What is the Gear Icon in Gmail?

I think the majority of the human population must have a Gmail account. That says a lot about Google’s reach but more about how we use the internet and how a single company has managed to get its claws into so many people. However, back to Gmail and a particular question we were asked, ‘what is the gear icon in Gmail’?

What is the Gear Icon in Gmail?

The gear icon is usually the universal icon for a settings menu. In Gmail, it is the precursor to the settings menu that contains other settings too. I’ll walk you through all of these in this article.

The Gmail settings icon

If you open Gmail to your Inbox, you will see a small gear icon to the top right of your email list. It’s small and faint but it is there. If you select it you will see several options. They will likely still be:

  • Display Density
  • Configure Inbox
  • Settings
  • Themes
  • Get Add-ons
  • Send Feedback
  • Help

Let’s take a quick look at each of these.

Display Density

Display Density in Gmail controls how the default Inbox appears. You can keep it at the default or select Comfortable or Compact. Each compresses the inbox slightly to fit more on screen.

Configure Inbox

Configure Inbox allows you to set up your default Gmail view to your personal preferences. You can keep it simple with just your inbox or add a social tab, forum tab or some Google promotional stuff to your main window.


The Gmail Settings option is where you configure your email accounts, set up filters, labels, email forwarding, add chat and all that good stuff. I’ll cover this menu in a little more detail in a minute.


Themes adds a bunch of screen themes to your Gmail window. There are a selection to choose from that cover everything from cartoons to landscapes. Select one to have it on the window background behind the text windows.

Get Add-ons

Add-ons are a powerful feature of Gmail and let you add tools to your email like CRM plugins, Dropbox, project management, Evernote and a whole lot more.

Send Feedback

Send Feedback lets you do just that. Send your opinions to Google in the hope they listen. It’s a decent feature if you like having your say about the apps you use.


Help opens a dialog box with some common questions and answers about using Gmail. If you get stuck on something, go here to find out how to fix it.

The Gmail Settings menu

The Gmail Settings menu is where you do most of your configuration. You can control how your email account works with the General tab, create email filters in the Labels tab, change how your Inbox page looks and feels from the Inbox tab, add, change or remove email accounts with the Accounts and Imports tab.

Filters and blocked addresses is where you help stop spam and set up email filters for ordering your inbox. Forwarding and POP/IMAP is where you set up email forwarding or change your email account type. Add-ons is the same as the menu option above. Chat opens a chat window where you can chat to your Gmail contacts.

Advanced has some great features like Canned Responses, multiple inboxes, adds a preview pane and other stuff. Offline enables a download of your inbox for those times when you don’t have internet. Themes is a repeat of the above menu item while multiple inboxes allows you to add filters and searches to your main inbox window.

General Gmail setup

If you’re a typical home user, once you have set up your Gmail account the way you like it, you will rarely use the settings menu. I do suggest using the General tab to set up your location, font, smart reply, undo send and email signature though. These just add a little extra to all emails.

Labels are email filters the same as creating folders in Outlook works. You can have Gmail automatically sort emails with these labels according to sender, keywords or something else. This is an incredibly useful feature and one I use a lot.

When first setting up Gmail, you would use the Accounts and Imports tab to create a new account and import email from other accounts. Gmail can send and receive email from other accounts such as Outlook and others that use POP3. This is useful if you have multiple emails but only want to use a single account to control them all.

Finally, Advanced lets you set up canned responses which I find amazingly useful. Here you can write emails in advance that can be sent with a single click. As I use my Gmail for freelance work, I have several canned responses here that are sent as soon as I receive a proposal or invitation to tender. They also have uses for home users too.

The gear icon in Gmail opens up a raft of customization options where you control every aspect of your email account. I suggest spending some time there so you get a better idea of exactly what this email app is capable of!

One thought on “What is the Gear Icon in Gmail?”

Robert Kann says:
My Gmail has no gear icon! Why???

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