In my own inbox, I see some people as John Smith but others as username@domain.com. I am aware that if I explicitly change someone's name in my contact list, then they will appear as whatever I set it to.

But besides those people in my contact list, how does Gmail (or other e-mail programs in general) decide whether to show a full name or email address only?

2 Answers 2


On an e-mail message, an e-mail address can have an optional "human-readable" name. Typically they are formatted like this:

John Smith <jsmith@example.com>


jsmith@example.com "John Smith"

Whether the human-readable name is displayed when you view an e-mail message is up to the mail client. Additionally, whether they are included in sent messages or not is also up to the mail client used.

In your case, Gmail is pulling your name as it appears on your Google account and including it in your outbound messages (unless you've changed under "Settings | Accounts and Import").

Now, of course, that's just for messages you send from Gmail. You can also do things like e-mail an article from a site. Typically they'll ask you for your e-mail address, but your name is probably optional. There won't be a "human readable" portion of the e-mail address for that sort of message.


Gmail sends your name with emails as defined in settings:

  1. Click the Settings gear
  2. Select the Accounts tab
  3. Click edit info to the right of the Send mail as line

Here you can view/change the name (or even the reply address) used to send emails.

gmail - send mail as

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