Use Gmail basic HTML view with a screen reader
This is a guide to using Google's web-based email. In most countries it's known as Gmail, but in Germany and Austria it's known as Google Mail, due to existing trademarks.
Gmail is available in two different views: Standard and Basic HTML. Basic HTML view is primarily aimed at old web browsers that can't properly display Standard view, and it contains less functionality than the Standard view. However, Google has modified the US English version of the Basic HTML view so that it's more accessible for those using screen readers. Note that this isn't the case for other language versions of the Basic HTML view, so you must have your language set to US English to get the accessible Basic HTML view. If you already have a Gmail address, then you can change the language on the General Settings page, as described in the Settings section below.
For versions of JAWS up to and including version 11, Gmail is much more accessible in the US English Basic HTML view than in the Standard view, and this guide is written for the US English Basic HTML view. The standard view of Gmail is quite accessible with JAWS 9, 10 and 11 due to JAWS support of ARIA.
Gmail uses two methods to organize your messages, which are central to understanding how to use Gmail: conversations and labels. These are introduced in the next two sections.
A conversation consists of one or more messages with the same subject. When you view the contents of any of your folders, you're shown a list of conversations, rather than a list of messages. Because the messages have been grouped into conversations, this reduces the number of items in your folders, and makes finding messages easier.
The next three sections give examples of how conversations are formed.
You send an email with the subject Elton John concert to a friend Paul, asking him whether he wants to go. A conversation with the subject Elton John Concert and containing your message is automatically created, and appears in your Sent Mail folder. Because the conversation consists of only a single message, you might like to think of it as a potential conversation.
Paul replies to your message (without changing the subject). Because Paul's message has the same subject as the Elton John Concert conversation, it is added to this conversation. Also because the conversation now contains messages you've both sent and received, it now appears in both your Sent Mail and Inbox folders.
A friend Susan sends you and message with the subject Harry Potter, asking you what you thought of the ending of the latest book. A conversation with the subject Harry Potter and containing Susan's message is created, and appears in your Inbox.
You reply to this message, without changing the subject. The message you send is added to the Harry Potter conversation, which now appears in both your Sent Mail and Inbox folders.
If Susan then replies to your reply, then this message is also added to the Harry Potter conversation.
You've subscribed to the Jaws For Windows mailing list. Someone on the list posts a message with the subject Jaws 9 Beta, and there are 10 replies by other people to this message. Then there will be a “Jaws 9 Beta” conversation in your Inbox consisting of 11 messages. If you reply to the message, this will be added to the conversation, and the conversation will also now appear in your Sent Mail folder.
Most web-based email services and email clients like Outlook Express let you create your own folders, and moving messages to these folders so that they're organized and so easier to find.
In contrast, rather than using folders, Gmail allows you to create your own labels, and then apply one or more labels to a conversation. Using labels has the advantage that if a conversation can be equally well classified by more than one label, then you can apply all these labels. Using folders, you have to choose a single folder, even though the message might be suited to be in other folders. So using labels rather than folders provides a better categorization of messages, which in turn can make messages easier to find.
If you don’t already have a Gmail address, see the Creating a Gmail address section at the end of this guide for instructions.
The following steps will take you directly to the Basic HTML view of Gmail:
- Go the web page with the address mail.google.com/mail/h/.
- The initial focus is in the Username edit box. Press ENTER to go into Forms mode, type in your username, and then TAB to the Password edit box.
- Type in your password, and press ENTER. You are taken to your Inbox in the Basic HTML view.
You can now set Basic HTML view as your default view. The link to set Basic HTML as your default view is located before h1, "Gmail by Google".
Almost all the Gmail web pages use the same overall page structure. So before going on to describe how to read and send messages, this section describes the page structure and how to navigate. Each page in the Basic HTML view contains the following elements or sections — it's only the main content section which varies from page to page, everything else is present on every page:
- A link to switch to the standard view.
- A level 1 heading: either Google Mail by Google, or Gmail by Google, depending on which country you live in.
- Account options: a level 2 heading, followed by your email address, and the links Settings, Help, and Sign out
- Search controls: an edit box, Search Mail button, Search the Web button, and a Show search options link. These are described in the Searching section.
- Navigation section, which is described in the next section.
- Main content section. This varies from page to page, and normally contains a level 2 heading.
The navigation section contains the following elements:
- A Compose Mail link, which has the access key C.
- Folders. A level 2 heading, followed by links for the following folders:
- Inbox, for conversations that contain incoming messages, and which has the access key I.
- Starred, for conversations you've marked as especially significant.
- Sent Mail, for conversations that contain messages which you've sent.
- Drafts, for conversations that include a message you were writing and haven't yet sent Because you saved the message as a draft, the internet connection failed, or the computer crashed.
- All Mail. This contains a list of conversations, including all the messages you've received, sent, or archived, and haven't deleted.
