Google integrated its other apps into Gmail. Here’s how to best use them.

Go beyond email.
laptop screen showing gmail
Gmail can do much more than manage your messages. Justin Morgan / Unsplash

Gmail is a powerhouse of an email app, and its strengths go way beyond sending and receiving messages. The platform also allows you to bring in several of Google’s other apps to join the party from right inside the Gmail interface, giving you quick and easy access to your calendars, to-do list, files, and notes.

Google Chat and Google Meet

If you want, you can have Google Chat and Google Meet open right alongside Gmail on the web. To do this, click the cog icon (top right), then See all settings, and Chat and Meet. Select Google Chat next to Chat to show your text conversations, and Show the Meet section in the main menu next to Meet to see quick links to starting and joining a video call inside your browser.

Drag the top or bottom edges of the Chat and Meet panels on the left sidebar to alter their size and arrange them as you want on screen. It can also be useful to keep your most important contacts near the top of the list—do it by clicking the three dots next to a name and choosing Pin.

[Related: How to use Google Meet’s newest features]

Click on a contact to have the conversation pop up. If you click the three dots in the top right corner of the chat window, you can choose whether to save the chat history. If you want to do so, Gmail will archive the log in your account. You can pull it up in the All mail view of your inbox and search for specific words and phrases within it.

Finally, back on the main Gmail interface, you’ll see a Google Chat status button up in the top right corner. By default, this will show Active, telling your contacts you’re online and available. Click this button to change your status and edit the notification settings for Chat in the browser.

Google Drive

You don’t really have to do anything to enable Google Drive integration in Gmail, but it’s worth knowing that it’s there. Hover the cursor over any email attachment and you’ll see an Add to Drive option—select it to save the file to your Google Drive account.

The Google Drive integration works in the other direction, too. When you’re composing an email you can click the Google Drive icon to insert files directly from the cloud. The same button now also shows up in Chat windows—click it to send a file to your contact straight from your Drive account.

Google Tasks

You may or may not see a side panel of icons on the right of the Gmail interface on the web. If you don’t, look for a small arrow button down in the bottom right corner of your screen—click it to make the side panel appear.

Click the Tasks button (the blue checkmark) to see your to-do lists. The drop-down menu next to My tasks at the top lets you switch between different lists—for example, you can have one for shopping, another one for chores, and another for work-related tasks. On this menu you can also click on Create new list to set up a new list.

In the actual list, click Add a task to add a new entry to the list, or check one of the buttons to mark a task as complete and remove it. You can also click and drag tasks to change their order on the list. Click the three dots in the top right corner to change the sorting of the list, rename it, and delete completed tasks.

You can also create tasks from emails. With an open message on screen, click the Add to tasks button (it looks like a checkmark inside a circle) on the navigation bar right above the subject line. This will create a new task on your list, with a link to the specific email. From the Tasks tool, you can add extra details like a date and a time.

Google Calendar

Google Calendar appears on the side panel in Gmail as well—as with Google Tasks, just click the Google Calendar button to see it. By default, you’ll see your upcoming events for the current day, but if you want to see what you’ve got for next week, for example, you can click the date at the top and change the date you’re looking at.

Open any event to see more details about it, and make changes if you need to. On the three-dot menu at the top, you can switch to a more general overview of your schedule for the upcoming days, and choose which of your calendars shows up in this Gmail side panel.

When you get emails about hotel stays, flights, gigs, restaurant reservations, and other similar events, Google will add the details to Google Calendar automatically. If you don’t want this to happen, from Google Calendar on the web, click the cog icon (top right), then Settings and Events from Gmail—uncheck the Show events automatically created by Gmail in my calendar box.

Google Keep

Google Keep lives in the Gmail side panel alongside Google Tasks and Google Calendar. Click the Keep icon (a lightbulb inside a yellow square) to open up your list of notes. At the top, you’ll see the option to search through your entries or to add a new one.

[Related: Seven apps and tools to help organize your life]

All the Keep basics are here, but you can’t access all of the platform’s features inside Gmail. For example, you won’t be able to change note colors or add checkboxes.

If you create a new Keep note in the side panel while a particular email is open in Gmail, Google will automatically add a link to that email to the note. And whenever you open the linked email, the note will also show up again in the right-hand panel.