How to Compose New Gmail Messages in Full Screen (instead of the tiny compose box of new Gmail)

I’m writing this (unusual) post as I am a long time Gmail user and recently I’ve seen plenty of people & articles complain about the Gmail’s new compose window (the one that shows up as a small hovering window in the bottom right of your screen):

gmail_new_compose3

The top google hits so far only return tips to disable the new editor completely, but I want to use the new one, just in a bigger window! There is a very easy workaround for that – and there’s no need to switch back to the old compose mode at all!

If you are using your mouse, then just:

  1. Hold down SHIFT key when clicking the Compose button to get a stand-alone new window for composing a message.
  2. Hold down CTRL (on Windows) or Command (on Mac OSX) key to get a full-screen new browser tab for composing a message.

Examples 1 & 2 below:

gmail_new_window_composegmail_full_screen_compose

If you use Gmail keyboard shortcuts for productivity (they’re awesome!), then you can just:

  1. Press “c” for the new (small) compose box
  2. Press SHIFT-C (capital “C”) for the stand-alone new window for composing a message
  3. Press D for a full screen new browser tab for composing a message

Note that you can view the Gmail shortcuts reference, if this feature is enabled, just by pressing the ? (question mark) key:
gmail_vim_navigation_keys
So, there’s no need to switch back to the old compose mode completely, just remember SHIFT, CTRL and the “D” keys :)

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32 Responses to How to Compose New Gmail Messages in Full Screen (instead of the tiny compose box of new Gmail)

  1. Mark Bobak says:

    Hi Tanel,

    Also, if you’re in the small compose window, in the upper right corner, there’s an arrow icon, pointing diagonally up and to the right. If you click it, you’ll switch to the larger compose window. And, conversely, if you are in the larger compose window, there’s an arrow icon pointing diagonally down and to the left. If you click it, you’ll switch to the smaller compose window.

    -Mark

  2. Jared says:

    Tanel,

    Personally I have no issues with the new format.
    There are however still a couple features that seem to be missing from the new compose window, as opposed to the old one, both are related to formatting.

    1) No button to highlight text
    2) No quoting button.

    Both are sorely missed, at least by me.

  3. Why not just use Thunderbird? I don’t use web mail, it’s clunky and awkward. I use Thunderbird for my private email correspondence and Evolution with EWS for my office communication. Thunderbird has pre-defined setup for both Gmail and Yahoo and supports IMAPv4, which is what makes it extremely convenient.

    • Tanel Poder says:

      My opinion on the Gmail web UI is completely opposite. Now I see most desktop mail tools as clunky and awkward (although back in my windows+outlook days I also thought the same). I do use Apple mail tool but mainly for just downloading all my mails to eliminate the chance that all of them get lost in the “cloud” by accident and also for emailing files from Finder …

  4. Mette Stephansen says:

    Thanks …

    I just HATE Gmail (but its a company tool) !! Never thought I would miss Outlook :-) – ever !

    Is there a solution for having the “formatting line” back visible all the time and in the top of the mail ?
    I’m sick and tired of mousecliking all the time in this new “improved ? light and clean” interface.

    I just hate “clean” interfaces …. new IE/Firefox: hate them, new Gmail: hate it !
    Let me choose what interface I want – instead of forcing us users into what a stupid developer in the US thinks wa all want

    Arrgggg ….

    • Tanel Poder says:

      Yes, programmers read “design blogs” and suddenly become designers themselves. Trying to “beautify” and simplify the UI looks, not realizing they’re making it harder for the power users to use the app. I’m sure google heavily relies on instrumentation – feedback data from A/B testing of UI placement etc. But the thing is, 99% of people are not power users, so they end up optimizing the app for the masses. I still don’t know any better alternative to gmail web UI though (yep I’ve tried Sparrow on OSX).

  5. Davo says:

    Ctrl + compose gives me a much more useable compose experience in a new tab. Does anyone know if there is a way to do this when replying or forwarding? Replies are sssssoooooo cramped : (

  6. Jan says:

    Upset about the recipient box. Gmail message popup says “Do you mean” and proceeds to give me the next contact on my contact list. Won’t give me the contact I need even if I click BBC or Cc. Sometimes can’t tell until message sent out. Feel bad my landlord is getting some of my emails instead of my husband.

  7. Sue says:

    Has anyone come across this problem: When I click to reply in Gmail, a teeny, tiny box pops up for my message. Really tiny, and the text comes out so small that I almost can’t read it! There is no arrow in the corner to increase the size of this tiny box, just a very small phrase “loading rich text” above it. Argggghhhhh! I shut my computer down and the problem went away for a few hours, but now I’ve just encountered it again. I’d appreciate any help anyone can give!