- Spam. For incoming messages that have been determined to be spam by Google Mail or the emails that you have marked as spam. After 30 days in this folder, a message is automatically deleted completely.
- Trash. When you delete a conversation or a message (except from this folder), it's moved here. After 30 days in this folder, it's automatically deleted completely.
- Contacts link, which is also a level 3 heading.
- Labels. A level 2 heading, followed by links for any labels you've created.
Some of the folder and label links can have a number in parentheses after them, and this is highlighted by them also being made level 3 headings (only if they contain unread emails). The significance of these numbers is:
- A number after Inbox indicates the number of conversations containing unread messages.
- A number after Drafts indicates the number of conversations in the Drafts folder. All these conversations contain a draft message.
- A number after Spam indicates the number of conversations containing unread messages in the Spam folder.
- A number after a label indicates the number of conversations with that label which contain unread messages.
The heading structure of the pages is good, and so this is useful for navigation. In particular, using the quick navigation key 2 takes you through the following headings: Account options, Folders, Labels, and the heading of the main content section.
As noted above, both the Compose Mail and Inbox links have access keys. The keystrokes to open a link with an access key depend on the web browser:
- In Internet Explorer, press ALT + ACCESS KEY, and then ENTER.
- In Firefox 1.5, press ALT + ACCESS KEY.
- In Firefox 2 or later versions, press SHIFT + ALT + ACCESS KEY.
This is an outline of how to read the messages in one of the folders:
- Open one of the folder links, which are immediately after the level 2 heading Folders.
- After you first sign in, you're automatically taken to your Inbox folder, so to read the messages in your Inbox, you can omit this step.
- You're taken to a page that contains a list of conversations in that folder, and pages like these will be referred to as Conversation list pages. The list of conversations is, in fact, formatted as a table, with the columns giving various details about the conversations.
- To view a particular conversation, move to the subject of the conversation, which is a link, and open it.
- You're taken to a page which contains all the messages in the conversation, and these pages will be referred to as Conversation pages. On this page you can easily navigate to the messages you want to read.
The next two main sections describe Conversation list pages and Conversation pages in detail.
Conversation list page
When you open any of the folders, you're taken to a page containing a list of the conversations in that folder. This section describes the structure and navigation of a Conversation list page. In fact, as described later in the guide, when you choose to view the conversations with a particular label, or search for messages, you're also taken to page containing a list of conversations, and these pages all have the same structure.
A Conversation list page has a title that describes the list of conversations, for example, Inbox. Its main content section contains the following elements:
- A level 2 heading: a name for the list of conversations, for example, Sent Mail.
- A series of action buttons, which are described in the Action buttons section below. Refresh link.
- The range of conversations shown in the table which follows, for example “1 - 50 of 402”. In addition, when appropriate, there are links to take you to other ranges of conversations. The links which may be present are: « Newest, < Newer, and Older >, and Oldest ».
- A table containing details of the conversations, which is described in the Conversation table section below.
- A repeat of the action buttons, the refresh link, and the range of conversations displayed.
Each row in the table contains the details of a conversation. The table has four columns, and a certain number of rows. (the number of rows is dependent on the user's settings)
The columns of the table are as follows:
- A checkbox, which by default is unchecked. These checkboxes are used together with the Action buttons as described in the Action buttons section below.
- In most lists of conversations, the second column contains the names of the senders of the messages in the conversation. If there is more than one message in the conversation, then the number of messages is given in parentheses after the names.
- The subject of the conversation, which is a link. To open a conversation, you open this link, and you are then taken to a Conversation page. If you're viewing the conversations other than those in the Inbox, then if the conversation is also present in the Inbox, then the subject is prefixed with the word Inbox. If any of the messages contain one or more attachments, then Jaws says "attachment" before the subject.
- The last column contains either a time if it refers to today, or else a date. The meaning of the time depends on which folder is being viewed. For example, for the Inbox, the date/time refers to when the latest incoming message in the conversation was sent. For the Sent Mail folder, the date/time refers to when the latest outgoing message in the conversation was sent. The conversations in the table are ordered by this date/time.
Conversations that contain unread messages are highlighted to sighted users by making the background color of the row a different color, and using bold text. This information is not available to screenreader users, and screenreaders do not announce if a conversation contains unread messages. However, if needed, you can easily gets a list of the conversations containing unread messages by using Google Mail's search, which is described in detail in the Searching section. To get this list:
- Move to the search edit box on the page.
- Press ENTER to go into Forms mode, type is: unread, and then press ENTER. You're taken to a Conversation list page containing the conversations which have unread messages. Action buttons.
The Actions buttons which appear both before and after the Conversation table are used together with the checkboxes in the Conversation. For example, to delete one or more conversations in the Inbox:
- In the Conversation table, check the checkboxes of the conversations you want to delete.
- Move the Delete action button, for example by pressing B three times, and press it.
