Gmail delete and go to next message issue

UPDATE, 27 October 2010: Google has finally answered our request!. As of Oct 27, you can now have this feature as part of Labs for Gmail. See the official post on how to add Delete and Go Next in your Labs settings. Thanks Google for listening and thanks to Mr ITF for the heads up, not to mention today’s best laugh (click that link – it’s adorable; it will brighten your day).

I would say the thing that drives me nuts the most about Gmail, is the fact that every time you delete a message, you’re kicked back out to the message list. Google, taking a page from Microsoft, has decided to do your thinking for you and take this option off the table because you really shouldn’t delete emails. But if I know I will never want that message again, I delete it. And am stuck back out at the message list. This, more than anything has stopped me from adopting Gmail.

It turns out there is a ‘Delete’ and go to next conversation Greasemonkey script that will do just what I’m looking for, but recent Gmail upgrades broke that script. So out of luck again. [Update, June 22, 2009: this script has been fixed. Check it out.]

Over at, Jim suggests using Gmail Keyboard shortcuts (Gmail Help article) deleting with the # key, which does kick you back to the message list and then using the ‘k’ key to move to the next message and the ‘o’ or <enter> key to open the message. The thing I dislike about that is that it is three page loads when it should be two (in other words, why do I have to see that damn message list?).

So my similarly kludgey, but somewhat more elegant solution (or maybe not) is to:

  • Turn on keyboard shortcuts (in Settings -> General).
  • Create a label named ‘Delete’ (or ‘aaDelete’ if you want to be sure it is at the top of your label list).
  • When reading a message, type ‘l’ (that’s a lower-case L) to bring up the label list.
  • Hit the downarrow key once to select my top aaDelete label at the top of my list
  • Hit the ‘k’ key to move to the next message.
  • When I’m all done, I can view the messages deleted aaDelete and select and delete them all.

Yeah, stupid, crappy, cumbersome way to do it. I know. Tell Google.

Now if only they would come up with a proper way to view all unlabeled messages, but my solution to that is reasonably workable, if a bit cumbersome.

22 Responses to “Gmail delete and go to next message issue”

  1. Douglas




  2. Well, I can see you’re passionate about it Douglas. All I can say is I find it exasperating and slightly insulting… except when they really get it right and it’s transparent and you don’t see it.

    Of course gmail *is* a beta product. May our grandchildren live to see it come out of beta!

  3. Yes yes yes I couldn’t agree more. I have been asking for this for years.

    I wonder if we can start a petition online or something. I simply can’t understand why gmail won’t provide this option, it really makes me feel angry that they must have sat down at developers meeting and decided, no, we don’t want to offer an easy way to zip through your inbox and clean out all the crud. We’ve gotta show em they’re wrong

  4. Actually, John, not far from the truth. They had the idea that you would no longer ever delete and email and the early versions didn’t even have a Delete button.

    As if I want to save my spam, my 1-liners, and all that junk.

  5. srsly hard to delete

    The hard-to-get-at “delete” isn’t a feature for users. It’s a deliberately clunky UI so people don’t use it.

    Why? Lack of delete is artifact of the GoogleFileSystem which likes to only append/update records rather than delete. The whole mirroring system is designed to quickly append a record. Deleting is a whole record is actually hard on the distributed filesystem. Well, not terribly hard, but definitely not the preferred operation because you also have to delete from the chunk masters. Things go crazy for them when data disappears.

    I’d even wager that when you click “delete” the mail isn’t actually removed from their servers, but just marked as deleted / appended with a delete flag so it doesn’t show up to you. They may have a separate job that periodically runs to physically delete user-deleted messages, but I don’t think so. The disk space is meaningless and their whole operation is built around “append”, not append/update/delete.

    But now thanks to the iPhone interface, there is a delete (trash can). When you press that, the current message is trashed, and the screen fills with a new message. It is SO. MUCH. FASTER. AND. EASIER than regular gmail.

    I wonder if that trashcan was Apple’s request / requirement.

  6. Interesting details. Let’s hope that before too long this just gets integrated into the web version of GMail.

  7. YES YES YES! I thought I was nuts! I HATE that you can’t get back to the next message automatically! Thanks for posting this!

  8. What would be best is to have the choice of 1) back to inbox 2) next or 3) previous. Yahoo doesn’t have the previous option by default – you have to hit the up arrow when you’re done. This is necessary only if you like to read your oldest new emails first like I do.

  9. andreas

    Thnaks for this. I usely start at the top, so what I really need is an delte and go to previous :-) Guess we can’t have everything everyday. Cheers

  10. Go next, go previous. It’s all the same, just use the j and k keys to go whichever way you want! Shoudl work the same.

  11. Miniben – I can’t get that link to work.

    For those who don’t know, the domain is an official Google domain that they use for collecting and voting on product ideas for Google Apps

  12. ITF – thank you thank you thank you for the head ups! Updating the top of the page ASAP!

  13. Thanks ITF for the tip on Auto-Advance. Fabulous.

    Also note that Thunderbird does this delete effortlessly. But I had to leave it because of some quirky behaviour. It’s just a bit flaky here and there.

  14. Actually, Greg, that was what pushed me away from Thunderbird. I found out in the end that it was not TB’s fault, but another open source app using an outdated and faulty version of a library that interfered with apps that depend on the same library. In the meantime, though, I came to really like the way GMail does things.

  15. I agree that I should get to the next mail after a deletion. Why on earth should I save all my mail? That is just silly. I have tried archiveing instead but that also sends me back to the inbox. I’ll stick with Hotmail, thank you.

  16. Found the “Auto-advance” option now. Thank you ITF!

  17. It’s an option in labs:

    Enable “Auto-advance” in Gmail Labs

    To turn on Gmail’s auto-advancing lab experiment:

    Click the Settings gear in your Gmail’s toolbar.
    Select Settings from the menu that shows.
    Go to the Labs tab.
    Make sure Enable is selected for Auto-advance.
    You can find the experiment by starting to type “Auto-advance” under Search for a lab:.

  18. Hi Leon – good tip, but a bit late to the party – I added an update with that tip at the head of the article in 2010. So this problem has been long solved.

    Thanks for the stopping by though!

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