Gmail has been part of our lives for what seems like forever, and while it works well enough on its own, there are plenty of ways to make it more useful. These five extensions require very little setup or tweaking, most are free, and all of them do a great job of helping you wring every little bit of utility out of your email sessions.
Add notes to messages and threads
For those times you need a little more context than a giant email thread can give you, there’s the free Simple Gmail Notes extension.
Notes are stored in your Google Drive, can be color-coded, and will show up next to their respective subject lines in your inbox as well.
Declutter and beautify
If Gmail feels a bit busy to you, do yourself a favor and check out Simplify Gmail.
Built to make Gmail more visually appealing, easier to use, and less distracting, this $2-per-month Chrome extension offers up an almost Zen-like experience as you hack and slash your way through mountains of messages every day.
The guy behind it, Michael Leggett, knows his stuff, too: He’s the former design lead behind Gmail and Google Inbox. If anyone’s got the chops to gussy up the world’s most popular webmail service, it’s him.
Turn labels and searches into tabs
Don’t let hunting for a specific Gmail label slow you down. Add the label as a quick-access tab above your inbox instead with the free Gmail Tabs extension for Chrome.
With the extension installed, you simply click the little three-dot menu button next to an oft-used label and select “Add to tabs” to give it a more permanent home.
You can do the same for searches, too, making it easier to quickly drill into messages from specific senders, messages with attachments, or anything else you’d otherwise normally have to search for manually.
Quickly share links
The handy, free Send from Gmail has been built by Google itself to solve a couple of challenges.
The extension pulls double duty by setting Gmail as your default email app when you click on an email address, and lets you share interesting web pages via Gmail with a single click.
While the extension hasn’t been updated since 2013, neither feature is really rocket science. You won’t give the Gmail-as-default feature too much thought, it just works. And the send-a-link feature is refreshingly simple; find a cool webpage, click the extension icon, and a message composition box pops up with the page’s title as the subject and the URL as the first part of the message itself.
One cool little extra: If you highlight some text on the page first, that text will get copied into the message above the URL.
See who’s sending you email
We’re visual creatures. A giant text-based list of messages can make it hard to tell which ones to tackle first.
With the free Gmail Sender Icons extension for Chrome, you’ll instead see the little favicon logo associated with your senders’ domains next to the subject of each message.
The extension runs entirely inside the browser to extract the favicon for each sender’s email address on the fly and works both for messages in your inbox and for the messages displayed when you do a search. You’ll literally never look at Gmail the same way again.