To those of you who might have had this article bookmarked, you'll notice it's a bit longer than before. Why? Well, we originally wrote this piece back in 2009, and quite a bit has changed since then, so we thought we'd add to it. After all, it's been five years, which might as well be an eternity in technology time. For example, the amount of free space Google gave Gmail users to play with in 2009 was less than half of what it is today. That's partially the result of Google merging storage across Gmail, Google Drive, and Google+ Photos. Whereas you used to have 7GB of storage for Gmail, you now have 15GB per account, and you can spread it out through those three services however you wish.
Storage isn't the only thing that's different. There are some new tips and tricks to share, like Streak, a Chrome extension that lets you see who viewed your email, at what time, and from where. We've added Streak to this article and cover it in a bit more detail on the following pages, as well as added other groovy tricks. We've also updated existing ones as needed. The bottom line is there's something here for everyone, whether you've read through this article before or this is the first time you're seeing it. Let's get started!
You've heard the expression that you need to learn to crawl before you can walk, and when it comes to Gmail, you'll be ahead of the game if you learn how to use keyboard shortcuts before diving into more advanced options. To enable keyboard shortcuts, click on Settings and mark the 'Keyboard shortcuts on' radial button.
Now that you have this feature turned on, here's a sampling of what you can do with it:
There's a lot more shortcuts to learn, all of which you can reference here.
In the original version of this article, we showed you how to fire up a game called Old Snakey using a Gmail shortcut after enabling it in Gmail Lab, a place where you can find "some crazy experimental stuff." Unfortunately, this fun little time waster slithered off into retirement a couple of years ago. The guy who wrote it -- Dave Cohen, a developer at Google -- said too many people thought they had to beat it before getting to see their mail. Ah well, it was fun while it lasted!
Kudos to you if you can remember the email address for everyone in your Address Book. That gets pretty difficult when you start dealing with dozens of contacts, let alone hundreds or even thousands, and who wants to sit around and retype all that info? The good news is, in most cases you won't have to when making the switch to Gmail.
Like many email clients and services, Gmail supports the Comma Separated Values (CSV) file format. This makes it easy to transfer your Outlook contacts over to Gmail. In Outlook, click on File>Import and Export. Choose 'Export to a file' and press Next. Choose 'Comma Separated Values (Windows),' which should be the second entry down, as depicted above.
By default, Outlook seems to assume you want to export your mail and automatically scrolls down to your Inbox. But what we're after are all the email addresses, so scroll up and highlight Contacts, and then click on Next.
Choose a location for the file you're about to save and give it a name, like OutlookContacts. Click Next>Finish and wait a few seconds while Outlook composes the file.
Now that you have your CSV file, sign in to Gmail and click on Contacts. You'll see some buttons listed above your contact. Click on More and select Import. Then click on Choose File and locate the CSV file you saved from Outlook. Once you've found your file, just click on Import and let Gmail do the rest!
Use this same method for any service or client which allows you to export your contacts to a CSV file. If you have a Yahoo email account, for example, click on Contacts and then Actions>Export. Select the Yahoo CSV radio button and press Export Now. Then it's just a matter of importing the file into Gmail as outlined above.
It doesn't matter whether we're sitting at the library or fixing Uncle Pete's PC. If we're sitting in front of a computer, we're probably going to check our Gmail to see if we have any urgent messages. That's fine, but what if you forget to sign out? The next person that uses the PC will able to jump into your account and read all of your conversations. Even worse, that person could send out emails on your behalf and create all kinds of chaos. And all because you forgot to sign out.
Don't sweat it, Google has your back. Scroll down below your inbox and take note of the Details URL. Right next to it, Google tells you when the last account activity took place, and from which IP it originated from.
When you click on the Details link, a new window pops up with more detailed information about any recent activity that occurred on your account, including the IP address, date and time, and even the access type (browser, mobile, POP3, SMTP, and so forth).
In addition to your armchair investigation, this is also where you're able to sign out of your account remotely. Just click on the 'Sign out all other sessions' buttons and it will be like you never forgot to log off at all!
This one's a little tricky because Gmail no longer plays all that nice with AIM since Google decided to focus on its own Hangouts. If you're using Hangouts in Gmail, the first thing you need to do in Gmail is revert back to the old chat. You'll find the option to do that by clicking on your mug in the chat section on the left-hand side.
After you revert to the old chat, use AOL's import tool found here. It will ask you to log into AIM and then share your Gmail login information. After you do that, AIM will import your contacts. Leave the browser open as it's working -- it could take a minute or so to complete.
