I really like how Gmail creates conversation and discussion threads until I want to print just one message, not everything. Is there a way to accomplish that?
People seem to either love or hate the conversational threading in Google Mail (Gmail). Certainly it has a tendency to “hold on” to conversations long after they’ve morphed in topic and even in who’s on the distribution list. I’m on the “love” side of this equation, and think that being able to see the back and forth, whether it’s with one person or a dozen, is a great boon. It does present some challenges, however, not the least of which is being able to then extract individual messages.
There are some tricks built into Gmail to make working with a thread easier, however, and my suspicion is that lots of the people who hate the threading just don’t know how to use it properly. Your question is a classic one and there’s a straightforward solution if you know where to look in the Gmail user interface.
So… let’s have a look!
First off, as you can see, most of my Gmail messages end up being threads:
Let’s dig into that topmost message from Bruce. We’ve gone back and forth 7 times (the grey 7) and I need to print out message #5. How do I do that? First off a click and you’ll see that Gmail shows the most recent messages, not the entire thread:
You’ve undoubtedly seen something just like this. Did you realize that you can click on the number indicating how many messages are hidden from this sort of “table of contents” view and see them all? I’ll click on “4” and…
Lots of message headlines here. The message I want starts with “Thanks Dave – that would be great”. If I wanted to expand every message and read the entire dialog, the up/down arrow button (just to the left of the printer icon) does that with a click. But if instead I’d rather expand just one message, that can be done by clicking (or tapping – on that specific message in the display sequence. In this case, the message “Thanks Dave – that would…”.
That reveals the entire message, as shown:
Now all the cool action is going to center on the three-dot icon on the top right of this specific message. A click and here are all my options:
Lots of choices! The one I want, however, is “print”, as highlighted.
Choose that and Gmail opens up the message in a new window, then opens up a printer dialog box:
This is the Mac printer dialog box and it’s pretty complex. Windows and Linux are a bit different, but it’s the same basic sequence. Here’s what you really should know at this point: you can close the printer dialog without losing the window that has the email message! This means you can copy and paste, take a screen shot, etc.
Also look closely: The window contains everything that was in Bruce’s message to me, including earlier discussion. Without realizing that, you can easily end up printing 3, 4, 7, 15 pages of earlier discussion without wanting to do so. Instead, in the print dialog box, specify pages 1-1 or similar to chop off all the superfluous content!
Pro Tip: I’ve written quite a bit about Gmail. Please check out all my Gmail help while you’re on the site!