Shortwave 101

Welcome to your deep-dive on all things Shortwave! Here you can learn more about what makes Shortwave so amazing and our recommendations on how to make it work best for you. Before we dive into specifics, you might be wondering...

What's the benefit of using Shortwave over my current email app?

Good question! Some clients focus on speed & keyboard shortcuts, while others give you (too) many customization options. Shortwave does those things as well, but more importantly, we're trying to change your fundamental relationship with email from a way to send slow, long-from "letters" to a fast, real-time messaging & collaboration tool with a powerful inbox to keep you organized. Shortwave lets you send regular emails, but it also lets you do a lot more than that too!

For individual users, some high-level values are:

  • Bundles — We automatically group related threads (ie. all your SaaS notifications, marketing promotions, calendar updates, etc.) so you can quickly understand your inbox at a glance and take bulk actions, like marking an entire bundle as done with a single click. This dramatically reduces the number of steps you have to take to get to your inbox in order.
  • Inbox management — Pin, snooze, done, and drag 'n drop reordering (plus labels) allow you to make your inbox act like prioritized to-do list, so you always work on the most important thing first. We're taking an opinionated approach to managing your inbox, and we really, really believe that mark-as-unread is a bad pattern for managing your email. A common pattern yes — but it's inefficient and error-prone. A big part of what we're doing at Shortwave is creating a tool to help people have better email habits.
  • Faster compose experience — Supported markdown shortcuts and text-based mentions for modifying recipients means you can write & send rich-text emails without ever taking your hands off the keyboard. Keyboard efficiency in combination with Shortwave's lightweight editor makes sending emails frictionless, helping you to respond faster and overall be more communicative. We also have fun stuff like GIFs :D

Overall, Shortwave empowers you to get work done faster by helping you better understand the information you're seeing better and letting you communicate more effectively with other people.

‍👩🏻‍💻 What about my team?

Check out our Team Guide how to use Shortwave with our team and what makes it great


Shortwave's inbox keeps you organized by default with automatic labeling & bundling, saving you time and energy so you can easily get caught up. You even can take things into your own hands with drag 'n drop reordering and labels, so your inbox can best fit your needs.


Related groups of emails bundle together in your inbox, giving you a condensed view of what you need to know. This makes things more scannable and reduces the amount of manual effort required to stay organized. You can also take actions on entire bundles, making it easy to mark a bunch of emails as done all at once with a single click.


Labels make it easy to bundle and view related threads, whether you’re working on a project or storing long-term information. Labels stay in sync between Shortwave and Gmail, meaning you can manage them from either app.

While you can create your own labels, Shortwave also provides several built-in labels including Newsletters, Promotions, and Purchases. When you apply one of these built-in labels, Shortwave remembers that and will auto-apply the label for future messages from the same sender. You can configure each label's bundling and push notification behavior from settings.

  • Add labels to threads or an entire bundle from the ... menu or by using the b keyboard shortcut
  • View threads with a specific label by clicking on the label chip at the top of a thread or by searching for it — you can even add a label to your favorites for easy one-click access
  • View all labels by clicking the Labels navigation item in the sidebar or searching for "labels"
  • Edit a label’s name or color by right clicking on the label chip at the top of a thread or going to the label’s page
  • Train a built-in label via the label picker to auto-apply it for a specific sender
  • Delete a label by right clicking the label tag at the top of a thread or going to the label’s page. This will remove the label from all threads, but will not delete any threads

Labeling can be handy for projects and niche categorization, but don't let it take up too much of your time! Shortwave does a lot of this work for you already with bundles and powerful search, so you don't have to worry about labeling every little thing.

Drag 'n drop reordering

Have you ever wished you could just drag an email to the top of your inbox? Well now you can! Reorder any thread in your inbox by dragging and dropping it to a new spot to better prioritize action items and make custom bundles.

  • Create custom bundles by dropping threads on top of each other — you can then add a label and take bulk actions on the entire bundle
  • Prioritize to-dos in your pinned section by dragging threads higher or lower in the list based on urgency
  • Reorder threads, even across inbox sections, by dragging them out of older sections and into more recent ones or all the way up to pinned

Done, Pin, Snooze

Shortwave has 3 simple (but powerful) actions to help you get things done.

