Tuesday, July 24, 2007 at 10:21am by The Free Geek
Since its creation in 2004, Gmail has become a wildly popular free e-mail service due largely in part to the large amount of storage it provides. Gmail is based on the idea that users shouldn’t be forced to delete emails due to lack of space, and the program is loaded with features that allow the user to organize their email without having to constantly cull from the inbox. But with its integration to Google’s search functions, document programs, calendars, and photo management it’s clear that Gmail is aiming to be much more than simple Web mail.
The versatility of Gmail doesn’t end at what comes with the program (though many of the features it provides often are underused). Gmail has attracted the talents of many independent programmers and there are numerous scripts and plug-ins made for Gmail that can further enhance your experience. To that end, the following list provides some of the best tips and hacks to help you make the most of your Gmail service.
Add Labels: Traditional email clients allow users to archive old emails in folders, which works well a majority of the time. But what happens when an email logically belongs in more than one folder? Gmail circumvents this problem by allowing users to attach tags to emails. Instead of physically moving the emails into folders the label acts as a logical folder, organizing your email in a more dynamic fashion.
Create Filters: Gmail users may not know that they can create filters to help organize incoming email. Filters can be used to automatically label messages sent from a particular user or those that contain certain words and phrases. The feature can also be used to catch any spam that spam filters might miss.
Keyboard Shortcuts: Reluctant to switch to a Web-based email client because you’re attached to all those handy keyboard shortcuts in Windows programs? Not to worry, Gmail has similar keyboard shortcuts that you can learn quickly.
Import Contacts: If you plan to promote Gmail as your main email client, the transition can be made considerably less painful with the contact-importing feature. To import your contacts into Gmail, you simply need to export your contacts list in your current email client as a CSV file, and then import them into Gmail.
GSpace: If you don’t have a ton of email, but you still want to take advantage of the storage space offered on Gmail, you can try out GSpace. GSpace turns the 2GB of your Gmail account into free online storage with your files stored in an easy to use interface. You can even use your Gmail to store your favorite music and listen to directly from GSpace.
Gmail Search from Firefox Toolbar: This plug-in will allow you to search your Gmail directly from the Firefox toolbar, and will take you directly to the page once you hit enter. Best of all, the plug-in can also be used to search Wikipedia, Amazon, and Google as well.
GCalQuickTab: If you have both Gmail and Google Calendar, GCalQuickTab makes it easy to switch between the two in your browser. It overrides the default behavior of the links that appear in the upper-left-hand corner of the Gmail inbox. If the linked program is already open, then the plug-in brings that tab to the front instead of opening it in a new window.
GTDInbox: GTDInbox integrates with your Gmail to help you be more productive. It organizes the Gmail labels into distinct categories: Contexts, Status, Projects and References. It also allows you a way to quickly organize and prioritize tasks and references in your inbox. And if you need a to-do list on the go, you can easily print your tasks in a pocket-sized format.
Drag Drop Upload: Drag Drop Upload makes creating attachments easy. You no longer have to browse through the files on the computer, you just click and drag the file you want into your email, and voila, it’s attached.
Better Gmail: Better Gmail takes the best and most popular of the Greasemonkey Scripts (which are covered below) and combines them into one convenient Firefox extension. Better Gmail includes scripts for the following features: colored labels, macros, saved searches, conversation previews, attachment reminders, and attachment icons. It’s a simple way to spruce up your Gmail experience.
Gmail Skinz: Think your Gmail looks a little boring? Gmail Skinz can help you spice it up. You can change the color of the inbox, add weather and news headlines, insert Picasa images into your Gmail, and – for animal print fans – you can even give your mailbox a zebra makeover.
Email Notifier: If you don’t want to have your Gmail window open all the time, but if you want to know immediately when you receive emails, the Gmail Notifier can be a great addition to your Firefox. The notifier will create an icon in your toolbox and incoming email will create a small pop up notification box that disappears after a few seconds. You can read who sent the email as well as the subject of the email without opening Gmail.
Gmail Manager: Gmail manager allows you to control several Gmail accounts and receive email notifications from them all. The toolbar icon provides information on your unread messages, saved drafts, spam, and the amount of space being used.