  8. Ruth says:

    How do I get the full screen in compose messages back the way it was? Even the full screen is shrunk too small & I do NOT want even the little space I have to be shrunk even more! Especially for those of us visual people who use images composed in messages & needing to see it look right without a scrunched screen. Ruth

    • Tanel Poder says:

      Did you try holding the CTRL key (or CMD key on Mac) down when pressing the Compose button? This gives me a nice new full screen tab without much wasted space…

      • Brian says:

        Thank you, Tanel, that is certainly an improvement on the full screen. Do you have any idea how to get that full screen when doing a reply to someone else’s email? Holding down the CTRL key while hitting Reply has no effect.

        Thanks in advance.

        • Tanel Poder says:

          Yeah, the reply is trickier and the best solution I know involves 2 clicks while holding down SHIFT:

          1) First click on the Reply while holding down SHIFT. This will open the small reply box in the lower right corner of the screen
          2) Then click on the little arrow (maximize) in the top right corner of the reply box, while still opening down SHIFT. This will open the edit box in a new, bigger window.

          Not ideal, but it’s the best way I’ve found so far…

    • mac says:

      Try this: open the horrible little compose window. Down on the bottom right of it is a upside-down arrow denoting a pop-up menu. Check ‘Default to full screen’. The next time you open a new compose window, it’s a huge nice one with all the buttons happily visible.

  9. Jacob says:

    Like most people, I HATE the new compose feature. It will eliminate all business use of Gmail and leave only 12-year-olds who have nothing relevant to say. It perpetuates the myth of multitasking; no one, EVER, does multiple things at once very efficiently. The tiny compose box (even in so-called “fullscreen” mode) looks incredibly unprofessional and is ridiculously unwieldy for business communication. If Google wants only to market to children, it will soon discover that millions of its users are not children, as they migrate to more business-friendly services.

  10. k says:

    I can’t believe how bad it is. The box is ludicrously small. I’m losing my eyesight, and it’s very hard to work with the new format. Not to mention, some of my correspondence is pretty long and I like to be able to see it.

    I’ve never been too crazy about gmail, but at least it was convenient. Now, not so much.

  11. Bert says:

    It is true, the new compose window is very small, even with “full screen”. With only two lines visible, it is difficult to write
    messages. One solution is to write the messages in microsoft word and copy and paste them into gmail’s compose window.
    This works fine though I doubt that this was gmail’s intention.

  12. benjamin says:

    The mobile account for gmail is difficult because even how to compose message is not easy

  13. Sue says:

    I’m just glad I can now get a “full” full screen email. Gmail’s offer of a full screen was only half a screen….well, that’s all I could get out of it. Thanks for the info. So glad I found this page.

  14. kay says:

    Why doesn’t the email automatically save as it did before this small window mode? I can’t even figure out how to “save as draft”. How do I do that? I often start and email and come back to it later to finish it. Is there any way to go back to the old method? I really dislike this new method to the point that I may stop using gmail.

    • Tanel Poder says:

      Hi Kay,

      It does get saved as a draft – automatically, without having to click anything. If you clickon the Drafts folder in the left side of the screen, you should see it?

  15. NA says:

    Command+Shift and click Compose gives a full-screen centered new message.

  16. James says:

    The “send” button has disappeared from my gmail. When I compose an email, I cannot send it. How do I get it back?

  17. Jan Espinosa says:

    I’m so glad I found your tip. I don’t know why Gmail doesn’t inform us. I just wish the full screen or semi-fullscreen could become my default mode on “compose.” Until I tried your suggestion, my gmail compose window was so small if I wanted the text editing features too, that there was no room left to even write a message! This is extremely non-professional on the part of Gmail.

  18. Fiona Brown says:

    Hi Tanel, great chatting with you via email recently, after I found your website post on the Dreadful gmail Reply box debarcle.
    I thought I would add my version of how to Rely to mail in Full Screen;

    If you have a message open and are wanting to Reply to the Sender (or Forward the email)
    then first: Click on the Arrow Icon, in the upper right corner, pointing diagonally up and to the right, (next to the print icon).
    This will open the message you are viewing In a New Window (a larger hovering window).
    Then click on Reply/Forward as you would normally do.

    Or if you have already clicked Reply and Pop Out Reply – you can hold down either the Shift or Ctrl key whilst clicking on the two arrow Full Screen icon in the small pop out reply box, to get either the stand alone window, or full screen new browser tab

    Regards, Fiona in New Zealand

  19. Jane says:

    I am grateful to you for sharing these two tips: I like the stand alone e-mail format for composing.
    Jane Giesbrecht
    Turlock,CA.
    The top google hits so far only return tips to disable the new editor completely, but I want to use the new one, just in a bigger window! There is a very easy workaround for that – and there’s no need to switch back to the old compose mode at all!
    If you are using your mouse, then just:
    Hold down SHIFT key when clicking the Compose button to get a stand-alone new window for composing a message.
    Hold down CTRL (on Windows) or Command (on Mac OSX) key to get a full-screen new browser tab for composing a message.

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