The number and the actions of these buttons depend on which list of conversations is being viewed. The general pattern is:
- There may be one or more buttons for the most frequently used actions.
- Then there's always a combo box containing more actions, and an associated Go button.
To apply one of these actions:
- Move to the combo box.
- Press ENTER to go into Forms mode.
- Select an action.
- TAB to the Go button and press it.
For example, for the Inbox, there are buttons to Archive, Report Spam, and Delete. The More Actions combo box contains options to Mark as read, Mark as unread, Add star, Remove star, and Apply and Remove any labels you're created.
Conversation list page navigation
To move to the start of the Conversation table, press CTRL + HOME, then X, since the checkbox on the first row of the table, is the first checkbox on the page. Navigating around this table is described in the next section. Using the quick navigation key T might sound like a good alternative, but it has a serious drawback. If there is only one conversation in the list, and so only one row in the table, Jaws does not treat this as a table, and says that there are no tables on the page. There is a good reason for this as web pages use tables for both layout and for presenting data, and tables with one row are usually used for layout. To move to the action buttons, use the quick navigation key B. To move to the more actions combo box, use C.
Conversation table navigation
To move around in a Conversation table which contains more than one row, you can use any of the following keystrokes:
- To move to the next checkbox, press X. This also reads the senders of the messages in the conversation.
- To move up or down columns, then press CTRL + ALT + UP ARROW or CTRL + ALT + DOWN ARROW.
- To move to first cell, press CTRL + ALT + HOME.
- Note that if you use CTRL + ALT + LEFT ARROW or CTRL + ALT + RIGHT ARROW or CTRL + ALT + NUMPAD 5 to read the cell to the left or right or the current cell, then Jaws uses the cells in the first row of the table as column headings. Alas, they aren't headings, and it's very confusing. To move along rows it's less confusing just to use UP ARROW and DOWN ARROW.
- To read the next row, current row, or previous row, then press WINDOWS KEY + DOWN ARROW, or WINDOWS KEY + NUMPAD 5, or WINDOWS KEY + UP ARROW respectively.
When you open a subject link in the Conversation table of a Conversation list page, you're taken to a Conversation page. On this page, you can read all the messages in the conversation, and both act of the conversation as a whole, and the individual messages in the conversation. The title of a Conversation page is the subject of the conversation, and the main content section contains the following elements:
- A link back to the Conversation list page, for example « Back to Inbox. Actions buttons. These are often the same set of Action buttons which appeared on the Conversation list page. These buttons are used to apply actions to the whole of the conversation.
- The number of the conversation in the list of conversations, eg. “4 of 314”. In addition there are < Newer, and Older > links, when appropriate, which take you to the next newer or older conversation in the list respectively.
- Two or three links which act of the whole conversation. If there is more than one message in the conversation, then there's either an Expand all or a Collapse all link, as described in the Messages section below. There are always Print and New Window links, which print the conversation and open the conversation in a new window respectively.
- A level 2 heading: the subject of the conversation. This is followed by a link to the Inbox if the conversation appears in the Inbox, and any labels.
- The messages in the conversation, which are described in detail in the next section.
- Repeat of the Action buttons, and the number of the conversation in the list of conversations.
Messages can be in one of two formats: expanded or collapsed. In the expanded format, the message text and all relevant information is given, whereas in the collapsed format only the latest email is shown. When you first move to a Conversation page, the last message and all unread messages are expanded — the rest are collapsed. Because only expanded messages have a heading; this makes it easy to find the unread messages in a conversation.
If one or more of the messages is collapsed, then before the subject level 2 heading, there's an Expand all link, which expands all the collapsed messages. If all the messages are expanded, then there's a Collapse all link, which collapses all but the last message.
An expanded message contains the following elements:
- A graphic link to either add or remove a star, depending on whether the messages is Unstarred or starred respectively.
- The name of the sender, which is both a level 3 heading, and a link. If you open the link, the message is collapsed. This is followed by the email address of the sender.
- An attachment graphic, if the message has one or more attachments.
- The date and time when the message was sent.
- To: followed by the email address of the recipient.
- A series of links: Reply, Reply to all, Forward, Print, Delete, and Show original.
- The text of the message.
If the message has one or more attachments, then there are links for viewing and downloading attachments. These are described in the Downloading attachments section below. If this is the last message of the conversation, then there are a set of controls for a quick reply, which are described in the Quick reply section below. Otherwise, there's a repeat of the series of links: Reply, Reply to all, etc.
A collapsed message contains the following elements:
- Either an Unstarred graphic or a starred graphic, depending on whether the message is Unstarred or starred respectively.
- The name of the sender which is a link (but not a level 3 heading). If you open the link, the message is expanded.
- An attachment graphic, if the message has one or more attachments.
- The date and time when the message was sent.
Note that when there are a large number of collapsed messages, these are sometimes merged into a single collapsed message, which contains text such as “17 hidden messages –”, followed by a Show link. If you open this link, all the hidden messages are shown as individual collapsed messages.
