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In Thunderbird I have such option and I use it. Now I am trying to switch to Gmail and I can't find such setting.

I claim that no computer program can know, whether I have actually read a message. This is because there is no implicit feedback from my brain to the computer. Thus, automatic marking as read just because a message was displayed is a serious mistake in my opinion.

Unread emails are important for me, because I must be sure that I do not accidentally miss an important message. Sometimes I even read a message and leave it as unread to know, that I have to read it again (e.g., because I do not understand something and have to check it).

How do you deal with this issue? How are you sure that you have dealt with everything important in your emails?

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up vote 12 down vote accepted

Until Google figures a way to have Gmail read your brain waves, it cannot reliably tell if you've read the message. Some mail clients mark a message as "read" only after it has been displayed a certain number of seconds, which might be closer to what you want. But that's not available in Gmail.

That's not to say that there aren't workarounds.

You could enable the Message Sneak Peek lab feature: Click the gear icon -> Settings -> Labs, scroll down to Message Sneak Peek, and click Enable. Go back to your inbox and right-click on any message. The message will be displayed in a popup window, without being marked as read.

Another thing I find myself doing, is mark a message unread after I've opened it, by clicking More -> Mark as unread (or press Shift+U if you have keyboard shortcuts enabled).

Also, starring messages is perhaps the most obvious way of keeping track of important emails that I need to deal with later. I use this in combination with the Multiple inboxes lab feature, so that a section of my inbox view is reserved for starred messages. When I've dealt with the message, I unstar it, and it is archived.

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+1 for using multiple inboxes and starred messages. – mhoran_psprep Feb 28 '13 at 12:25
Thank you. I am glad that stars can be assigned to individual messages. I think I will create a filter that assigns star to all incoming messages and then I will be removing them manually. – user35242 Feb 28 '13 at 21:21
In the meantime "Message Sneak Preview" was retired. It was superseeded by the "new gmail inbox" productforums.google.com/forum/#!topic/gmail/… – mit Aug 14 '13 at 12:06
reading brain waves might not be too much of a far future! :D – cregox Mar 7 '14 at 15:13

There's an alternative. If you don't mind enabling the Preview Pane feature, you can avoid emails being automatically marked as Read. I find Preview Pane really useful so this is a double advantage.

To enable Preview Pane in Gmail, go to Settings > Labs > Preview Pane and mark it as enabled. Click Save Changes. Then go back into Settings > General, and in the Preview Pane section you can set Mark a conversation as read: to Never.

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Here is another tip. Create a label called "Read Emails". When you have finished with an email, use the MOVE TO button to move the email to that label (this will remove the inbox label). This way, you know that anything in your inbox needs attention whether it is read or unread.

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It seems to me simply archiving messages that have been actually read (rather than opened) is a bit simpler. – Al E. May 13 at 19:55

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