Quick Tip: Change the conversation view in Gmail

Some people love it, some people hate it, but everyone should know how to change the conversation view in their Google mail account settings.

One of the Gmail features many people like is the conversation view. This is the inbox view where various emails are embedded with each other to show the "conversation" of related emails. Some users love it and some, like me, don't like it at all. While the change is a subtle one, I find the conversation view confusing so I turn it off.

This quick tip was originally published in June 2011.

Change the conversation

Notice Figure A, it shows a sample inbox in the conversation view. The single email entry shown actually contains several emails as you can see in Figure B. The emails are embedded to form a conversation.

Figure A

Inbox in conversation view

Figure B

An embedded conversation
Click on the Options icon (gear) in the upper right corner and click on the Mail Settings menu item. You'll be taken to the Settings screen (Figure C) where you can make a multitude of changes to your Gmail account. We are interested in the Conversation View area - change the default on-view to the off-view and then scroll down to the bottom of the page to Save Changes.

Figure C

Gmail settings screen
Now, when you look at our example Gmail inbox (Figure D) you see the embedded emails are now listed separately. And when you click one of the emails in that inbox (Figure E), you see only that email - not the embedded view from before.

Figure D

Separate emails in the inbox

Figure E

No embedded view

It's your choice

There is no right view in this case; either view is perfectly legitimate. It really depends on your preferences. I find the conversation view confusing, especially when there are twenty emails and not everyone is included on every single message - it's difficult to know who knows what. But it is nice to know that we all have a choice. What's your preference?


Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to,, and TechRepublic.

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