Conversation page navigation
The subject of the conversation is the fourth level 2 heading on the page. Immediately before this heading are the links and Action buttons which are used for applying actions to the whole conversation. In all the expanded messages, the name of the sender is a level 3 heading, so you can use these headings to browse through the expanded messages. If you need to read any of the collapsed messages, rather than expanding them individually, it's often easier to open the Expand all link, and then use the level 3 headings of the expanded messages to find the ones you want to read.
As described above, whether a message has one or more attachments is indicated by “attachment” just before the date and time when the message was sent. In an expanded message, the links for viewing and downloading the attachments appear after the text of the message. The following information and links are given for each attachment:
- Name of the file.
- Size of the file.
- For some file types, for example .html and .txt, there's a View link, which opens a new window, and displays the attachment.
- For some other file types, for example .doc and .PDF, there's a View as HTML link, which opens a new window, converts the file to HTML, and displays the attachment. For some other file types, for example .MP3 and .zip, there is no such link.
- Either a Scan and download link, or a Download link, depending on whether you're using Internet Explorer or FireFox. If you open this link, then a dialog opens which gives you the choice of either saving the file or opening it with its default program.
- In addition, if there's more than one attachment, then before the information about the individual attachments, there is the number of attachments, followed by either a link to Scan and download all attachments, or Download all attachments, depending on whether you're using Internet Explorer of FireFox respectively. If you open this link, then a dialog opens which allows you to either open or save a zip file containing all the attachments.
If you're in a message that contains one or more attachments, then a useful method of moving to the links to view or download the attachments is to use the links list dialog (INSERT + F7), to find the next link beginning with Scan, if using Internet Explorer, or Download, if using FireFox, and move to that link.
The last message on a Conversation page has a number of controls after the message text that allow you to quickly compose and send a reply, without having to go through the Compose Mail page. These controls are:
- A More Reply Options buttons, which is equivalent to the Reply link above the message text, and takes you to the Compose Mail page.
- An edit box for your message.
- Send and Save Draft buttons.
- An “Include quoted text with reply” checkbox, which is checked by default. So if you're in the last message on a Conversation page, you can just read down to the edit box, or press E, press ENTER to go into Forms mode, write the message, TAB to the Send button and press it.
Note that this method does not allow you to change any fields of the message, or attach any files.
There are a number of ways of composing a message which you want to send. Most of these use the Compose Mail page, which is described below. In addition, you can also use the Quick Reply feature which is only available on the last message of a conversation, which is described in the Quick reply section above.
To compose a message using the Compose Mail page:
- A new message from scratch. Open the Compose Mail link to go to the Compose Mail page. Since this link has the access key C, you can open the link in Internet Explorer by pressing ALT + C, then ENTER, and in Firefox 2 or later versions by pressing SHIFT + ALT + C.
- From your contacts. Open the Contacts link in the navigation section to go the Contacts page, which is described in detail in the Contact list section . Check the checkboxes of one or more contacts, and then press the Compose Mail button. You're taken to the Compose Mail page, where the To: field has been filled in for you.
- Replying to a message. Any expanded message on any Conversation page has a series of links just above the message text. If you open the reply link, then you're taken to the Compose Mail page, where the To: and Subject: fields have been filled in for you. In addition, the message edit box already contains a copy of the message to which you're replying.
- Forwarding a message. This is similar to replying to a message, as described in the previous option. Open the Forward link and you're taken to the Compose Mail page, where the Subject: field has already been filled in, and the message edit box contains a copy of the message, preceded by the words Forwarded message.
Compose Mail page
The Compose Mail page has the title “Compose Mail,” and the main content section contains the following elements:
- Send, Save Draft, and Discard buttons.
- The level 2 heading: Compose Form.
- To, cc, bcc, and subject edit boxes.
- Three controls for adding attachments: Attachments: edit box, Browse button, and an Attach More Files button.
- Message edit box.
- Send, Save Draft, and Discard buttons.
So to send a message:
When you're taken to the Compose Mail page, Jaws says that the initial focus is in the To: edit box. If you are using either the Firefox browser or Internet Explorer, just press ENTER to go into forms mode, and start entering stuff. If for any reason, the cursor is not in the To: edit box, press E to move to the To: edit box, and then press ENTER to go into Forms mode. Carry on pressing TAB to move between controls, and typing into the edit boxes. Adding attachments is covered in the next section. After you've typed your message in the message edit box, simply TAB to the Send button and press it.
To add attachments, you use the three controls which are between the subject: and message edit boxes: The Attachments edit box, the Browse button, and the Attach More Files button. If you want to attach only a single file to a message:
- Move to the Browse button which immediately follows the Attachments: edit box. Press the button using SPACEBAR or ENTER.
- A Choose File dialog opens, which has the same format as a standard Open dialog. Select a file, and press ENTER.
