Picture this. Caffeinated and drowsy, you finish up your email and hit send. It takes a few moments before you register that your email is incorrect! Maybe you’ve attached the wrong document or forgotten to add the subject of the email. Or any number of things that could go wrong, really.
Fortunately for you, unsending an email is possible. However, the option to unsend an email often has to be manually enabled and usually, these options are tucked away deep inside your email settings. Not all email services provide an option to ‘unsend’ an email. We’ve compiled a list of the most popular email services that have a feature to unsend an email. Most of these works both on desktops and mobile phones and can be set up with ease. We hope this tutorial helps you learn to use this life-saving feature.
Here’s how to access ‘unsend’ options on different platforms and devices.
How to unsend an email in Gmail
Gmail is quite possibly the most popular email service in the world. Powered by Google, Gmail comes packaged with a host of features such as Drive, email scheduling, priority filtering, Google pay requests, confidential emails, and even a nifty AI assistant that can help compose emails for you. Gmail allows a user to unsend an email for up to 30 seconds after it is sent. It’s also uniquely capable of unsending an email regardless of the email provider the recipient uses. Here’s how to set this up.
STEP 1. Open your Gmail account on a desktop browser. Click on the gear icon at the top right of the page. This will show all quick settings options.
STEP 2. Click on See all settings.
STEP 3. In the general tab, scroll down to the ‘Undo Send‘ option.
STEP 4. Here you can set the email cancellation period from a minimum of 5 seconds to a maximum of 30 seconds.
STEP 5. After setting your desired cancellation period ( we recommend 30 seconds ), scroll to the bottom of the settings page and click on ‘Save changes‘.
That’s it, now you can undo a sent email for the period of time you’ve set for cancellation. Right after you send an email, a notification will pop up notifying you that the email has been sent. The popup also has the option to view the message or undo it. However, canceling the popup will restrict you from unsending an email, even if the cancellation period has not expired. This feature works both on the desktop and mobile Gmail app.
If you’re interested in how the feature works, the cancellation period is actually the delay period till the email is delivered. If you’ve set a 30 second cancellation period, the email is actually delivered to the recipient only after 30 seconds have passed.
How to unsend an email in Outlook
Outlook is Microsoft’s email, journaling, and scheduling client. It comes with a host of features but is primarily utilized for email communication. Unlike the other tutorials on this page, Outlook’s unending feature called “recall” works quite differently. Be sure to carefully read the instructions and unique conditions that are applicable when attempting to unsend (or recall as is called in Outlook’s case) an email in Microsoft Outlook.
Conditions for Outlook ‘recall’ to work
- Both the sender and recipient must have Microsoft Exchange or Office 365 accounts. (You can confirm account type by clicking ‘File‘ tab, then selecting your account to view ‘Account Information‘.
- Email must be unopened by the recipient for recall to work.
- Does not work for mobile apps.
- Recall only works for Windows Outlook client, it does not work on Mac or Outlook on the web.
STEP 1. Recall cannot be automated. To unsend an email, head to the Sent Items folder.
STEP 2. Select the message you want to recall and open it in a separate window.
STEP 3. Navigate to the Message section and select Action.
STEP 4. There should be an option called ‘Recall This Message‘, select it.
STEP 5. Recall allows you to either simply delete the email or delete it and replace it with new content. Select your preferred option.
STEP 6. To confirm that the action was successful, check the ‘Tell me if recall succeeds or fails‘ checkbox.
STEP 7. You will be notified when the recall has succeeded, regardless of your choice to simply delete the mail or replace it with a1n updated one.
As you can see, Outlook’s feature to ‘unsend’ emails is a complicated one with far too many fail conditions. We also recommend setting up a delayed delivery system for Outlook emails. This is an automated feature that waits a specified amount of time before sending any email. Emails that are delayed before sending move to the Outbox where you can review them one last time.
Setting up Delayed delivery
STEP 1. Click File and navigate to Manage Rules & Alerts.
STEP 2. Create New Rule, select Start from a Blank Rule.
STEP 3. Click on Apply rules on messages I send and click Next.
STEP 4. Once you click Yes on the Select Condition list, the rule is applied to all messages by default.
STEP 5. In the Select Action list, select Defer delivery by a number of minutes check box.
STEP 6. Click on Edit the rule description, then click the underlined rule a number of and enter the time by which you want to delay messages (120 minutes is the maximum amount of delay time).