You can also chat with your Google buddies through AIM. To do that, log into AIM, click on Settings, and select Third Party Accounts. Next, select the Add Google Talk Contacts option and click Accept in the pop-up window.
Ever get caught up in a lame group conversation that you want no part of? You basically have two options when this happens. First, you can send off an insulting email letting the other participants know you have no interest in their topic of conversations and to remove you from the current discussion. The problem in doing that is you're bound to piss someone off and it will all be for naught. Why? Because some bonehead will inevitably reply to an older email from which your name hasn't yet been removed, putting you right back in the thick of things.
The other solution is to simply put up with it and delete the emails as they come in. If you're thinking there's got to be a better way, you're absolutely correct. One of the coolest features in Gmail is the ability to mute or flat-out ignore a conversation. Here's how you do it.
First you need to turn on keyboard shortcuts as we outlined earlier (Settings, Keyboard shortcuts on, Save). Once this is enabled, simply press the 'm' key to mute a conversation. By doing so, new messages added the conversation skip your inbox and stay archived. That is, unless you're the direct recipient, in which case it will still show up in your inbox so you don't have to stress over missing any urgent emails.
The downside to this is your muted messages can quickly become lost, making them difficult to track down if you ever need to reference one of them. However, there's an easy way to sort through them all. In the search field, type is:muted.
What you won't find is an unmute button, but that's okay, you don't need one. To unmute a conversation, open it up and click on Move to Inbox.
We're not going to debate which is the better email protocol, IMAP or POP3. We don't need to, because Gmail supports them both, as does Outlook. So rather than spark a flame war over which one is better (*cough* IMAP *cough*), we'll show you how to configure each one.
Configure Gmail in Outlook with POP3
Before you do anything, sign in to your Gmail account and click on Forwarding and POP/IMAP. There are a few different options for enabling POP3, and we recommend checking the second one, 'Enable POP for mail that arrives from now on.' If you want Outlook to also download mail that you've already received and read, click the other radio button. Press Save Changes.
In the same section, decide and choose whether you want Gmail to keep a copy of messaged accessed via POP3 on Google's servers, archive them, or delete them.
Now fire up Outlook and navigate to Tools>Account Settings and be sure the Email tab is selected. Click on New, select the first radio button (Microsoft Exchange, POP3, IMAP, or HTTP), and press Next. Fill in the account setup form, including your Gmail email address and password. Once you're finished, click on Next and see if Outlook is able to automatically configure your account. If not, you'll need to go back and mark the 'Manually configure server settings or additional server types' checkbox.
Click Next and select the Internet E-mail radio button. In the next window, fill out the fields as follows:
Now click on the More Settings button and select the Advanced tab. Fill out the following:
Configure Gmail in Outlook with IMAP
Sign into Gmail, click on Forwarding and POP/IMAP, and mark the Enable IMAP radio button. Press Save Changes.
Load up Outlook and create a new account using the same steps above, only this time don't even attempt to let Google auto detect the settings. Mark the 'Manually configure server settings or additional server types' check box, click Next, and fill out the fields as follows:
Now click on the More Settings button and select the Advanced tab. Fill out the following:
The reason it always seems like your Internet connection goes out at the worst possible time is because when you stop and think about it, there's really no good time to be without Internet access. Whether we're trying to play an online multiplayer game or collaborate on a cloud project, losing an internet connection sucks. That doesn't mean you can't still be productive, however, because Google has made it possible to use your Gmail account offline (provided you use Chrome). Here's what you need to do.
Log into your Gmail account, click on the Gear icon in the top-right corner and select Settings, and then click on the Offline link. If you see a blank page, select the Install Gmaill Offline option and proceed to do so.
After you install the app, launch it and follow the prompts. The first one will ask whether or not you want to allow offline mail. By choosing the Allow offline mail option, Gmail will save copies of recent mail for your account to your PC. You can then choose to download from the past week, 2 weeks, or month by clicking on the gear icon in the upper right corner.
At this point, the synchronization process will kick in. Depending on how much email you've acquired through the years, this could take a long while, even on a fast connection. Once it's finished, however, you'll be able to access all your mail offline.
What if you're not using Google's Chrome browser? You can still backup your Gmail and view them offline in a third-party email client. Here's how:
Download and install Gmail Backup from here. Run the program, input your username and password, and choose a directory to save your mail. When you're finished, click the Backup button and Gmail Backup will do the rest. Should you ever need to view these messages offline, you can do so in Outlook and other clients that support the .eml file format. But what's even cooler is that you can restore your local emails back into Gmail just by clicking on the Restore button.