- You are returned to the Compose page, with the focus on the Browse button. Jaws reads the full path of the file that has been entered into the Attachments edit box. (Rather than browsing you can just type the full path of the filename into the edit box, but browsing is normally easier.)
If you want to attach multiple files to a message:
- Press the Attach More Files button.
- You are taken to a page which has the title Attach Files. The main content section of the page contains:
- Done and Cancel buttons
- A table with 2 columns and 10 rows. Each row is made up of an edit box and a Browse button.
- Attach More Files button. If you really want to attach more than 10 files.
- Done and Cancel buttons
- The easiest way of selecting files to attach is to use the Browse buttons, so there's no need to go into Forms mode on this page. Move to the first Browse button — using the quick navigation key B is one way to get there. Then follow the instructions which are given above for attaching a single file.
- To attach the other files just move to the next browse button a repeat the procedure.
- When you're finished attaching files, move to one of the Done buttons, and press it.
- You're returned to the Compose Mail page. Above the Attachments edit box there are now a series of checkboxes for the attached files.
If you open a conversation in the Drafts folder, then what happens depends on the number of messages in the conversation: If the conversation only contains a single message, which is the message you were writing, then when you open the conversation you are taken to the Compose Mail page. If the conversation contains one or more messages, then you're taken to a Conversation list page. The message you were replying to is expanded, and has a Quick reply section following it, even if it isn't the last message in the conversation. This is always the first Quick reply section on the page, so the easiest way of continuing to write the message is to press the first More Reply Options button on the page, which takes you to a Compose Mail page.
Whenever you reply to or forward a message, the address of the sender of the message is automatically added to your contact list. To go to the Contact list page, open the Contacts link which is in the navigation section of every page, and which is also a level 3 heading.
The functions available on the Contact list page are very basic. The title of the page is Contact list, and the main content section, contains the following elements:
- A Compose button.
- A Delete button. Check the check boxes of the contacts you want to delete and click the delete button.
- The two phrases “Frequently Mailed” and “All Contacts”. One of them is a link, the other plain text. They allow you to switch between two views of your contacts, either frequently mailed, or all. When you first enter the page, the view is frequently mailed, and so “All Contacts” is the link.
- An edit box and a Search Contacts button for searching your contacts.
- Some numbers describing how many of your contacts are displayed in the table below. Presumably, if you have more than 50 contacts, there are also links for moving between ranges of your contacts.
- A table containing a list of your contacts. The three columns of the table are:
- A checkbox, which is used together with the Compose button for writing messages to your contacts or for deleting a contact.
- The name of the contact, which is also a link.
- The email address of the contact.
- Another Compose button.
- Another Delete button.
To compose a message to one or more of your contacts, simply check one or more of the checkboxes, and press one of the Compose buttons. You are taken to the Compose mail page, where the To: field has been filled in for you.
Editing a contact
Click on the contact name which is a link. 'Edit contact' has the following elements:
- "Back to contacts" link, which will take you back to the list of contacts.
- Compose button
- Delete button
- A heading level 2, "Edit contact".
- A table containing different editable information about the contact.
- Save button
- Cancel button
- another "back to contacts" link.
- another compose button.
- Another delete button.
All of the information added for each of the contacts will be listed in the contact list view right below the contact email address.
Gmail's search is extremely flexible and powerful. To perform a simple search:
- Move to the Search edit box, which is the first form control on the page.
- Press ENTER to go into Forms mode, type in one or more words, and press ENTER.
- You are taken to a page which contains a list of the conversations which contain messages which match the search words. The title of the page, and the level 2 heading of the main content section is Search results for: “search words”.
The defaults for searches are:
- All the messages in the All Mail folder are searched, that is, all the messages you're sent or received, but have not deleted. However, the Spam and Trash folders aren't searched.
- The matches are case insensitive
- The search words are matched against words in the subject, To, and From fields, and in the message text.
- To perform more advanced searches, you can either use search operators in the text you enter into the search edit box, or you can use a form for entering various search options. These methods are described in the following two sections.
By default, words used for searching are matched against the words in all the fields of the message and in the message text. Search operators allow you to specify a single field of the message for matching, and also other attributes of the message, for example whether it's been read, which folder it's in, etc.
Most of the operators are fairly straightforward, but the use of parentheses can be more difficult to grasp. The following sections give some simple examples, then some examples using parentheses, and finally the definitions of all the search operators.
- is: unread, match's messages which are unread.
- from: David, matches messages whose sender includes the name David.
- from:firstname.lastname@example.org, matches messages from the email address email@example.com.
- from: David subject:concert, matches messages whose sender includes the word David, and whose subject contains the word concert.
- rock OR concert, matches messages which contain either rock or concert. Note that OR must be spelled with capitals.
- "audio books from librivox". Messages containing the exact phrase "audio books from librivox."
