How to Disable Gmail’s Most Annoying New Features

A hand pulls a lamp cord on a Gmail logo.
You are not stuck with all of these new features.
Photo illustration by Natalie Matthews-Ramo/Slate. Photos by Google and eggeeggjiew/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Back in the spring, Google started rolling out various new features in Gmail, like the Smart Compose, which finishes your sentences as you type, and Nudge, which reminds you when you might need to follow up on an email. By early October, the new version was rolled out to everyone, with no option of switching back. Some of us have grown accustomed to the changes, even embraced them. But some of us don’t like that kind of change and just want to know how to turn them off. Here’s how, in order of the least annoying to the most annoying features.

The Google Apps Side Panel

The side panel is the most obvious, and harmless, feature users will notice as soon as they land on the new Gmail inbox. It’s situated on the right and boasts three icons: the calendar, “keep” (where you can take notes), and “tasks” (where you can create a to-do list).
The icon to hide the side panel, however, is not as obvious. If you look closely enough on the far-right bottom corner, there’s a small arrow. Press it, and the side panel will disappear. Luckily, Gmail will remember your preference, so you won’t see the panel the next time you open it.

A screenshot shows how to minimize the side panel on Gmail.

The Nudge

Remember the Facebook poke? Gmail’s “Nudge” does something similar, and is just about as irritating. If you haven’t responded to an email that Gmail deems important, the system will remind you by bringing it to the top of your inbox. If you find that Gmail is nudging you too often with emails that aren’t important, there’s a way to turn it off. Click Settings on the top right corner and you will see a list of customizing options, starting with “setup progress” and “language.” Scroll down to find “Nudges” and turn off “Suggest emails to reply to” and “Suggest emails to follow up on.”

An arrow points at how to toggle off the nudge.

Smart Reply and Smart Compose

I have mixed feelings about these two features, but most of the time they make me really nervous. Smart Reply is the simple responses generated by Gmail (such as “Thanks” or “Will do!”) that allows users to reply with one click. Smart Compose, on the other hand, is a relatively new feature with a similar function of basically finishing your sentences for you. Once users begin to type, Gmail will suggest a phrase to complete the sentences. If you like the phrase, you can click the “tab” button to add it in. Users have reported Smart Compose is pretty accurate—almost creepily so.

After a person types "I hope ev," Gmail fills in "everything is going well" to complete the sentence.

Naturally, both tools are prone to error and may suggest strange, undesirable replies, like this one.

To get rid of them, go back to Settings, find Smart Compose on the list and choose “Writing suggestions off.” Scroll to the middle and you will also find Smart Reply. Similarly, click “Smart Reply off” to opt out.

An arrow points at how to turn off smart compose in Gmail.

If you really dislike the flashy new updates, you can choose to go way back in time and use “basic HTML view,” an old fashioned, stripped-down version of Gmail, as this New York Times article suggests. But here’s the catch—it will get rid of all the new features and the old ones users may like, including chat, spell check and keyboard shortcuts. And it looks like this:

A screenshot shows the very minimalist old-school HTML-only Gmail.

The choice is yours.