Super Clean: Like things minimalist? Though Gmail is already pretty basic in terms of design, Super Clean will make your Gmail simpler and whiter.
Spam Count Hide: No one wants to deal with spam, and since Gmail automatically deletes it you really don’t need to worry about it. This script will eliminate the link that tells you how much spam you have, cleaning up your Gmail interface and eliminating yet another trace of annoying and unwanted email.
Attachment Icons: This script creates different icons for attachments based on which type of attachment file, allowing you to easily browse through your emails and know immediately what’s attached.
Google Reader Integration: Google Reader allows users to read Atom and RSS feeds. With this integration, your feeds will automatically appear in your Gmail account and you can easily send Google Reader news items and interesting articles to your friends with a click of a button.
Gmailto: For many Gmail users, clicking on an email link on a Web page can be a pain if it brings up an email program that you don’t use. This script will make it so that any email link will automatically bring up your Gmail account instead.
Saved Searches: Saved searches are a popular feature among email clients, and there’s no reason why Gmail should be an exception. The saved search feature allows you to create "smart folders." These searches are displayed in a separate box, and when you click on them it executes a stored search, essentially creating folders for your emails.
Conversation Preview: While Gmail offers a short one-line description of items in your inbox, sometimes a larger preview would be more helpful. That’s where this script comes in. By right clicking on any email in your inbox a box will pop-up and you can see the larger text.
Calendar Integration: For those who use Google Calendar this can be a very useful tool. It allows you to see your calendar agenda while still writing out emails so you can easily check your calendar and relay your schedule to others.
Label Colors: Gmail labels can be even more useful when you can gain access to more than one color. Adding colors to labels can make certain ones stand out and allow color-coding to important message labels.
Gmail Macros: Gmail comes with a variety of keyboard shortcuts, but by using Macros you can add even more ways to cut your keyboard time. New shortcuts offered by the macros provide a quick way to move emails to the trash, mark them as read, or add them to your archive.
SSLGoogle: Since Gmail doesn’t provide an inherently secure server, SSLGoogle can help make your emails, calendar dates, and documents more secure by forcing them to travel through an https server instead of an http server.
Gmail Encrypt: To further secure your emails you can use Gmail Encrypt. This script will encrypt your outgoing emails so they can’t be read by nosy outside parties.
Date Search: Sometimes you know just when an email was sent, but nothing else about that communication. With this date search script you can add a search by date function to Gmail’s search form.
Web and Desktop Apps
Gmail Drive: Gmail Drive for Windows will create a new drive in your "My Computer" folder. This drive uses Gmail for additional storage. All you have to do is drag and drop files into the drive and they are automatically moved to your Gmail for storage. A similar program called gDisk is available for Mac users.
Gmail To Do: This is a desktop application that will store your "to dos" in a list that appears as a small label in your Gmail account.
Desktop Notifier: This is the official version of the Gmail Notifier from Google. It will create an icon in your toolbar that will alert you to any incoming mail.
Gmail Mobile: Need to gain access to your Gmail away from home? Not a problem, just bring it with you on your mobile phone. This program simply needs to be installed on your mobile phone and you can read emails and open attachments from anywhere.
Gmail This! GmailThis! will allow you to easily send Web pages using your Gmail without even having to open Gmail in a separate tab or window. GmailThis! creates a tiny window with Gmail that automatically contains the link to the web page you are visiting, as well as any text you have highlighted on that page.
Gmail Based Blog: This is a neat feature for Gmail that allows you to blog via your Gmail. Your Gmail messages act as the entries and comments appear as responses to the conversation.
Gmail Loader: For those making the switch to Gmail, or simply want to take advantage of the large amount of storage space, Gmail Loader can be a valuable tool. It allows users to import their emails from another account directly to Gmail.
Icon Generator: For those who want to post a their email address but don’t want to be exposed to spambots, the Icon Generator can help. It makes a small, colorful icon out of your email address, which you can add to a Web page or blog.
This is by no means a complete list of every Gmail hack, as new tools are being released regularly. The tips and tricks noted above, however, should provide you with a great start with customizing your Gmail.
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