Examples using parentheses
Parentheses are used for grouping words to ensure that search expressions have the intended meaning. Here are some examples:
- subject:(rock concert) matches messages in which the subject contains both rock and concert. In the absence of the parentheses, it would match messages in which the subject contains rock, and in which concert occurred anywhere.
- subject:"rock concert" matches messages in which the subject contains the exact phrase "rock concert". Parentheses are not needed here, because the phrase acts as a single unit. (rock concert) OR bananas matches messages which either contain the words rock and concert, or contain the word bananas. Without parentheses the expression would match messages which either contain the words rock and concert, or contain the words rock and bananas.
- from:( (Mickey mouse) OR (Donald duck) ) matches messages in which the from: field either contains Mickey and mouse, or contains Donald and duck. Note the need for both parentheses.
Definitions of all search operators
Operator and definition
- is: unread or is: read search for messages which are unread or read respectively
- from: someone Specifies the sender. “someone" can be either one or more names, or an email address. Examples: from:susan, from:(Mickey mouse), and from:firstname.lastname@example.org.
- to:someone Specifies the recipient. “someone” can be either one more names, or an email address.
- subject:something subject includes “something”.
- label:something label is “something”. If the label consists of more than one word, you have to put hyphens between the words, for example label:donald-duck.
- has:attachment messages with one or more attachments
- filename:some filename messages with the attachment “some filename”, for example, filename:jokes.txt. filename:some file type messages with an attachment of the type “some file type”, for example filename:pdf. OR matches something or something else. OR must be in capitals
- quotes matches an exact phrase, for example, "Paris in the spring"
- parentheses used for grouping words, for example subject:(blues OR jazz).
- hyphen not. For example, -bananas, messages which don't contain the word bananas.
- in:anywhere messages anywhere in your mail, including spam and trash which are excluded by default.
- in:inbox, in:trash, or in:spam searches for messages in inbox, trash, or spam
- is:starred messages which are starred
- cc:someone or bcc:someone specifies either cc: recipient or bcc: recipient.
To use the search options:
Open the Show search options link, which comes shortly after the Search edit box. You are taken to a page with the title Search Options. In the main content section there are a number of form controls for setting various search options, starting with a From: edit box. After these controls, there's a Search Mail button. Set some options, and then either press ENTER if you're in an edit box, or TAB to the Search Mail button, and press it.
You're taken a page containing a list of the conversations which contain messages which match your search options. The title and level 2 heading of the main content section are Search results for: “search options”, where the search options are expressed in terms of the search operators described in the previous section. Note that the main content section also includes the form controls for setting search options — they are before the level 2 heading.
In addition to being able to delete conversations or individual messages, Gmail allows you to archive conversations from your Inbox. If you archive a conversation, the conversation is removed from your Inbox, but not from the All Mail folder, which contains everything which you haven't deleted.
After you have archived a conversation:
- You can still find the messages in the conversation by searching for them, because the All Mail folder is used for searching.
- If the conversation contains messages sent by you, it still appears in the Sent Mail folder.
- If the conversation has a label applied to it, then it still appears when you view the conversations which have that label.
So archiving allows you both to have a small number of conversations in your Inbox, and to still have old messages available.
The settings for Gmail are divided into a number of different categories, and each category has its own page. This section gives an overview of these pages, and how to navigate to them. The Labels and Filters pages are described in detail in the Labels and Filters sections of this guide.
The settings categories are:
- General. This includes a combo box for setting the display language of Google Mail, and this must be set to English(US) to get the accessible Basic HTML view, as discussed in the Introduction.
- Forwarding and POP. This includes settings which allow you to connect an email client, such as Outlook Express, to your Google Mail address.
To move to the Settings:general page, open the Settings link, which comes shortly after the Account Settings level 2 heading. All the settings pages have the title Settings. The main content section of all the settings pages contains the following:
- A level 2 heading: Settings
- The categories. All but the current category are links, and are used for moving to the various category pages.
- Various elements which vary from category to category.
So, for example, to move to the Settings:Labels page:
- First move to General settings page, as described above.
- On this page, move to the level 2 heading Settings.
- Read through the categories, until you get to the Labels link, and open it.
Gmail enables you to create your own labels, apply one or more labels to conversations, and use these labels for finding conversations.
The labels which you've created appear immediately after the level 2 heading Labels in the navigation section. In addition, in any Conversation table, if a conversation has one or more labels, then these appear before the subject of the conversation.
On the Settings:Label page, you can view, rename, remove, and create labels (how to go to the various settings pages is described in the Settings section above).
The main content section of the page contains the following:
- A level 2 heading: Settings
- A list of the settings categories. All but Labels are links, and are used for moving to the other category pages.
- A table containing details of the labels which you've created. The table has two columns, which have the headings Setting and Choices, and which contain: The name of the label, which is a link. This is followed by the number of conversations having this label. If you open the link, you're taken to a Conversation list page which contains all the conversations which have this label. An edit box and a rename button, followed by a remove button. A Create a new label edit box, followed by a Create button.
