If you are like me, you are probably a big fan of Gmail. The email client, like most other Google products, has an intuitive interface that gives you all the tools you need to manage your inbox, sent, and draft email folders.
But, because Google keeps adding new features to Gmail, that interface sometimes feels too damn cluttered. You will be forgiven for wanting to clean or remove your Gmail sidebar to get a leaner, more minimalist look.
Among the things that you may want to remove from your Gmail in order to get that lean look and feel you desire is the Google Hangouts chat box. Yes, the ability to access all your apps – the entire Google suite, Twitter, and others – from your email client has some benefits.
Yet, those constant chat suggestions, ads, and app notifications can turn your Gmail into a jungle and really clutter things up. Thank God Google has now discontinued the Gadgets feature.
There are tools you can use to remove or hide most of the non-essential Gmail features, like the navigation bar, stars, the Gmail logo, and search bar, and some buttons to achieve a truly spartan Gmail. But today we will cover the ways you can use to remove some elements of both sidebars.
Ways to clear your sidebars and minimize Gmail
- Turn off Google Hangouts/Chat
- Remove unimportant labels to remove them from your left sidebar
- Disable unessential Google Labs features
- Use the Gmail Ad Remover to clear the right-hand sidebar
As I said, I am a big fan of having everything in one place. But I have often had to gnaw at my fingernails while waiting patiently for my Gmail to load. Even when it does finally load, I will still get the pesky ‘something is not right’ or ‘Oops, the system encountered a problem’ error messages as some of the app‘s features fail to load.
Add the time I will have to wait for all of my Gmail‘s features to load, on top of the time I will have to read my emails, thrash the junk and respond to the ones I have to, and I end up spending too much time than I need to on email. A leaner Gmail will thus not be a such a bad thing.
Solution 1 – Turn off Google Hangouts/Chat
You probably don’t need to see a record of all your recent chats every time you open your Gmail. Follow the steps below to remove the chat box from your Gmail sidebar;
- Log into your Gmail,
- Click the settings icon. It’s the gear wheel in the top right corner, right under your profile picture will be.
- Choose Settings on the drop-down menu,
- Click the Chat tab and check the Chat Off option,
- Click the Save Changes button at the bottom of the page.
For some people, the Hangouts Chatbox is on the right-hand sidebar. This cramps your Gmail even more as it shrinks the screen space for your emails, which is its primary purpose. Follow these steps to remove the right-side chat box and free up some space;
- Click the settings icon and select Settings on the drop-down menu,
- Click the Labs folder and type Right side chat in the search bar,
- Turn off that lab and save the changes.
If you had already turned off Chat in the Chat folder referred above you may need to first turn it on to access the right sidebar chat lab. You can then go back to the Chat folder settings and turn off Chat again.
Solution 2 – Remove unimportant labels to remove them from your left sidebar
Have you noticed how you almost never use some of the labels on the left sidebar of your Gmail? Some of these include All mail, Starred, Personal, Travel, Drafts, [Imap]/Trash, [Imap]/Sent, and Spam. To remove these from your sidebar, follow these steps;
- Click the settings gear icon in your Gmail and choose the Settings option on the drop-down menu,
- Click on the Labels folder. You will see a list of labels currently showing on your left sidebar, like this;
- Simply check the hide option against every system label and category you have no use for on your sidebar.
The more permanent option will be to choose the ‘remove’ option, which will delete the label altogether. I didn’t want to be that drastic and simply hid them. I can simply click the more button to bring up all the hidden labels.
I chose to hide all the categories and other labels like Drafts, All Mail, Trash, and Spam. That instantly brought a lighter feel and minimalist look to my Gmail.
Solution 3 – Disable unessential Google Labs features
The Google developers team look like they have done all they could to consolidate most of what the average user may require from their email client. In fact, they have done more than that and are constantly experimenting with new features to improve your Gmail. They call these Gmail Labs. Some of these may not become permanent features but some will.
While this is a really cool touch by Google, if you enable one too many of these Gmail lab features you may clutter your Gmail and end up making it difficult to keep your focus and stay productive. Some of the gadgets you can add to your Gmail include Google Calendar, Auto Advance, Mark As Read Button, and Multiple Inboxes.
These experimental features often bring a lot of cool conveniences when you first install them. But they are also the first items you look to remove when you want to bring some order back to your Gmail. To uninstall them, follow these steps;
- Click the Settings gear icon and choose the Settings option on the drop-down menu,
- Go to Labs and disable any you don’t use often. Save the changes.
Solution 4 – Use the Gmail Ad Remover to clear the right-hand sidebar
Before Google removed the Gadgets feature, you had probably learned to live with images of your Facebook and Twitter feeds on your Gmail constantly taunting you to check your notifications and get distracted from that important email to have to reply.
But ads right inside your Gmail are just annoying. The worst thing is they compete for the same real estate on which your emails are supposed to display – the right-hand sidebar.
Maybe Google foresaw the irritation these ads would bring and developed the Gmail Adblocker. Let’s use it to reclaim that right-hand sidebar and maximize screen space for your messages;
- Google or search the Chrome Webstore for ‘Adblocker for Gmail‘,
- Click the Add to Chrome button in the top right corner of the addon’s window.
Consider other ways of improving your Gmail experience
Other than cleaning both your right and left sidebars, there is a lot more you can do to trim and minimize your Gmail to make it more manageable. You can consider unsubscribing from any newsletters you no longer read and delete junk mail or highlight them as spam as soon as you receive them.
There are also some good email management tools like unroll me, which does a great job cleaning your inbox and rolling your favorite newsletters and regular emails into a single bundle. If you want to be really drastic, you can also consider not publishing your email address and only sharing it with your important contacts.
We hope these few tricks will help clean your sidebars, reduce clutter, and minimize your Gmail. A leaner Gmail, with lesser distractions, will certainly help you to stay on top of your tasks and get more work done.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2017 and has been since completely revamped and updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.
RELATED ARTICLES YOU NEED TO CHECK OUT:
- How to fix Mail app sync error 0x80048830 on Windows 10
- How to fix Gmail attachment errors
- New Gmail phishing threat could jeopardize millions of accounts