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how to unsend an email

We’ve all been there: You’re sitting at your computer crafting the perfect email to an important new client, and all of a sudden, you accidentally click ‘send’ before it’s finished. Or maybe you’ve come home from a tough day at work and fire off a furious email to your boss, outlining all the reasons you hate working for the company. You click ‘send’ and immediately regret it.

At one time, these scenarios might have seemed like the end of the world. Fortunately, we have some good news for you. Back in 2015, Gmail launched its ‘Undo Send’ function that allows you to pull back your email before it reaches the recipient.

You have to be quick, though. Gmail only allows you a handful of seconds to halt the email and redress the damage.

Reasons for undoing send

There are many and varied reasons you may need to cancel an email after you’ve sent it, but here are just a few scenarios which might resonate with you:

  • You accidentally click ‘send’ before finishing the email.
  • After clicking ‘send’, you realize you’ve sent the email to the wrong person.
  • After clicking ‘send’, you realize you should have cc’d someone else on the email.
  • You’re having second thoughts about some or all of the content in the email.
  • You’ve sent the email before checking it for spelling and grammar mistakes.
  • You composed the email while upset or angry, and wish you’d waited until you’d calmed down to click ‘send’.

How to ‘undo send’ in Gmail

The ‘undo send’ function is a default setting within Gmail, so you don’t need to go into your settings to turn it on (until recently, you had to go into your settings and manually enable it).

How it works on desktop

When you send an email, you’ll see a pop-up in the bottom left-hand corner.

When replying to a thread, it will look like this:

Sending a new email, it will look like this:

When you see either of these messages and wish to retrieve your email, click Undo as soon as possible. You’ll lose your chance if:

  • You wait too long (see more about timeframes below)
  • You click away from the message
  • Click on View message

Once you’ve hit Undo, you’ll get a confirmation pop-up:

Gmail now displays your message for you to amend or delete, and also saves it in Drafts.

How it works on the Gmail app on a smartphone or tablet

‘Undo Send’ has only recently been made available on smartphones and tablets.

  • Send a new email or reply from within a thread as usual.
  • Once you’ve clicked Send, a pop-up message will appear at the bottom of the screen:

  • Click Undo
  • Note that you get the same pop-up whether you’re sending a new email, or replying from within a thread.
  • Once you’ve clicked Undo, your draft will be displayed but you won’t be given a confirmation of your ‘undo send’.

How to change the timeframe in which you can unsend an email

Although you only have a short window of time in which to retract an email, you can set the cancellation period for up to 30 seconds in your settings.

  • Go into your Settings by clicking the cog or the drop-down arrow in the top right-hand corner of your Gmail window.

  • Go to the General
  • Scroll to the Undo Send
  • Click the drop-down menu and choose your preferred cancellation period. You can choose from 5, 10, 20 or 30 seconds. Obviously, the longer you choose, the more time you’ll be given to locate the pop-up message and click 

  • When you’re finished, scroll to the bottom of the page and click Save changes.

Undo Send’s default setting is 5 seconds, which is a very short window in which to recall an email. Setting it to 30 seconds will give you enough time to locate the pop-up box and click Undo.

Summary

Most people have experienced that heart-stopping moment when they realized they’ve sent an email either in error or before checking it thoroughly first. For a long time (11 years, to be precise), sending an email in Gmail was final – there was no turning back.

But thankfully, now Gmail gives you a 30-second window to recall your email. Although it’s still a tight timeframe – and you can ruin your opportunity by carelessly clicking away from it – it’s better than nothing.

So the next time you fire off a sensitive email by mistake, don’t panic – Gmail has you covered.

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