✅ Done

Emails that require no action. Done removes an email from your inbox so you can focus on what matters (or get to inbox zero!). Just like archive, nothing gets deleted — you can always find emails later via search or the done page. You can even mark entire bundles or sections of your inbox as done with a single click.

📌 Pin

Emails you want to keep top of mind. Pinning an email moves it to the top of your inbox so you don't forget about it. This section acts like your inbox "to-do list" where you can reorder or group threads in any way you want.

⏰ Snooze

Emails you want to be reminded about later. Snoozing moves a thread to the snoozed page until it receives a response or the snooze time expires. This is great for things you know you want to follow up on or need to do later, but not right now.

Best practices

Now that we've covered the inbox basics, here's a quick overview of our recommended workflow.

As new emails come into your inbox, they enter into the "last 7 days" section of your inbox. These items are untriaged, meaning you haven't yet chosen a priority for them. When going through these new items, always try to do the following for each thread:

  1. If you can reply quickly, do so!
  2. If there is no action you need to take, mark it done right away to clear it from your inbox (and your mind 🧘🏻). You can always search for it later or find it on the done page. Adding a label before marking it done can also help you find it later.
  3. If there is nothing you can do right now but want a reminder later, snooze it to come back to you at a specific time. This works great for following up on threads where you're waiting for a reply and you can always view these on the snoozed page if you want to deal with it sooner.
  4. If there is something you need to do, pin it so it moves to the top of your inbox. This acts like your todo list. You can even drag 'n drop threads to reorder or regroup them.

When you're done triaging, you should reach "triage-zero". You may still have threads that you haven't responded to yet (including pinned and snoozed threads), but now you should know exactly what needs to get done today and feel confident you haven't missed anything that needs your attention.

With 📌 pin, ⏰ snooze, and ✅ done, Shortwave helps you avoid needing to make a prioritization decision multiple times on the same item. We know it's opinionated, but we think this will help you spend less time fighting your inbox and more time focused on the work you need to get done!

⚡️ Quick Tip

Don't be afraid to click those checkmarks! Marking emails as done is an important step to keep your inbox focused. One trick is to go through and pin or snooze all the emails you need to take action on, and then mark the rest of the bundle or section as done all at once.


In Shortwave, even though things sometimes look like chat, every message is just an email. You can quickly send short replies, or compose long-form emails, all in real-time.

New drafts

When you start a new draft in Shortwave, your conversation history with the people you're talking to show up once you add them to the thread. Similar to chat apps, this makes it easy to see what you talked about last or quickly scroll up to find past conversations.

Your drafts show up in your sidebar so you can quickly access them, along with the recent messages you've sent. You can start a new thread at the bottom of any conversation history by clicking the new thread button. Adding people or groups to your favorites makes it super fast to go to their conversation history and start a new thread.

Forwards also start new drafts, with the forwarded message nicely embedded — these chat-style forwards look extra nice in Shortwave, but folks outside of Shortwave will see a "standard" forward (in reverse-chronological order with all the nesting).

‍💬 Optional subjects

Sometime's a message doesn't warrant a subject, so we've made them optional. If you send a subjectless message, we default the subject line to be a chat bubble emoji instead of leaving it as (no subject). It's a simple way to let someone know you sent a quick message.


Shortwave's smart editor helps you write better emails faster with intuitive shortcuts and a light-weight compose box that makes drafting and sending emails frictionless. You can drag 'n drop an image right into your message, or use the GIF & emoji picker to find the perfect way to express yourself. Plus, with markdown shortcuts, your emails will be beautifully formatted and look great in other email clients too.

Here are some formatting keyboard shortcuts to help you write your messages without your hands leaving your keyboards:

Bold**bold** b
Italic*italic* i
Strikethrough~strike~ shift x
Underline_under_ u
Heading# space
Numbered list1 . space shift 7
Bulleted list- space shift 8
Quote> space
Link k
Attachment shift a
‍⌨️ Want to learn more?

