9 Gmail Tips That Will Let You Take a Long Lunch
I've used practically every Web-based e-mail program, from Hotmail to Yahoo to Chick Mail (seriously), and I have to say Gmail is awesome. But it could be better.
Here are a few tips to help you organize, optimize, and take control of your Gmail so you'll spend less time sorting through your e-mail messages. (Don't worry: "Use filters" isn't one of them.)
Add-on: Better Gmail 2
Better Gmail 2 is a Firefox add-on that fixes some minor deficiencies of Gmail, such as showing the Inbox Count first in the Gmail window title, hiding your Invites box, and highlighting rows with the mouse pointer.
If you Google Chrome is your primary browser, you can still use Better Gmail 2; just go to the Firefox extension site for Better Gmail 2 and add each of the Greasemonkey scripts individually by clicking on the links in 'More about this add-on'. To install, simply click Install as user script.
If you have a message that you know will be important later (for example, one related to a password, an airline ticket, or a legal notice), and you want to be able to find it the moment you need it, do yourself a favor and identify it with keywords. Whenever I receive an important e-mail message, I forward it to myself (which doesn't pose a problem with mailbox real estate, as messages are shown in conversation format) after typing, in the forwarded message, a few words that might come to mind when I next search for it.
If it's an airline ticket, for example, I may type "airline, ticket, Virgin America, New York, summer, 2010" and forward that message to myself. Later, when I need to find that ticket, I can find it easily by searching. Sure, you could label such messages as "important" or "airline tickets," but it's still simpler to search than to wade through a bunch of "important" starred messages.
Experiment With Gmail Labs
Gmail Labs options are a great way to try various experimental Gmail features. First choose Settings, Labs and then click enable on the ones you'd like to activate.
I especially like Quick Links, which adds a box containing a list of bookmarked links in Gmail to your sidebar. It's a great feature if you routinely run complicated searches, as it allows you to bookmark searches, individual messages, and labels.
Two other options I recommend are Undo Send, which gives you a few seconds of lag time between when you hit 'send' and when Gmail actually does the sending (giving you a grace period for correcting belatedly discovered mistakes), and Mark Unread From Here, which enables you to mark a conversation unread from a certain point on (great for long message threads).
Use Gmail As Online Storage
When Gmail debuted, it was known for the generous amount of storage space (1GB) it alloted to users. Now users get almost 7.5GB to work with, and most of them aren't using all of it (I currently have 11,347 messages stored in my account, and yet I've filled only about 29 percent of my storage space). So, what are you supposed to do with all that space?
Easy: Use it for online data storage. E-mail files to yourself, and you'll always have your important files within reach (as long as you have an Internet connection). Individual files may be up to 25MB each--a fairly decent size.
Gspace, a handy Firefox add-on, makes online storage even easier. Once you've installed Gspace, select Tools, Gspace to transfer files from your hard drive to your Gmail account (they'll show up in Gmail as e-mail messages). Though you can't transfer larger files (the maximum file size for Gspace is 19MB), files of acceptable size transfer much faster.
Add-on: Gmail Manager 0.6
If you have more than one Gmail account (and for some reason you don't feel like funneling them all into a single account), you're probably sick of signing in and out of each account just to see whether you have new mail at each address.
Gmail Manager 0.6, a Firefox add-on that inserts an unobtrusive icon on the right side of the status bar (in the lower right corner), lets you can simultaneously check all of your mail accounts. To add accounts, right-click the icon, select Options, Accounts, and click the Add… button.
Each account you add will have its own little icon, mail count, and alias (you can assign aliases when you add accounts) in the status bar. Gmail Manager 0.6 periodically checks each account for new mail; clicking an icon will take you to that Gmail account. The best part: It will automatically log you on and off (assuming that you save your passwords), which means no more Gmail login/logout hassle!
Step Up Your Searches
One of the best things about Gmail is the Google-powered search, which (theoretically) makes finding what you're looking for easy and timely. Sometimes, though, finding exactly what you're looking for requires a slightly more advanced search.
Enter Gmail advanced search. In advanced search, you can specify multiple search criteria. If, for example, you want to find an e-mail message from your mom that has a picture of you as a baby, just type in "from:mom has:attachment" in the search box. If you don't want to bother typing "from:" and "has:" and other operators, click the Show search options link to the right of the search box.
Useful operators for streamlining your searches include 'subject:' (search for words in the subject line), '-' (exclude messages from your search), 'after:' and 'before:' (search for messages within a certain time frame), and 'is:starred' (search for messages that are starred). An especially helpful operator is '-label:chat', if you're trying to search for an e-mail but your search keeps bringing up chat conversations. You'll find a complete list of available operators on Gmail's help site.
Sort Mail From Multiple Accounts
These days, you may have separate e-mail addresses for work, school, and home--not to mention the really stupid Hotmail account you made specifically to flame your neighbor. But checking each one individually takes up a lot of time (time that you could be wasting elsewhere).
Luckily, you can funnel all of your e-mail messages into your Gmail account by using POP3. Choose Settings, Accounts, Import, Check Mail Using POP3, and then click Add POP3 email account) to make email-checking a one-stop operation. The feature isn't new or unique to Gmail, but Gmail does provide a couple of cool extras--such as Multiple Inboxes--to help you organize your incoming mail.
To activate this feature, choose Settings, Accounts, Import, Labs; scroll down to 'Multiple Inboxes'; select Enable; and then select Save Changes. Multiple Inboxes will allow you to see up to five additional "inboxes" in your Gmail inbox--and you can sort mail into each "inbox" by using filters (for example, "label:thisisalabel" or "is:starred"). If you already filter your incoming POP3 mail, you can easily use the predesigned labels to give each POP3 account its own "inbox."
Create Google Documents From E-Mail Messages
Google Documents gives you access to your files whenever and wherever you need them. You don't have to worry about potential compatibility issues (I'm lookin' at you, Microsoft Office 2008), and you can even share or collaborate on them with friends and colleagues. Wouldn't it be great if there was an easy way to convert e-mail messages into Google Documents?
Oh wait, there is! Just choose Settings, Labs, Create a Document. Thereafter, anytime you look at an e-mail missive, you'll see the option to 'Create a document' (right under the option to 'Print All'), which will then be saved automatically in your personal Google Docs. If your keyboard shortcuts are enabled, you can also create a blank document by hitting g and then w.
I'll let you in on a little secret. You know those little dots in your Gmail address--like the one in 'firstname.lastname@example.org'? Gmail doesn't recognize them as part of your email address. That's right, email@example.com will receive all mail that's sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, and even john...........firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. It's an interesting quirk of Gmail, and one that you can use to your advantage.
Suppose that you want an easy way to separate business e-mail from personal e-mail, without having to individually label each message. Simply give your business clients the e-mail address "firstname.lastname@example.org," and give friends and family "email@example.com." Messages sent to eitheraddress will come to your inbox, and you can set up a filter that automatically labels messages sent to "firstname.lastname@example.org" as "business."
For more Gmail goodness, check out Gmail Expert Tips: How to Tame Your Inbox and Gmail, Google Maps, and Google Search: 19 Cool Tips. Leave your own Gmail tricks in the comments!