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How does GMail's "undo send" work?

I heard that Google added an “undo” to their send button. How can
that work? I thought you said that once you send an email it’s out of
your control?

(This is anticipatory – I expect people to be asking.)

I stand by that statement: GMail’s “undo send” is not really an
“undo” at all. It’s certainly helpful, but it’s not what you might
think.

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GMail's Undo Send option

The undo send feature, which you’ll find in Settings -> Labs, is really more like a “delay before sending” feature. When enabled, it “holds on” to your email for 5 seconds before the email is really sent.

GMail Undo Send

5 seconds.

That’s all the time you have to rethink your send.

After that time has elapsed, there is no undo.

It works because GMail doesn’t actually send your mail for 5 seconds. They’re holding on to it before sending it, in case you want to change your mind.

This is actually very similar to a technique mentioned by Outlook users, where you can set up a rule to delay the send of a message by some amount of time. Change your mind within that time, and you can stop Outlook from sending your message.

But I do have to reiterate, once your email has actually been sent, there’s no way to “undo” it; there’s no way to get it back.

(OK, a caveat for the pedants: some corporate email systems – where everyone is on the same mail system such as Microsoft Exchange – do, sometimes, have the ability for a true “remove it from the recipient’s inbox” undo between users on the same system. But this is not available for internet email or for the average user on the internet.)

So certainly, enable the feature – it’s kinda cool, and has already saved several people from sending erroneous or incomplete messages. But realize what it is, and what it is not.

Think before you send. No matter what.

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10 comments on “How does GMail's "undo send" work?”

  1. it seems the Labs tab does not appear in all language versions of GMail. Why is that?

    Google’s choice, I would assume.

    – Leo
    24-Mar-2009
    Reply
  2. From Gmail website :

    Gmail labs aren’t yet compatible with all of our supported browsers. Labs are available only in Internet Explorer 7.0+, Firefox 2.0+, Safari 3.0+, and Google Chrome. You won’t see a ‘Labs’ tab in your Settings if you’re not using the newer version of Gmail on the browsers listed above. Please note that if you’re using Internet Explorer 6.0, you will not have Gmail Labs.

    Reply
  3. AOL allows you to “unsend” mail to other AOL members (if you use their mail program of course – I use Thunderbird). However, it can only be done with OTHER AOL members (I assume it is held in some AOL server somewhere waiting to be opened). It would be nice if the entire Internet used a system that EVERYBODY to use (other than AOL of course), then this feature could be implemented throughout.

    Reply
  4. recently i’m having attachment problems with Gmail. I’m not able to attach any files. Is it only me or any of u people experiencing such problems

    Reply
  5. @Anand

    See if you have the flash uploader enabled. If you do, you’ll need to have the flash plugin installed in your browser, which may be your problem.

    Reply
  6. make this experiment :
    Send an email to yourself
    you will see appear a new email in your inbox
    undo sending … the email will disappear …
    do the same experiment with two windows (one sending, the other one receiving) you will be able to see the content of the email and to undo sending in the meanwhile …

    so Gmail is doing some tricky stuff when it comes to google’s user ?

    Reply
  7. Hi, Actually, someone was threatening me that he would complain about me to POLICE OR ANY OTHER SECURITY AGENCY. And, he would find my address from the emails I sent to him. We exchanged a couple of mails through Gmail. So, I have deleted my gmail account. Now, can anyone locate my correct address or Google would still keep my record of emails and locate my address?

    Only with the help of law enforcement. Otherwise it’s unlikely. Here are two articles already on Ask-Leo!
    addressing this concern
    What
    Can People Tell From My IP Address
    Can
    I Get Someone’s Name and Address From Their IP Address?

    22-Oct-2011
    Reply
  8. Hi, Thanks for your reply. But, I want to know that even if I have closed my Gmail account, can they (cyber police or google ) still track my home address or some other information to reach me?

    There is no way to know for sure – but I believe it’s very likely that Google keeps some for of records for some amount of time that they could be compelled to turn over to the authorities even after you’ve closed your account.

    Leo
    23-Oct-2011
    Reply
  9. The undo feature can be changed from the default 5 seconds to up to 30 seconds. Still not a lot of time to decide… and it’s not very self-evident how to “kill” the e-mail. They need to do more “lab work” on this, IMHO. The only real e-mail deletion system that works that I know of is from BigString.com.

    Reply

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