottom of the message to  reply to the senderreply to all (in case messages with multiple recipients) or to  forward the email. Furthermore, you can use the buttons located at the top to perform other operations on the message:  archive it (the square with the arrow ),  delete it (the trash can icon ) or  mark it as “unread” (the envelope icon ).

Furthermore, by touching the ( ⋮) button , you can access additional operations to move  the message to another folder, change the label , mark it as important , mark it as spam and so on. To go back to the previous folder, just touch the  arrow located in the upper left corner of the screen.

To compose a new e-mail message “from scratch”, instead, press the  colored  (+) button, located in the lower right corner of the screen, while if you want to access the Gmail folders (eg the additional tabs of the inbox, outbox, trash, archived mail, spam and so on) or in the app settings, you can use the  button located at the top left and select the item of your interest from the menu that you opens.

Finally, you can use the  top search bar to quickly find the messages you want to view. Have you seen? It’s all really simple!

Note: If you are not satisfied with the official Gmail app, you can set up your email account in other clients, such as Microsoft Outlook and Spark .

How Gmail Works on iPhone

How Gmail Works on iPhone

Undoubtedly, the easiest way to use Gmail on iPhone is to install the official app of the service, which can be downloaded for free from the App Store . Once the app installation is complete, tap on the  Login item and follow the wizard that is proposed to you to add your email account: indicate the email address in the appropriate box, tap the  Next button and enter the  login password in the field shown immediately after, then tap the  Login button .

If 2-Step Verification is enabled, you will be asked to specify the one-time code received via SMS or to confirm the login attempt using a known device.

Note : if another Google app with which you have already logged into Gmail is already present and configured on your iPhone, you may simply need to confirm that you want to use the account already in use in the other app, by activating the lever corresponding to it (to then confirm the configuration applied by touching the item  End located at the top left).

Once logged in, specify whether  or not to allow the app to send notifications and indicate  how the e-mail messages are displayed, then tap the OK button and you’re done. If everything went smoothly, you should go to the main Gmail interface which, by default, shows your  Inbox . From here on, the operation of the app is very similar to what has already been seen on Android .

How do you say? Don’t want to install the Gmail app, but prefer to consult your email using the  iOS Mail app ? No problem: in this case, what you have to do is access the  iOS  Settings , tap on the Mail, Accounts and Add account items , then tap on  Google and follow the instructions proposed to complete the account setup.

But be careful: by setting up Gmail in Mail, you will not receive push notifications for messages, so you will not be notified in real time when you receive new messages. For more information on this, I refer you to my tutorial on how to set up Gmail on iPhone.

As an alternative to Mail, you can use other third-party clients that support push notifications and allow you to easily set up Gmail accounts, such as Microsoft Outlook or Spark .

How Gmail works on PC

If you intend to use Gmail via your computer, know that you can follow at least two different paths: use the Webmail made available by Google, accessible through any browser, or configure e-mail in a special program, such as  Windows 10 or Apple Mail MacOS Mail .


How Gmail Works on PC - Browser

To access Google’s e-mail via browser, proceed as follows: first, connected to this web page , enter your  e-mail address in the appropriate field, press the  Enter key on the keyboard, then enter, in the next field , the access password and that’s it.

If everything went well, after a few moments you should have access to your inbox. As you have surely noticed, the Gmail web interface is extremely intuitive: through the left navigation bar, you can access the various  folders of the mailbox (e.g. inbox , important messages , sent mail , spam , trash , outgoing mailand so on). In the center of the screen the contents of the inbox folder are shown which, as you can see, is divided into different tabs, which contain the various categories of messages (which Google is able to recognize thanks to an artificial intelligence). The functioning of the thematic cards is the same that I have already shown you in the section relating to Android .

If you do not like this behavior and would like all messages to be shown, without any subdivision, in the  Inbox , you can disable the division into tabs as follows: click on the  button at the top right, select the  Configure mailbox item from the menu shown on the screen and  remove the check mark from all available boxes, except for the  Main tab . To finish and save the changes, click on the  Save button .

How Gmail works on PC

Also through the same menu, you can adjust the  display format of the e-mail, its  settings and add new  graphic themes . If you wish, you can also expand Gmail Web with a series of add-ons, aimed at integrating Google e-mail with other services: to use them, click on the item Install add-ons in the aforementioned menu (or on the  (+) button in the right bar of the Gmail interface), locate the component of your interest and, after clicking on its preview, press the  Install button to add it.