STEP 7. Click OK, then click Next.
STEP 8. You can also specify the name of the rule in the Specify a name for this rule box.
STEP 9. Check the Turn on this rule check box and click Finish.
How to unsend an email in Office 365
Office 365 is a collection of subscription services by Microsoft for its Microsoft Office product line. Office 365 emails are classified as Microsoft Exchange accounts. As such, these email accounts utilize Outlook for sending and receiving messages. To unsend emails from an Office 365 email id, users can utilize the inbuilt ‘recall’ feature in Outlook. To configure this feature, consult the guide above, ‘How to unsend an email in Outlook‘. It is a good practice to set up a delayed email delivery system so that users can review sent emails before they are eventually delivered to the intended recipient.
How to unsend an email on iPhone
All iPhones ship with Apple Mail, a standard email client that can manage the most popular email services. Unfortunately, Apple Mail has no built-in system to unsend an email. We recommend using Spark, a third-party email client. Here’s how to configure the option to recall an email using Spark on iPhone.
STEP 1. Log into your email account with Spark.
STEP 2. Spark automatically allows users to ‘undo’ a sent email for up to 5 seconds (different email clients have different configurations).
While Spark’s ability to unsend an email only lasts for 5 seconds, it is a far better option than having no way to undo a sent email at all. Its undo feature works for all providers, even if the email provider has no in-built email unsend feature. This can be a blessing for users who use internal or workplace emails. There are plenty of other 3rd party email clients similar to Spark, we strongly advise users to verify that the clients have unsend features before using one.
How unsending an email works
When an email is sent, the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) is activated. The message is sent to the outgoing mail server where the SMTP protocol determines the destination of the email. Once the relevant information is gathered (domain, IP address, etc.) and verification is completed, the message is then delivered to the recipient.
Unsending an email is slightly different and varied based on the email provider you use. Gmail doesn’t actually ‘unsend’ your email. What it does is holds your email from communicating with the SMTP server until the cancellation period has expired. Clicking ‘Undo’ on your mail isn’t actually retrieving your email from the delivered address but rather canceling communication with the SMTP altogether.
The same goes for email clients such as Spark. The undo period is the amount of time the email client ‘holds’ the message from establishing an SMTP connection.
In this regard, Outlook is unique. The “recall” feature in Outlook works by sending a message to the recipient’s inbox after the email has been delivered. The Recall request asks the email client to delete the message from the recipient’s inbox, but only if the receiver hasn’t opened the email. This is the same case for the replace feature, the email client can replace the contents of the email as long as it is unopened. If the recipient has already opened the email, a popup will show up, requesting them to delete the email. This choice however is entirely the recipient’s to make.
Recommended email practices
For someone who relies heavily on emails for work, we recommend setting up some email practices to avoid mistakes and reduce errors. These practices can go a long way and avoid a lot of inconvenience in the long term.
- This one’s a bit obvious…. develop a habit of rechecking emails before sending them.
- Save email templates for quick copy/paste jobs. This can reduce your overall workload and errors.
- Set up an automatic signature on all your sent emails, this will reduce the content you have to type in an email.
- Clearly label all formal documents and attachments, place them in one source folder to avoid confusion.
- Utilize email providers that have in-built ‘unsend’ features.
- Setup delayed delivery if you work on multiple documents, sources, and destinations at once to avoid confusion
- Utilize third-party email clients if your email providers have unintuitive UI or lack Quality of Life features.
- Install plugins that detect grammatical errors or oddities (eg. Grammarly)
It’s important to remember that not all email providers have similar unsend features. Here are some important things to keep in mind:
- Using third-party apps to manage your emails can mess with your configuration.
- Different email providers have different ‘unsend email’ policies, some might not have the feature to unsend.
- Time and internet connectivity can affect whether or not an email can be unsent.
- Manual configuration is required for almost all cases.
- Unsending an email might not work if the recipient has already opened the sent email.
- Conditions may vary if the email addresses are internal (eg workplace emails).
- 3rd party email clients might override your personal email preferences, exercise caution before using one.
Different services and platforms may have different policies but the majority of mainstream email providers come with the handy ability to unsend emails. With this feature enabled, you’ll be able to breathe a sigh of relief (albeit briefly) the next time you send an email and realize something’s messed up!