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iOS Mail App: In-Depth Guide on Gestures & Shortcuts

I remember having the original iPhone, which was seven years ago, and how much I was amazed by its design and features. I remember this smartphone as a unique device that managed to bring a large touch-screen and a set of apps that changed the way I communicate with others. Even though it can be funny to remember how simple the Mail app was back then, it somehow managed to keep me as its active user throughout the years.

A lot of people say that you can find much better alternatives on the iOS App Store, but I can only partially agree with this. Even though you can find other e-mail clients that bring tons of advanced features, Apple’s Mail app is the only app that is both simple and accessible to first-time iOS users as well as powerful enough for pros.

From my conversations with other iOS users who say that the Mail app is simple and basic in features, I learned that many of them aren’t aware of how productive you can become if you know a couple of useful shortcuts. I am actually surprised to see that Apple failed to advertise these shortcuts and gestures.

Without further ado, let’s see some of the most useful shortcuts and gestures that you can use within the Mail app to help you become more productive.

[tab_item title=”1. / Pull to Refresh”]

  1. Pull to RefreshiOS Mail App Pull to Refresh

Let’s start with the basics. Even though many of you are aware that you can pull the content of your inbox to refresh it, there are still some iOS users that haven’t tried this.

Pull-to-refresh was originally created by Loren Brichter for Tweetie but is now omnipresent in iOS. If you want to check for new messages in the Mail app, all you need to do is to touch the mailbox screen and pull it down – further than you would for search.

[tab_item title=”2. / Add Attachments”]

  1. Add AttachmentsiOS Mail App Attachment

You can easily attach files to your email messages by touching and holding on the screen to bring up the edit menu. Once it appears, you can use the arrows to get more options. This is also a good way to insert a photo or video.

If you’d like to add an attachment, simply tap on “Add Attachment”. Even though you’ll be taken to your iCloud Drive by default, you can tap on “Locations” at the top right, which is where you can access files from other sources like Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive.

[tab_item title=”3. / Swipe to Go Back”]

  1. Swipe to Go BackiOS Mail App Swipe Back

You can easily go back to a previous page in the Mail app by swiping from the left side of the screen. You can swipe from the right too to go in the other direction. This gesture is especially handy for those who have bigger iPhones.

Swipe-to-Go-Back is yet another system-wide gesture, so you can use it with any other Apple-made application.


[tab_item title=”4. / Mark as Unread”]

  1. Mark as UnreadiOS Mail App Mark as Unread

As we said earlier, you can swipe from the left to go back inside of an app. However, if you tap on a message and swipe from the left you see another useful option.

You will need to swipe just far enough to see the big blue button saying “Mark as (Un)Read”, but if you continue swiping you can skip the tap and activate the button. As you can see by now, this is a good way to mark emails as reading or unread.

[tab_item title=”5. / Flag & Trash”]

  1. Flag and TrashiOS Mail App Swipe

Similarly to marking an email as unread, you can quickly trash or flag a message. To do that, touch it and swipe from right to left.

This action will cause you to see the big orange button to flag a message, or the big red button to delete it. If you continue swiping towards the left side of the screen, the Mail app will automatically trash the message.

[tab_item title=”6. / Additional Options”]

  1. Reach Additional Context OptionsiOS Mail App More Options

While swiping from the right towards the left, you will actually see three options: Trash, Flag, and More.

If you tap on the big gray button, you will reach additional options such as: Reply All, Forward, Mark, Notify Me, and Move Message.

As you can see, there are a couple of very useful options in here. What I use the most is the “Notify Me” option, where you can “snooze” a message. This is a good way to remind yourself to reply at a later time.


[tab_item title=”7. / Swipe Settings”]

  1. Swipe SettingsiOS Mail App Swipe Options

If you don’t like the options that come out when you swipe across the Mail app, you can easily change them.

Go to your Settings app, and then find Mail > Swipe Options. You will see on the screen that you can edit both swiping gestures, so you can set up something that you’re more familiar with. For example, this is an easy way to setup archiving a message instead of sending it to trash.

[tab_item title=”8. / Stack Drafts”]

  1. Stack DraftsiOS Mail App Drafts View

When you’re composing a new message, touch the title bar and swipe it down to store your message as a draft. This could be a good way to save the message you’re composing in case you need to look something up.

Additionally, you can keep multiple draft cards at the same time, and tap them to get a Rolodex interface just like you would do with tabs in Safari. This is one of the lesser known features of the Mail app.

[tab_item title=”9. / Jump to Drafts”]

  1. Jump to DraftsiOS Mail App Draft

This is another well-hidden little feature that could actually save you a lot of time.

If you tap on the compose button, you will start a new message. However, if you tap and hold on it, you will be shown a list of your recent drafts. This way, you can pick up where you left off.


We hope you’ve found these tips helpful. As you can see, the Mail app is not as simple as many believe, and there are some very interesting and useful features that are a bit hidden.

In case you have a gesture that you discovered within the Mail app, write about it in the comments section bellow, and we’ll gladly update this guide.

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