Lesson 1: Introduction to Gmail


Gmail is a free email service provided by Google. In many ways, Gmail is like any other email service: You can send and receive emails, block spam, create an address book, and perform other basic email tasks. But it also has some more unique features that help to make it one of the most popular email services on the Web.

In this lesson, we'll talk about some of the features and advantages of Gmail, and we'll give an overview of the Gmail window.

Screenshot of Gmail

Google accounts

Creating a Google account will be needed to access Gmail because this email service is one of the many services offered by Google to registered users. Signing up for a Google account is free and easy, and naming your new Gmail address will be a part of the signup process. This means whenever you're signed in to Gmail, you are automatically signed in to your Google account. You'll be able to easily access other Google services like Google Docs, Calendar, and YouTube. Creating a Google account also means you'll be a part of Google+, Google's social networking service.

Of course, you don't have to use any of these features—you may prefer to focus only on email for now. However, if you'd like more information, you can check out our Google Account tutorial, where we talk about some of the different services Google offers and show you how to change your privacy settings.

Gmail features

Gmail offers several useful features to make your email experience as smooth as possible, including:

    • Spam filtering. Spam is another name for junk email. Gmail uses advanced technologies to keep spam out of your inbox. Most spam is automatically sent to a separate spam folder, and after 30 days it is deleted.
    • Conversation View. An email conversation occurs whenever you send emails back and forth with another person (or a group of people), often about a specific topic or event. Gmail groups these emails together by default, which keeps your inbox more organized.
    • Built-in chat. Instead of sending an email, you can send someone an instant message or use the voice and video chat feature (if your computer has a microphone and/or webcam).
    • Call Phone. This feature is similar to voice chat, except that it allows you to dial an actual phone number to call any phone in the world. It's free to make a call to anywhere in the U.S. or Canada, and you can make calls to other countries at relatively low rates.

    Get to know the Gmail interface

    When you're working with Gmail, you'll primarily be using the main Gmail interface. This window contains your inbox, and it allows you to navigate to your contacts, Mail settings, and more. Also, if you use other Google services like YouTube or Calendar, you'll be able to access them from the top of the Gmail window.

    Click the buttons in the interactive below to learn about the different parts of the Gmail interface.

    edit hotspotsUsing the Gmail interface

    Left Menu Pane

    The left menu pane allows you to compose a new email, navigate to your mail, view your sent mail, and manage your labels, among other tasks.


    Answer the following questions. You can either write down your answers or just think about them.

    1. What are the advantages of having a Gmail account?
    2. Are there any features on Gmail you would use aside from email?
    3. If you don't have an account, what would your user name (email address) be?
    4. Optional: If you already have a Google account, sign in, then explore the Gmail interface.