Tweak Your Favorite Tools: Turbocharge Gmail, Add Icons to Windows Taskbar

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There's a lot to love about Gmail, but its built-in task manager is pretty weak. In fact, it's little more than a glorified checklist.

If you've been hoping for a better way to manage your tasks while under the Google/Gmail umbrella, here's good news: Free browser add-on Taskforce converts Gmail messages into tasks, then gives you the tools to organize, share, and manage those tasks.

Taskforce, which is available for Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer, adds a small floating toolbar and some new buttons to your Gmail page. When you open an e-mail message, for example, you'll see two self-explanatory new buttons under the subject line: Convert to New Task and Add to Existing Task. You can also create a new task--independent of a specific e-mail message--by clicking the Plus sign on the toolbar.

Each task can have a due date, collaborators, and comments. Taskforce also lets you create "lists," which are basically groups for related kinds of tasks ("Personal" or "Work," for example). Individual tasks can be assigned to multiple lists if necessary.

If you add a collaborator to a task, Taskforce sends an e-mail to that person. Of course, you can involve multiple people if you want, but these folks don't need to be Taskforce users themselves; they can view a task's status just by clicking an embedded link. Collaboration is definitely a big part of what makes Taskforce a better option than Google's own task manager.

Just one complaint: the service lacks reminders and alerts. Indeed, you can't even set a time that a task needs to be completed, only a date. Even so, Taskforce shows a lot of promise, and if you're a Gmail user, I highly recommend giving it a try.

Add a Snooze Button to Your Gmail Inbox

Last year I told you about NudgeMail, a terrific reminder service that acts as a kind of "snooze" option for your inbox: it resends messages at a later time so you don't forget about them.

If you're a Gmail user, NudgeMail works just fine--but there's an even better option. Boomerang for Gmail adds snooze options right to Gmail inside your browser, making it much easier to configure reminders. It also lets you delay outbound mail, delivering it at a later date/time instead of immediately.

The plug-in is compatible with Chrome and Firefox. Once installed, it adds a new button to your Gmail toolbar. If you want to send a new e-mail at a later time, you simply click that button and choose how long you want it held: one hour, two hours, two days, a week, etc. You can also enter an exact date and time, or even choose a random time (for what reason, I have no idea).

Boomerang works similarly for messages you want to "snooze": Just click the button and choose a time for the e-mail to re-appear at the top of your inbox. That kind of convenience gives Boomerang a big leg up on services NudgeMail, which require to manually forward messages to specialized e-mail addresses. And I particularly like Boomerang's option to let you review all your scheduled messages, just in case you want to revisit something before it's slated delivery time.

What's not so great about Boomerang? It's not free. After the 30-day trial ends, it'll cost you $4.99 per month for the Personal plan, which affords you unlimited messages. If you opt for the free Basic plan, you're limited to 10 scheduled/delayed messages per month.

Much as I loathe the idea of paying yet another monthly bill, Boomerang is definitely worth having. Once you start using it, I think you'll discover you can't live without it.

Restore a 'Missing' Icon to Your Windows 7 Taskbar

Reader Jim wrote in with this problem:

"Somehow I've lost the icon for Internet Explorer in my taskbar and can't figure out how to restore it. Might sound dumb, but I've spent hours with no results."

Doesn't sound dumb at all, Jim. As my dad likes to say, "Everything is easy if you know how." And if you don't know how to fix this particular hassle, well, nothing easy about it!

That said, you earn one demerit for not telling me which version of Windows you're running. So I'm going to assume it's Windows 7; apologies to you and other readers if it's not.

To restore Internet Explorer to the taskbar, all you need to do is find an icon for it. Any icon, anywhere in Windows. Here's one easy approach:

  1. Click Start.
  2. Type Internet.
  3. When Internet Explorer appears in the menu, right-click it.
  4. Click Pin to Taskbar.

Presto: There's your Internet Explorer icon! Needless to say, this method works for any program you want to pin down there. And if you want to remove it, just right-click its taskbar icon and choose Unpin this program from taskbar.

If memory serves, XP and Vista lack that context-menu "pinning" option, but you can just as easily drag an Internet Explorer icon from the Start or All Programs menu to the taskbar.

If you've got a hassle that needs solving, send it my way. I can't promise a response, but I'll definitely read every e-mail I get--and do my best to address at least some of them in the PCWorld Hassle-Free PC blog. My 411: You can also sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week.

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