On the Settings:Labels page, to create a new label:
- Move to the Create a new label edit box.
- Press ENTER to go into Forms mode, type in a name for the label, and press ENTER. The page refreshes, and the new label appears in the table of labels.
You can apply or remove labels on any Conversation page, or on any Conversation list page.
On a Conversation page, any labels the conversation has appear after the subject of the conversation which is a level 2 heading.
To apply or remove labels on a Conversation page:
- Move to the More Actions combo box, which appears amongst the Action buttons at the beginning and end of the main content section. Since it's the only combo box on the page, you can simply press C to move to it.
- Press ENTER to move into Forms mode. The list of actions in the Combo box includes “Apply labels” followed by the existing labels, and also “Remove labels” followed again by the existing labels. Select a label in the appropriate section. TAB to the Go button, which is the next control, and press it.
To apply or remove labels on a Conversations list page:
- Check the checkboxes of the conversations either to which you want to apply a label, or from which you want to remove a label.
- Move to the More Actions combo box, which appears amongst the Actions buttons above and below the conversations table. For example, press C to move the More Actions combo box after the table.
- Follow steps 2 and 3 which were given above for a Conversation page.
You can get a list of the conversations with a particular label by using the label links which are immediately after the level 2 heading Labels. If you open one of these links, you are taken to a page containing a list of the conversations with this label. The title of the page, and the level 2 heading of the main content section is Label:name.
You can search using labels by using the search operator label:, as described in the Search operators section. For example, here's an alternative method for getting a list of conversations with a particular label:
- Move to the search edit box, which is the first control on the page.
- Press ENTER to go into Forms mode, type label:name, where “name” is a label, and then press ENTER.
- You are taken to a page containing a list of the conversations with this label. The title of the page and the level 2 heading of the main content sections is Search results for: Label:name.
In Gmail, you can create your own filters, which help you to organize your incoming messages. A filter automatically applies one or more actions to incoming messages which match some criteria.
On the Settings:Filters page, you can view, edit, delete, and create filters (how to get to the various settings pages is described in the Settings section above).
The main content section of the page contains the following:
- A level 2 heading: Settings
- The categories. All but the Filter category are links, and are used for moving to the various other category pages.
- For each filter which you've created there are: “Matches:” followed by the criteria, which are expressed using the search operators. “Do this:” followed by one or more actions. edit and delete buttons. A Create a new Filter button.
Creating a filter involves two stages: specifying the matching criteria, and then specifying one or more actions that will be taken on the messages which match the given criteria.
On the Settings:Filters page:
- Press the Create a new Filter button.
- The page is refreshed. The main content section remains unchanged, but a group of elements for specifying the filter criteria now appear between the
search controls and the navigation section. These elements are:
- A level 2 heading: Create a filter.
- 5 edit boxes, and a check box for specifying criteria.
- Cancel, Test Search, and Next Step buttons.
- Enter the criteria using one or more of these controls.
- If you want, you can check which existing messages match this criteria. To do this, press the Test Search button, and the page refreshes.
In the main content section there is now:
- A level 2 heading: Search results for: “criteria” where criteria are your filter criteria defined using the search operators described in the Search operators section.
- A Conversation table containing the conversations which contain messages which match the criteria.
- Once you are happy with the criteria, press the Next Step button.
- You're taken to a page where you can specify the action to be taken on the messages that match your criteria.
Between the search controls and the navigation section are:
- A level 2 heading: Create a filter.
- 5 checkboxes for selecting actions. After the Apply the label: checkbox, there's a Choose label combo box, and after the Forward it to: checkbox, there's an email address edit box.
- A checkbox for also applying the filter to the existing messages which match the criteria. The conversations which contain these messages are shown in the Conversation table which is in the main content section of the page.
- Cancel, Back, and Create Filter buttons.
Specify one or more actions using the controls, and press the Create Filter button. You are returned to the Settings:Filters page, where the new filter is now listed.
Creating a Gmail address
The process of creating a Google Mail address includes verifying that you're a human being rather than some malicious software, by getting you to listen to some audio, and type in the numbers which are spoken. If you use the Firefox browser, and you haven't got the QuickTime plug-in already installed, then you are prompted to install this plug-in so that you can listen to the audio. So unless you've already got QuickTime installed, or really want to install it, it's best to use Internet Explorer for creating a Google Mail address.
To get to the application form, go to mail.google.com, and open the link “Sign up for Google Mail”, or “Sign up for Gmail”. You're taken to a page with the title Google Accounts. The following sections describe the various sections of the form.
Change Language combo
This will probably be set to English, by which it means US English. This combo box must be set to English, because it's only the US English version of the Basic HTML view that is accessible.
First and last names
When you get to the First name edit box, press ENTER to go into forms mode, type in your first name, then TAB to the next control, which is the Last name edit box. Type in your last name, and then TAB to the next control.