Google does a lot more than just email, and that can mean wielding different accounts, tabs, or browser windows. If you're heavy into Google Apps, that can quickly become a drag, so here are a few ways you can integrate Gmail with other Google services.
To integrate Google Calendar with your Gmail account, log into Gmail, click on Settings, and select the Labs tab. Scroll down and enable the Google Calendar gadget, and then click Save.
Google Voice Player
There's no need to navigate back and forth from Gmail to Google Voice in order to play back your voicemails. Enable 'Google Voice player in mail' under the Labs stab and you'll be able to play back your voice messages from your email notification.
We admit it, we're hypocrites, but hear us out. Sure, we despise as much as the next person receiving an automated response to a customer support inquiry, so why in the world would we advocate setting up Google's so-called Canned Responses? Put simply, we can be much more efficient and less burnt out by composing pre-set replies to common questions we receive all the time.
To take advantage of this feature, head back into the Labs tab (under Settings), enable Canned Responses, and mash the Save button. Now let's say you placed a For Sale ad on Craigslist or your local Classifieds and the item sold, but you continue to receive inquiries. It can get pretty old typing out the same response over and over, and it's bad etiquette to just ignore the email. After all, you may be shunning a future buyer for other items you may list for sale.
This is where Canned Responses come in. Type in your response. In our example, we wrote, "The 2008 Pontiac GTO I listed on Craigslist is sold. Thank you for your interest." It's short, polite, and to the point, and it's also generic enough to be used no matter what the question is regarding the car that was recently sold. To save this message as a Canned Response, click on the Canned Respond link in the upper right corner, select Save, and give it a name.
The next time an email comes in asking about the car, we can simply click on the Canned Response link and insert our pre-composed reply.
To take it a step further, we can automate the process of sending Canned Responses by using Filters. To do this, click on the Create a Filter link next to the search box. In this example, we want to filter emails that contain the words 'Craigslist,' 'Pontiac,' or 'GTO.' We'll write these down in the 'Has the words' field with each word separated by the search operator 'OR' (in all caps). When you're finished, click Next.
In the next step, mark the 'Send canned response' checkbox and select the appropriate one from the pull-down menu. You can also choose to mark the email as read, delete, archive it, and a few other options. When you have it configured the way you want, mash the Create Filter button and let Gmail handle the rest!
Thank virus writers and malicious malware miscreants for the restrictions most ISPs and email services place on potentially dangerous file types. That includes Google, which blocks you from sending or receiving executables, as well as some other file formats, even if they're sent in a one of these compressed file types: .zip, .tar, .tgz, .taz. .z, and .gz.
The easiest workaround is to amend the file extension to fool Gmail into allowing the file, and then let the recipient know they'll need to rename the file. For example, let's say you coded a simple app and wanted to share it with your mentor. Open up the directory where the file is located and press the Alt key to bring up the menu bar. Click on Tools>Folder Options, select the View tab, and uncheck 'Hide extensions for known file types.' Hit OK.
Now you can edit your file's extension. Right- click the blocked file and select Rename. Add .REMOVE to the end of the file, so for example CustomApp.exe would become CustomApp.exe.REMOVE. A pop-up window will appear letting you know that if you change the extension, the file might become unusable. Click Yes, as once the recipient changes it back. it will be fully usable again. Now you're free to send your file!
Protip: If you have a lot of blocked file attachments to send, compress them into a single .zip file and then change the .zip extension in the same manner above.
If you're not comfortable thwarting Gmail's virus scanner, you still have other options. One of our favorites is Hightail (formerly YouSendIt). Once you register, this free service will allow you to send any file type up to 250MB in size (by contrast, Gmail limits messages to 25MB). If you need more than that, there are also several subscription plans available starting at $16/month.
To use the service, just log in, attach your file, and fire away!
If you own a website, chances are you also want to use your personalized email address (email@example.com, for example). At the same time, Gmail's feature set typically trounces all over most other email services, including the one that comes prepackaged with your domain. One solution is to simply forward your email to a Gmail account, but that isn't exactly elegant. Nor is it necessary, because Google allows you to host your domain email at Gmail, giving you the best of both worlds.
To get started, you need to register with Google Apps for business by following this link. Fill in the required info and hit Next. Then, choose the "Use a domain name I have already purchased" radio button and type in your domain name in the specified field.
