One of my long-time friends in the real world always gives me grief for “posting weird geek shit I don’t understand” on Twitter. And yet it is he who now turns to Lifehacker with a query about an annoying experience he’s having within Gmail.
Before I take to Twitter to discuss why it was fun that Bossk the bounty hunter got a sneeze-and-you-miss-it mention in Solo: A Star Wars Story — I was always an IG-88 fan myself — I’m more than happy to spend a little time with his question. After all, he’s Walter the Giant Storyteller: one of the few people in the San Francisco Bay Area that makes me, at 6’5″, feel tiny.
Walter booms, in a large, commanding voice:
What can I do to remove old emails that automatically pop up and populate whenever I attempt to send someone an email in Google mail? For example, when someone gets married and changes her name, and email address, I start typing her first name and her old email pops up. What can I do to correct this?”
My first thought, Walter, is that there’s something funky with your Google contact for that person, and this is the exact place you’ll want to go to clean everything up and ditch these old email addresses for good. To get started, pull up Google Contacts — preferably in a web browser, as that will make it easier to manipulate your many entries.
(While you’re there, click on the “Try contacts preview” link if it’s available on the left-hand side; any suggestions I have are based on the new contacts UI, not the old interface.)
Screenshot: David Murphy
From there, do a quick search for the name of the person whose email address is giving you issues. If you see multiple entries for the same person in the results — and you know a few of them are wrong, or you only ever intend to use one to email that recipient — then delete the others. You can also merge multiple entries together by clicking on them and selecting the icon in the upper-right corner that looks like two arrows becoming one.
(In fact, if you click “Duplicates” on the left sidebar, you might be able to clean up even more of these discrepancies without manually searching through your list.)
If there’s only one entry for the person you searched for, then it’s likely that they have multiple email addresses listed within their contact… card? Profile? Thing? Whatever you call it, click on the result for that person, and then click on the pencil-like icon in the upper-right corner. This will allow you to edit said contact and remove any email addresses (or change any names), which should fix up the auto-correcting issue when you go to send a Gmail to your friend.
It’s also possible that Gmail’s autocomplete is pulling in a contact you haven’t entered manually, but rather, an “other” contact that Google creates whenever you correspond with a new email address. You should have already noticed this when searching for the person’s name previously, but it’s also possible that you’ll have to search for the incorrect email address and remove that contact listing.
While I don’t mind having a huge list of “other contacts,” since it gives Gmail’s autocomplete a wide range of options to pick from when I’m trying to address an email, some people find it annoying that Google automatically dumps people onto this secondary list.
You can disable this process by pulling up Gmail, clicking on the gear icon in the upper-right corner, clicking on Settings, and looking for the “Create contacts for auto-complete” option. Set that to “I’ll add contacts myself,” and autocomplete will only pull exactly what’s listed in Google Contacts (assuming you’ve gone and deleted all of your “other contacts,” of course).
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