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Gmail AI Can Now Write Emails for You on Your Phone: How It Works

Tired of writing boring emails? Google's new Help Me Write feature has you covered.

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Peter Butler Senior Editor
Peter is a writer and editor for the CNET How-To team. He has been covering technology, software, finance, sports and video games since working for @Home Network and Excite in the 1990s. Peter managed reviews and listings for Download.com during the 2000s, and is passionate about software and no-nonsense advice for creators, consumers and investors.
Expertise 18 years of editorial experience with a current focus on personal finance and moving
Peter Butler
3 min read
Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaking at Google IO about updates to Gmail

Google SEO Sundar Pichai announced the new Help Me Write tool at Google I/O in May.

Screenshot/CNET

Email can be a lot of fun if you're corresponding with an old friend or a pen pal halfway around the world. It's less fun when you're filing multiple insurance claims or sending hundreds of thank you notes. 

Announced at the Google I/O event in May, a new feature from Gmail called Help Me Write can draft those boring emails for you. Powered by the company's proprietary AI, the new Google service can compose automated messages in Gmail, text messages and other Google apps. Starting today, the feature is now available for Gmail on iPhones, iPads and Android devices.

With 1.8 billion active users of Gmail at the last count, Help Me Write is poised to have a major impact on the way that the world communicates via email. Learn more about how Help Me Write works and how you might use it.

For more on Google I/O, learn all about the foldable Pixel phone and the biggest new features announced for Android.

How does Help Me Write work in Gmail?

The new Help Me Write feature for generative AI email creation in Gmail expands on the "Smart Compose" feature that Google introduced in 2018, as well as the "Smart Reply" feature added in 2017.

Whereas Smart Reply offers basic automated replies, and Smart Compose provides suggestions as you type, Help Me Write goes well beyond, creating a full email from a basic prompt. A "refine" button can shorten the text, elaborate or make the email more formal. You can then further edit the email manually or send it as is.

In his demo at Google I/O, Pichai used Help Me Write to draft an email asking for a full refund from an airline for a canceled flight. Help Me Write created an email from scratch using information gleaned from the airline's emailed offer of a voucher.

How can I start using Help Me Write in Gmail?

screenshot of signup process for Google Workspace
Google/Screenshot by CNET

Help Me Write is part of Google's Workspace Labs, and you'll need to join the program if you want to use AI to compose text in Gmail or Google Docs. Visit labs.withgoogle.com, scroll down to the section marked "Unlock new ways of working with AI" and click the blue "Join waitlist" button to sign up. (We were able to join Workspace Labs from a personal Google account today, immediately, without any wait.)

It's worth noting that Google's privacy policy for Workspace Labs is different to its standard Gmail privacy policy. The company takes pains to warn users, "Please do not include sensitive, confidential, or personal information that can be used to identify you or others in your interactions with Workspace Labs features." Your Workspace Labs data may be reviewed by humans and stored by the company for four years.

a screenshot of Google's Help Me Write button in web-based Gmail

The Help Me Write button shows up next to the Send button in web-based Gmail.

Google/Screenshot by CNET

Once you're into Workspace Labs, a new Help Me Write icon -- a pencil with a star above it -- should show up whenever you draft a new email in Gmail or create a new document in Google Docs. In web-based Gmail, the icon appears to the right of the "Send" button. On your iPhone or Android device, it will show up at the bottom of the email.

Clicking on the Help Me Write button in Gmail will open up a prompt window, where you can describe what you want the AI to write. Provided examples include "A glowing review for a team member" and "Wish my friend a speedy recovery in the hospital."

After you enter a prompt and click "Create," Help Me Write will generate your text and provide you the options of recreating the text or refining it to make it more formal, more elaborate or shorter. Once you're satisfied with the text, hit "Insert" to add it to your email, which you can then edit as you like.

two screenshots showing Gmail's Help Me Write feature composing a letter to a mother-in-law about attending her granddaughter's birthday party

Gmail's Help Me Write feature on iPhone shows up as a button at the bottom of new emails.

Google/Screenshots by CNET

For more, here's what to know about Google's Bard AI and the company's AI-powered search engine.