How to Recall a Sent Email on Gmail


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How many times have you wished you could recall an email after sending it to the wrong person, or after sending an email you instantly regretted? Maybe you paid the wrong client, or not remember to attach a file before hitting “Send.” How many times have you been in a situation where you’re shot off an email and then realized you shouldn’t have? You’ve forgotten to attach the report you wanted to share. Resumes sent to incorrect addresses, projects delivered to friends instead of colleagues and private conversations by mistake emailed… How many times have we all been there? Possibly not always but then we’re sure you’ve faced that fear at least once where you’ve wanted to undo an email you accidentally sent but couldn’t and had to face the result for it.

While these cases indeed can be upsetting, other mistakes can get you into legal mess. For example, healthcare providers and other covered entities can breach HIPAA by sending an email containing confined health information to the wrong person. Covered entities could be looking at fines of up to $50,000 for a single email mistake.

We’ve all sent emails on the prompt of the moment that we’ve regretted. Specific email programs offer an option to recall or retract an email, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the recipient won’t still receive it. Gmail’s Undo Send feature works differently in that it waits to send your email, giving you a certain amount of time to change your mind and stop it from being sent. But you have to be quick, as Gmail gives you only a definite number of seconds to stop your email.

For all those using Gmail, there has since long been a feature in Google Labs where you could turn on the recall an email feature which essentially let you ‘undo send’ your email. It was like a blessing. Google Labs were their experimental features that users could activate on their Gmail accounts and were still being tried and tested. Although it was for years that Undo or Undo sending emails was a part of Google’s Beta, we are glad that they finally made it a fully fledged setting in Gmail. It’s pretty handy and can save a whole lot of virtual pain if enabled and used on time. Though the feature is not perfect, it is something better than nothing and at least gives users one chance at correcting their mistake.

Some emails systems work at letting users stop the email in the process and recall it. Though, the receiver might get a notification that the email was sent. You can recall the email, and after the recall, a message will go out to the receiver that the email has been recalled, asking them to pay no attention to it. But that does not mean that the email has not been read. It can lead to awkward situations or just the fact that you sent an email which had errors and then had to be recalled can create much shamefacedness. It is worse in office settings where the users might sometimes send out mass emails or emails to multiple people in one go. Having everyone know that you made a mistake is not the best thing to create an impression in office.

So then, it is quite a good thing that Google’s Gmail allows you to recall a sent mail, even though for a few seconds. The moment you send the email, you’ve to be quick in stopping it and do it in seconds or the email is gone for good, and then, there’s no other recall option. So then, if you realize within a few seconds that you forgot to attach a necessary file or that you misspelled your boss’ name, you’re good or else, bear their anger. The feature is not auto turned on in Gmail once you create an account, and you will have to go to settings to enable it, but it’s not really a destructive process and quite simple. Since Gmail made it an official part and no longer is it in Beta, it has become even more straightforward and easy to activate and to relieve your mind of all the hassles and worries. So then, how do you go about it? Keeping it simple, here’s how:

Recall Email Using Gmail’s Undo Send Feature

If you’re a Gmail user, you might be familiar with the Google Labs Undo Send feature. For years, this trial feature was available to savvy users who wanted to recall email they’d sent using the popular client. (If you’re using Google Apps for Work (now known as G Suite), you still have to access the Undo Send feature through Google Labs.)

As of June 23, the Undo Send functionality moved from Google Labs to Gmail proper and is one of the several settings you can organize right inside your inbox. While the functionality of Undo Send is limited, it can save the most quick-witted email users from potential embarrassment provided they can react in time.

To configure the Undo Send feature (and make sure it’s enabled):

1.  Log into your Gmail account with your username and password. (It might be helpful if you have activated your 2-step verification system)

2.  Once your account loads, locate the Settings icon – the gear-like button on the top right corner of your Inbox.

3.  Click the drop-down arrow next to the gear icon. A new menu will open. Choose Settings in the menu.

4.  Open the General Tab in the new Menu (it should default open to the General Tab, but if it does not, change the tab to General) and slowly scroll down the Tab.

5.  The 10th option from the top is the ‘Undo Send’ option. Tick the small ‘Enable Undo Send‘ button next to the option.

6.  Now comes the most important part – choosing for how long you can delay sending the message so you can undo the Send. You have multiple options from 5 seconds to 30 seconds. Choose what is the most suitable for you.

7.  Once you’re done, scroll right to the bottom of the menu and choose ‘Save Changes’. Your changes will be saved.

Note that this only turns the feature on it’s a preemptive measure. If the checkbox next to “Enable Undo Send” isn’t selected at the time you need to recall an email, you’re out of luck.

Once you’ve set up Undo Send, it’s easy to recall the email, provided you’re quick on your feet. Within 30 seconds of sending your email (or fewer, if you haven’t configured Undo Send to give you 30 seconds), you’ll see a yellow tooltip near the top of your inbox that says “Your message has been sent. Undo. View Message.” Click “Undo” to recall the email, and you’ll be sent to the email’s draft, where you can make any edits or dispose of the message entirely.

While the ability to recall email within 30 seconds is a nice feature, half a minute is almost not enough time to identify a mistake, conquer your sense of panic and stop the message especially if you’ve already closed Gmail, or have a slow Internet connection. In this view, you do not indeed recall the email, but just delaying the process of sending it.

Why Take Back an Email?

If you’ve ever wished you could recall an email, you’re not alone. Almost certainly everyone who has a Gmail account has wanted, at one time or another, that they could recall a message.

Here are just some of the situations where you might want to unsend a Gmail message:

•   It was an incomplete message you sent by chance.

•   It’s a message with a typo or an error.

•   The message was sent during a burst of emotion, and you instantly regretted it.

•   You copied the wrong people on the message.

•   The information you include in the email changes just as you press Send.

•   You clicked Reply All instead of Reply when answering a message.

I’m sure you can think of your examples when you wished you could unsend an email message.

Although Gmail does have an Unsend feature, it’s important to remember that there are some limits:

Strict Time Limitation – You define the period during which you can unsend a message (up to 30 seconds). What this means is that you can’t wait a day and then try to recall a message you sent yesterday.

The Feature Must Be Enabled – To use the Undo send feature you will need to go to the Settings menu and enable it. If you do not enable the feature, it cannot be used.

Still, despite the limits, the Undo send feature is an excellent option to have. You’ve just sent off an angry email to your boss from your Gmail account. Should you start looking for a new job? Not if you’ve enabled Gmail’s Undo Send feature.

I recommend enabling it. You never know when you want to recall a Gmail message.

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