Productivity software

10 Tips for Gmail and Google Calendar

6. How to Chat Off the Record

When you use Gmail's chat feature, conversations are automatically stored in your Gmail chat history or the history of your contact.

If you're engaged in a conversation that you don't want stored or searchable, you can take the conversation "off the record."

Do this by clicking the Actions drop-down menu at the top of the chat window. Select "Go off the record." Note, however, that people you chat with may still choose to save chat histories in their Gmail settings.

7. How to Add Events to Google Calendar Via SMS

If you forgot to schedule a meeting or you don't have good Internet service, don't worry: You can easily add events via your mobile phone in a few quick steps.

From your computer, sign in to your Google Calendar account, click the gear icon at the top right of your screen and choose "Settings." Then click the "Mobile Setup" tab and enter in your information. Gmail will send a verification code to your mobile phone; enter the code and click "Finish setup."

Once the setup is complete, send events to your calendar by texting the details of your event (such as, "Dentist appointment 1:00pm April 20) to GVENT (48368).

You'll receive a confirmation text message, and the event will appear in your calendar.

8. How to Quickly Add Multiple Attachments to an E-mail

If an email you're sending requires you to add multiple attachments, there's an easier way than selecting and uploading files one-by-one.

If you want to send multiple files from the same folder, hold down the Ctrl key (or Command key on Macs) and click on each file you want to attach to your message. Or, you can also hold down the Shift key to select a continuous group of files.

Another option is to click and drag file icons from a folder or your desktop directly to the "Attach a file" section. When you do, the area will change to white and display this message: "Drop files here to add them as attachments."

9. How to Learn More About Your Contacts

Gmail's people widget, located on the right-hand side of your messages, shows you contextual information about the people you're interacting with in Gmail.

Click on the contact's name to see information such as their name, e-mail address, or occupation; recent Google+ posts your contact has made visible to you, which you can +1 directly in Gmail; recent emails your contact has sent you; Google Calendar events if your contact's Calendar is shared with you; and Google docs, shared with both you and the contact.

To disable the people widget, click the gear icon in the upper right and select "Settings." On the "General" tab, select "Hide the people widget" button. Then click "Save Changes" at the bottom of the page.

10. How to Auto-Decline Appointments

If you'll be away on vacation or know you have a prior commitment, a handy tool in Google Calendar labs is "Automatically declining events." To turn on this feature, click the gear icon at the top right of your screen and select "Labs." Click "Enable" next to it, then "Save" at the bottom of the page.

This feature lets you block times in your calendar when you know you'll be unavailable. When someone sends you an invite for an event during this time period, Google Calendar will automatically decline it.

Kristin Burnhamcovers Consumer Technology, SaaS, Social Networking and Web 2.0 for CIO.com. Follow Kristin on Twitter @kmburnham. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline. E-mail Kristin at kburnham@cio.com.

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