We’ve all been there. You type out what you think is a great email at the time, whether to complain about a product you’ve purchased or to reprimand your boss. You hit the send button. And then you regret it almost immediately, spending the rest of the day worrying about it. Or, conversely, maybe you just noticed that spelling error a little too late. Whatever the reason, though, the result is the same. But, fortunately, Gmail actually has a way to “unsend” an email, if you take the time to learn how.
That, of course, is the entire purpose of this guide, in fact. Although it’s worth noting that the options to “unsend” an email, even via Gmail, are limited. So we’ll be discussing some caveats here too. In the interim, let’s take a deeper look at how you can fix these kinds of mistakes in the future.
How to unsend that email in Gmail
Now, the way “unsend” works in Gmail is more similar to how “undo” buttons work. And the limitations of this feature follow the implications of that. As a matter of fact, that’s exactly what the feature is. That means that, if you know where to look in the UI, it’s just about as intuitive as a feature can be.
If you want to unsend an email with more options, Gmail in a web browser works best
First, however, there’s some setup needed. And, as noted here, a web browser works best. And that’s because you can set up Gmail to give you a longer stretch of time to perform an “undo.” Although performing this setup won’t necessarily impact the mobile version, as is often the case with how-to guides that stretch across both platforms.
So, if you frequently send emails you’d like to take back, using the web version is probably for the best. That’s as opposed to using the app.
However, setting up the timeframe itself for un-sending an email, unlike the act of undoing the action, is less intuitive.
- On a desktop computer or laptop, open your favorite browser — or use a mobile browser in desktop mode, if you’re using a tablet or smartphone
- Navigate to Gmail.com
- Click — or tap on a touchscreen gadget — to select the cog-shaped Settings icon located at the top right-hand side of the Gmail UI
- In the resulting overflow menu, select “See all settings”
- The first page you’ll land on, in Settings, is actually the one you’ll need to interact with to adjust the amount of time Gmail gives you to cancel or “unsend” an email. That’s in a box labeled “Undo Send:” and its description, by default, reads “Send cancellation period: 5 seconds”
- In the drop-down menu box that reads “5,” select the period of time you’d prefer to use instead — this is how you’ll change the setting in case five seconds isn’t enough for you to unsend or cancel an email in Gmail. In our sample images below, we’ve set our timeout to 30 seconds. But you may also choose “10” or “20” second intervals
- Once you’ve selected how long you’d like Gmail to give you to cancel an email, scroll to the bottom of the page and select the “Save changes” button
Here’s how to unsend an email on either the Gmail app or on desktop
Now that you’ve set up your interval, there is really only one step left. Namely, to try this out for yourself. And this portion of our guide is incredibly easy. And, best of all, it works on both mobile and desktop platforms. So you’re free to use the app for this segment, although the time interval won’t necessarily be the same.
For consistency, our sample images here will be utilizing the desktop Gmail experience.
- Open up Gmail, following steps one and two above, as needed
- Select the “Compose” button at the top left-hand side of the UI — on your mobile device, in-app, this will be the pencil icon “Compose” button at the bottom right-hand side of the UI
- Fill in your subject line — ours shows “testing a feature,” as that’s we’re doing, testing the feature — and recipient fields
- Tap the “Send” button
- In the bottom left-hand side of the UI — or in the bottom bar area for the app — you’ll see a toast message. That will appear for your designated period on desktop or mobile in desktop mode. Or it will remain for just a few seconds in the mobile app. The message informs you that the message has been sent and provides two options, one of which is to “View” the email. Though that option only appears on desktop platforms
- Select the other option, which reads “Undo” and the UI will return you to the composition screen, as shown in our sample images below
- Now you can send a more professional or appropriate email. Or you may choose not to send one at all