Preferred login name
Your login name is both the name you use for signing in to your mail, and the part of your email address which appears before the @ sign. Note that in most countries, your email address will have the form login email@example.com, but in a small number of countries, including the UK, it will have the form of login firstname.lastname@example.org. Your login name has to be at least 6 characters long. Many login names have already been taken by other people, so part of choosing a login name involves checking the availability of potential names:
- Type a name into the Desired Login Name edit box, TAB to the check availability! button, and press it.
- The page refreshes, you are taken out of Forms mode, and the focus remains on the check availability! button. Read line by line the text that has now appeared below the button. If the name is available, then it says “name” is available. You can then carry on reading down to choose a password which is described in the next section.
- If the name is unavailable, is says “name” is not available, and displays 4 radio boxes, with suggested names which are available. If you're happy with one of these, just press SPACEBAR to set it, and then carry on reading down to choosing a password, which is described in the next main step. If you want to try another name, press SHIFT + E to move back to the edit box, press ENTER to go back into Forms mode, and try again.
- Choose a password Your password must be at least 8 characters long.
- At the Choose a password edit box, press ENTER to go back into Forms mode, and type in your password.
- TAB past the Password strength link to get to the Re-enter password edit box, and type in your password again.
- TAB to the Remember me on this computer checkbox, and set as desired.
- TAB to the Enable Web History checkbox. The following text appears above the checkbox: “Web History is a feature that will provide you with a more personalized experience on Google that includes more relevant search results and recommendations.” Set the checkbox as desired, and then TAB to the next control. Security question
You have to set up a security question and answer which Google will ask you if you ever forget your password.
- When you get to the security question combo box, select one of the options for the question. Note that the last option which is immediately after “What was your first teacher's name” is “Write my own question”. When you select that option, Jaws does not read the option, but an edit box is created below the combo box for you to type in your question, and the focus is moved to the edit box. If you want to move back to the combo box, press SHIFT + TAB.
- Once you've selected a question, or written your own, TAB past the learn more link to the Answer edit box, and type in your answer.
- TAB to the next control. Secondary email If you have another email address, Google can use it if there are problems with your account. When you get to the Secondary email edit box, type in an existing email address if you've got one, and want to, and then TAB past the learn more link to the next control.
The Location combo box, contains a large number of possible locations. It helps to use the first letter of the location to find it more quickly. Once you've found your location, TAB to the next control.
To check that you're a human being filling in this form, and not some automated process set up to create millions of spurious accounts, Google gets you to either type in the distorted characters in a picture, or to type in the numbers which are spoken in an audio recording which also contains a background of distracting speech. In this recording, a series of single digit numbers are spoken, a clear voice says “once again”, and then the series of numbers is repeated.
To perform the audio verification:
- When you get to the “type the characters you see or numbers you hear” edit box, TAB to the “listen and type the numbers you hear” link graphic, and open it.
- You are taken out of Forms mode, and the focus is placed back in the previous edit box. The audio recording starts. Press ENTER to go into Forms mode, and then type the numbers that you hear. Because Jaws talks over the start of the recording as you're moved back to the edit box, and then go back into Forms mode, you may find it easier to wait till the voice says once again before typing the numbers in.
- If you don't get the hang of it the first time, just TAB to the “listen and type the numbers you hear” link graphic, open it, and try again.
Terms of Service
To read the Terms of Service, Press NUMPAD PLUS to come out of forms mode, and then read a line at a time. You'll first pass over some links and text to do with the verification, an introduction to the terms of service, a printable version link which opens in a new window or tab, and then the terms and conditions in an read-only edit box.
Once you've read as much as you want in the edit box, you can use the quick navigation key D to move out of the edit box to the next different element, which is some text. Start reading line by line again, until you get to the “I accept. Create my account button.”
Create an account button
Assuming you accept the conditions, press the button. The two cases of the account creation being successful or unsuccessful are described below.
If the account creation is successful, then you're taken to a page with the title Introduction to Gmail, and with the words Introduction to Gmail, and Congratulations! near the top of the page. There's also an “I'm ready - show me my account” link, which can take you to your inbox. Note that the page will be in standard view, so you'll have to open the first link on this page to change to the Basic HTML view. There'll be one message in your Inbox, welcoming you to Gmail or Google Mail.
If the account creation is unsuccessful, then you're returned to the same page. Possible problems include:
- You've left one or more of the required fields blank. After one or more of the edit boxes, there will be the words “Required field cannot be left blank”.
- The entries in the Choose a password and Re-enter password edit boxes weren't the same.
- After the Choose a password edit box, there will be the words“Passwords do not match”.
Note that after making the corrections, you have to repeat the verification stage, and re-enter your password twice, before pressing the create an account button again.
Vivian is a Gmail expert and the author of this help page. Leave her feedback about this help page.