Next you'll need to create a Google apps account by filling in the fields for your username and password, then click "Accept and signup." This will take you to the Google Admin Console, and thus begins your 30-day free trial to Google Apps for business.
You still need to verify that you own the website you just registered. Start the process by clicking on the Gear icon and selecting "Setup," and then select the "Verify domain ownership" option on the left-hand side. You can do this in one of two ways - either by uploading an HTML file to your website, or changing the domain's CNAME records with your domain host. It doesn't matter which one you choose, though if you choose to go the CNAME route, Google provides specific instructions for several popular hosts here (scroll down and expand 'Specific instructions for popular domain hosts).
The easiest way is to upload an HTML file. Google holds your hands through the process. When prompted, download the HTML file Google provides and upload it where specified.
Once you've verified your site, you'll need to configure your domain's MX (Mail Exchange) records. How you get there will depend on which host you're using, and so will the records you need to input. Find your host here and follow the instructions exactly as Google lays them out, or if you don't see your host listed, follow these general MX record instructions:
It might take a little while for all the changes to take effect, but when they do, you'll be able to log into your email account by navigating to http://mail.google.com/a/YOURWEBSITEHERE.COM/#inbox, where YOURWEBSITE.COM is the name of your domain.
After you log in, spend some time familiarizing yourself with the Dashboard and the different settings available. For example, you can create up to 50 email accounts, set up groups, enable contact sharing, and more.
Interested in learning which sites are sharing your email address? There's an easy way reveal which sites and services aren't living up their privacy promises. All you have to do is append your email address with +xxx, replacing xxx with whatever you want. For example, if your Gmail address is JohnDoe@gmail.com, you could use the email address JohnDoe+BestBuy@gmail.com when registering at Best Buy. Emails sent to JohnDoe +BestBuy@gmail.com will still show up in your regular inbox, and if you start receiving all kinds of unsolicited junk mail at that addy, you'll know the culprit.
Discovering who's sharing your email isn't the only thing this trick is good for. Pre-labeled emails also come in handy for sorting your messages and using a unified account in place of several email addys. If you wanted to keep your work messages separate from your day-to- day email, just append the word 'work' to your email addy. To use our above example, you would use JohnDoe+Work@gmail.com when communicating with co-workers. Take it a step further by creating labels and setting up filters to automatically sort your work, personal, and any other types of email addresses you set up.
Few email services come close to offering the same flexibility and management options as Gmail, and it's mostly due to Google's implementation of labels and filters. In short, labels act like folders, while filters act like, well, filters.
If you're using Gmail, you've probably already created a few labels. Here are some good ways to utilize them:
Gmail owes much of its flexibility to Gmail Labs. These add-ons are essentially beta services that, for one reason or another, haven't been implemented yet as a permanent feature. But don't let the experimental status fool you - there are a lot of good Labs features that both run stable and improve the overall Gmail experience. Here's a list of our favorite five, in addition to the ones we've already covered previously in this writeup (like Canned Responses).
Don't like having your Hangouts on the left side of Gmail? Enable Right-Side Chat and it will appear on the right side instead. This isn't groundbreaking, by any means, though it does open up more space on the left side for custom labels without having to minimize your chat contacts.
Unread Messages Icon
It's been a couple of hours since you checked Gmail and the messages are starting to pile up. You can only put it off before there are so many messages that it becomes overwhelming. How long? That varies by user, but with this handy Lab enabled, you'll know exactly how many unread messages are waiting for you.
Mark as Read Button
Buttons or pull-down menus? If you frequently perform a particular action, the button wins out every time. And if you find yourself marking emails as read on a consistent basis, this just might become your favorite add-on.
Custom Keyboard Shortcuts
We showed you how to enable keyboard shortcuts earlier in this article, but if you don't like the way Google has them configured, enable this Lab to make changes. Maybe you think "W" for "write email" is easier to remember than "C" for "Compose." Once you enable this Lab, you'll find a Keyboard Shortcuts option in Settings. Head over there and make any changes you want.
Probably the best Labs feature ever, Undo Send gives you a moment to reflect on that angry email you just sent your boss, and should a cooler head prevail, unsend the message and maybe even save your job!
Have a favorite Labs feature that didn't make the list? Be sure to post it in the comments section below!
It's tough to imagine using Gmail without Gmail Notifier. This little utility sits unobtrusively in the systray and lets you know when there's a new message in your inbox. It also serves as a gateway to your inbox - just right-click and select View Inbox.
