If you’re old enough to remember what email was like before Google came along and launched Gmail, you know just how impressive and capable Google’s email product really is. If you’re not old enough to remember, consider yourself lucky. Email was an overcomplicated, overpriced mess until Gmail introduced a free service with a huge amount of storage, and the rest of the market scrambled to compete.

Today, Gmail packs even more features than it ever has before while still maintaining a very simple overall feel. As is the case with any software, however, a few simple tweaks and hacks can provide some great improvements that many users will wonder how they ever lived without.

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Here are 5 hacks/add-ons/upgrades/enhancements for Gmail that you really have to check out. Regardless of what you call them, the bottom line is that they stand to dramatically improve Google’s already-impressive Gmail experience.

Mailbox

This first hack is the Gmail app that started it all: Mailbox.

Now owned by Dropbox, Mailbox completely reimagines the way you deal with email, and it has resulted in a number of copycat offerings from companies as big as Microsoft and Google itself.

There’s still no substitute for the original, however.

Mailbox is all about helping you reach inbox zero, and it accomplishes the tough task in a number of ways. Quick Swipes let you archive or delete things you don’t need, and messages you need to come back to can be snoozed in a number of different ways so they don’t sit around and clutter up your inbox.

Check out my old post on how I destroyed email for more details on how Mailbox works.

Keyboard shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts could very well be one of the most useful and yet underutilized features of Gmail. If you use Gmail in your web browser, you absolutely must familiarize yourself with Google’s keyboard shortcuts. You’ll be shocked at how much faster you’ll plow through your email once you learn them.

All of the available keyboard shortcuts for Gmail can be found on this page on Google’s support site.

Undo send

That’s right, boys and girls… you can un-send emails after you’ve clicked the send button. Never again will the reply all button haunt your nightmares.

All the details on how to enable Gmail’s undo send feature can be found in this post.

Unread message icon

This is a really cool little tweak that not many people know about.

Gmail’s “Labs” section packs a number of nifty experimental features, and this one will show you the number of unread emails in your inbox right on the icon on your Gmail tab.

It’ll look like this:

To enable this feature, click on the gear icon near the top-right corner of the Gmail website and click Settings. On the Labs tab, scroll down to Unread message icon and click Enable. Then click the Save Changes button at the bottom of the screen and you’re good to go.

Of course, you won’t need this nifty hack if you use Mailbox, but I figured I would include it just in case.

Send self-destructing emails

This last hack was actually the catalyst for this entire post.

We recently covered a new third-party Gmail add-on called Dmail, and I got so much positive feedback asking for more cool Gmail tips that I decided to put this post together.

Of course, not everyone saw our post on Dmail, so it bears repeating.

This nifty add-on is completely free for the time being, and it lets you send encrypted emails that self-destruct or can be manually recalled at any time. All the details you need can be found in this post.

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