For the rest, the operation of Gmail Web is extremely simple: you can compose a new message by clicking on the (+) Write button located in the upper left corner of the screen, reply to a message already present by pressing the  Reply button located at the bottom of the screen. itself and access the operations that can be carried out on the messages (deletion, archiving, transfer from one folder to another and so on) using both a practical menu, accessible by right-clicking on the preview of the message of your interest, or using the buttons in the window Gmail, displayed at the top of already open messages.

Using the search bar located at the top of the page, you can also quickly search for e-mail messages based on sender, recipient, subject, size and many other parameters.

Email client

How Gmail works on PC

Do you prefer to configure Gmail email within the program you usually use to consult emails, such as  Mail from Windows 10 or  Mail from macOS ? No problem, you can easily add Gmail to the email client of your choice!

To do this, however, it is essential  to activate the IMAP of Gmail, that is the protocol that allows you to consult and manage e-mail from multiple devices at the same time, avoiding the occurrence of synchronization problems of various kinds. You can easily activate the Gmail IMAP by acting on the option found in the Forwarding and POP / IMAP and IMAP of the Gmail settings : for further details on this procedure, I invite you to consult the appropriate section of my thematic guide.

Once this is done, you can conveniently configure Gmail in your email client, exactly as you would for any other account: if you have never done this before, I invite you to consult my guide on how to enter another email , in which I explained how to add a new mail profile within the most popular desktop email clients (Windows 10 Mail, Outlook, Mail and Thunderbird).

How Gmail works offline

Among the many features of Gmail, there is certainly the possibility of using it even in  offline mode : in practice, you can make sure that the e-mail already received is made available even in the absence of an Internet connection, by adjusting the synchronization settings of the latter. . In this way, it is possible to consult the e-mail (and possibly the attachments contained therein), carry out search operations among the messages and send new ones, even in the absence of a connection to the Net. If it is your intention to understand how Gmail works offline , then read on: below I’ll explain how to act both on PC, and on smartphones and tablets.


How Gmail works offline on PC

As for the computer, it is possible to use the Gmail web interface in offline mode only if you access the service through the Google Chrome browser , available for most of the most common desktop platforms (Windows, macOS and Linux). If you don’t have it, you can install it by following the instructions I gave you in my specific guide on the topic.

After opening the browser, therefore, connected to the Gmail website , log in using your account credentials, then click on the button located at the top right and select the  Settings item from the menu that is proposed to you.

At this point, click on the  Offline item on the upper navigation bar, put the check mark next to the item  Activate offline mail and intervene on the settings as you deem most appropriate: indicate  how many days of messages you want to synchronize by acting on the appropriate menu drop down and specify whether  to download attachments or not.

To conclude, define the behavior of Gmail offline if it is necessary to log out of the Google account:  keep the email data on the computer, in the form of cookies, making them immediately available at the next access; or  delete everything , making it necessary to re-sync later.

When you are done, click on the  Save changes button located at the bottom and, without disconnecting from the Internet, wait for the Gmail data to be downloaded to your computer: depending on the number of days to be synchronized and the presence or absence of attachments, this operation may take even a few hours. During this time, the e-mail service may seem less “responsive”: don’t worry, the situation should return to normal when the synchronization is complete.

Once the data download is complete, you will be able to access Gmail through Google Chrome even without an Internet connection: you will have the possibility to consult the emails already received, to search within them, to open the attachments and to write new ones messages, which will then be sent as soon as you connect to the Net again (in the meantime, the emails to be sent will be stored in the  Outbox folder ).

Obviously, you can also access Gmail messages offline by configuring your account in any email client, as explained in the appropriate section of this tutorial .

Smartphones and tablets

How Gmail works offline on smartphones and tablets

The Gmail app for Android and iOS does not require additional configuration for consulting e-mails in offline mode, since it is activated by default: in practice, simply open the app to view e-mail messages already downloaded and to compose new ones (which will then be sent as soon as the Internet connection is active again).

What you can do, even in this case, is to specify the  days of messages to be synchronized : in this regard, after starting the app, press the  button located at the top left, touch the  Settings item and tap the account e-mail address on which you intend to act.

Next, identify the  Data usage section , check that the  Synchronize Gmail box is marked with a check mark (if not, you can do it yourself) and touch the item  Days of mail to synchronize to set the period that suits you best; if you wish, you can define whether or not to download attachments via Wi-Fi by clicking on the appropriate box.