The hardest part about being a social butterfly in cyberspace is managing all those different accounts. It's easy to waste an entire morning just catching up on current events through Gmail, MySpace, LinkedIn, Friendster, and Twitter. That's where Fuser comes in, which is a catch-all front-end that combines all those accounts (including multiple accounts through the same service) into a single, manageable inbox.
Send and receive signed and encrypted messages in Gmail with this Firefox add-on. Once installed, you'll notice a padlock icon when composing an email. Give it a click to lock and encrypt your email, and rest easy knowing your top secret message will stay that way.
We like any tool or service that makes our lives easier and streamlines common tasks, and one such utility that fits the bill is the Email This! Firefox add-on. Once installed, Email This! will appear in your right-click context menu making easy work out of emailing the title, link, and any highlighted text through your Gmail account.
This Firefox add-on is like a supercharged version of Gmail Notifier. Probably the best feature is the ability to add multiple accounts, but you can also configure how often Gmail Manager checks for new messages, display new mail snippets from the inbox, play a sound when new mail arrives, hide your email alias, and more.
Whoa, put your pants back on! We're not talking about that kind of streaking. No, the "Streak" we're referring to is a handy extension for Chrome that supercharges your Gmail experience. You can use Streak to schedule emails to send out later, create and add snippets of redundant text to emails, track bugs, and more. Have a look at one example:
One of our favorite features of Streak is being able to track emails. If you enable this feature, you can tell when someone has read an email you sent, when they read it, and even where they were when they read it.
Let's say your Gmail address is Username@gmail.com. If you don't like how that looks, feel free to tell people your email address is User.Name@gmail.com. You're probably already aware that capatilization doesn't matter, but did you know that the dots don't affect things as well? They don't, so even U.s.E.r.N.a.M.firstname.lastname@example.org will deliver email to email@example.com.
The dots are simply irrelevant.
It's hard to stay organized with to-do lists. Will you remember everything you're supposed to pick up at the store? What about little Johnny's concert -- will you remember that as well? You could tie a string to your finger, but a to-do list is even better.
You can make them in Gmail using the Tasks function. You'll find Tasks by clicking on Gmail, or you can press the "G" key followed by the "K" key to open up a Tasks windows. You can also add to Tasks from within emails by pressing Shift+T.
Boomerangs are fun, and if you've never played with one, you're missing out. Equally awesome is Boomerang -- not the thing you throw, but an extension for Chrome and Firefox. With Boomerang, you can schedule an email to send out at a later time. Just write it up and tell Boomerang when it should send out. In the meantime, if you change your mind -- maybe it's a breakup letter -- you can always go back and nuke the email.
The second thing Boomerang does is offer followup reminders by archiving your emails and bringing them back later. This gives you a cleaner inbox in the short term, but ensures you won't forget about an important email that may not be relevant until next week.
Over the years, we tend to accumulate a lot of email. It can quickly become overwhelming trying to search for a particular email that may have been sent years ago and is now buried amid a sea of communications. What's a power user to do?
To start with, identify some distinct characaters of the email you're looking for. Once you've done that, use Google's advanced search terms to track it down based on specific criteria. For example, are you looking for an email that's larger than 1MB, older than two years, and isn't labled? Simple! Just search for: size:1000000 older_2y has:nouserlabels
If you only have a single Gmail account, move along, there's nothing to see here. But if you have multiple Gmail accounts, this tip absolutely applies to you. By taking advantage Gmail Delegation, you can merge multiple accounts to a primary account and check all email at once. This feature is really intended for business types so that supervisors can share their inboxes with personal assistants, but it's also great for power users who own multiple Gmail accounts. Check it out.
If you're not able to view the embedded videw above for any reason, just follow these steps:
Be advised that it could take some time for Google to sync the accounts, so be patient.
Using labels is a great way to organize your emails, but as the number of labels grow, they too may need organizing! Lucikly, Google makes this easy to do in Gmail.
Navigate to the Settings section (found withing the gear icon) and select Labels. This will show you all the default labels plus the ones you've created over the years. If you wish to keep certain labels to archive your mail but don't want them cluttering up your inbox, click on Hide and they'll disappear from view.
You can also select which ones are viewable in IMAP. One in particular you may want to hid from view is All Mail, especially if you're setting up a new IMAP account in Thunderbird or Outlook for an email address that's been collecting email for several years.