Check out our full list of keyboard shortcuts


Unlike traditional email, Shortwave defaults to replying to everyone on a thread. Reply all makes it easy to keep groups on the same page, while built-in audience awareness makes sure you always know who you're talking to.

  • Reply all to a thread by simply typing a message in the compose box and hitting send — this is the default reply behavior in Shortwave
  • Direct reply by right-clicking a specific message or clicking the reply button next to the message sender. You can then delete the people you don't want to include or change reply all to reply to sender. This will start side conversations that branch off from the original thread you started on. You will see markers for these side conversations between the messages of the thread so you can quickly navigate back and forth between each conversation.
  • Quick quote a message by highlighting the text you want to refer to and pressing q or clicking the quote button. This will insert the quoted text into the compose box so you can reference it easily instead of burying an inline reply inside message history

Whenever people are added or removed from a thread, Shortwave always shows you a clear divider so it's easy to tell who your message is going to:


Mentions let you add, remove, or notify someone on a thread with a special character before their name. Use mentions to ensure a message ends up in someone's inbox, or bump it up a notch with a push notification for urgent emails. You can even use mentions in place of keyboard shortcuts to modify message recipients without having to take your hands off the keys.

@mentions notify teammates with a push notifications (respects do-not-disturb)

+mentions add a person or channel to a thread

-mentions remove a person or channel from a thread

#mentions link to a person or channel so you can easily share contact or channel info

📢 Quick tip

Mentions work for both individuals and channels. It's just like adding or removing people from the to, cc and bcc fields but with shorthand directly in your message.


Keep your inbox lean and stay informed on what's actually important with Shortwave's fine-grain notification and send-to-inbox controls. With customizable push notifications, available hours, and do-not-disturb (DND) settings, you can stay focused when it matters most.

Push notifications

  • Labels allow you to control what types of emails send you push notifications and which are delivered quietly (ex: Travel vs Promotions). You can customize your defaults in settings.
  • Available hours lets you set when you receive push notifications and when they are muted.
  • Manually mute notifications for a specific amount of time by clicking on your profile photo and selecting a time period.
  • Override default notification settings on a sender-by-sender basis. To do so, click the bell icon at the top of the bundle or conversation history.
🔕 Not receiving notifications?

Make sure your phone or browser settings allow notifications

Skip inbox filters

In addition to controlling what sends push notifications, you can also control what enters your inbox at all. You can customize these settings for senders by clicking the bell icon on the top of the bundle or the send-to-inbox settings in conversation histories.

  • All messages is the default setting for most types of conversations. Every message on a thread will cause it to re-enter your inbox so you're always up to date. You can always mute a thread to stop it from re-entering your inbox.
  • New threads is the default setting for channels. This means that every new thread will enter your inbox, but unless you actively participate on the thread or manually follow it, new replies won't cause it to come back.
  • Skip inbox automatically marks these threads as done so it never enters your inbox, unless you actively participated on the thread. This is great for getting noisy senders out of your inbox for good. You can always use search to check for any updates later.

Shortwave also automatically syncs any "skip inbox" filters you have in Gmail.

Shortwave makes it easy to navigate across the app and find threads with search. Intuitive filters and smart suggestions help you find exactly what you need.

  • Navigate to a conversation history or label by selecting one of the tiled results up top

  • Use filters to narrow down your results

    • from: followed by a name will show all messages that person has sent
    • in: followed by a channel or individual name will only show messages from that conversation
    • has: followed by "attachment" pull up any messages with attachments
  • View all messages involving a contact by searching their name — or narrow it down even more by selecting the search suggestion below the tiled results

‍🔎 Searching conversation histories

When you enter search from a conversation history, you can quickly search all of threads in it by selecting the first search suggestion (in: conversation) to filter your results

Now you're an email pro

Since you've mastered the inbox and all it has to offer, see what other real-time features Shortwave has in store with our Team Guide.

‍💌 Have questions?

We're happy to help over at Whether you have a bug to report, a feature to request, or feedback to share, don't hesitate to reach out — we love hearing from our users!