Archive for the ‘Black Belt’ Category

Sign in to Multiple Gmail Accounts

This entry is part 27 of 27 in the series Black Belt

Few things from Google fall short of “fantastic” for me, but the new feature to login to multiple Google accounts at once was met with a solid “meh”.

My original thought was “great, now I don’t need all those accounts under ‘send mail as’.” Such was not the case this time. Per Google’s posting on the Gmail Blog, they say you can login to two Google accounts at once, however there are some gotchas.

1) Not all Google services support multiple account sign-in yet. For the services that don’t support it (like Blogger and Picasa Web Albums), you’ll be defaulted to the first account you signed in with during that browser session. So if you click a link from Gmail to Blogger, for example, you’ll be logged into Blogger with the first account you signed in with, even if you clicked the link to Blogger from your second Gmail account.

2) We’re still working on making Gmail and Calendar work offline with multiple sign-in. If you rely on offline access, you probably don’t want to enable this feature quite yet.

3) Multiple account sign-in only works on desktop browsers for now, so if you use Gmail on your phone’s browser you won’t see this option yet.

Since Google Apps customers can already sign in to their accounts at the same time as their personal Google Accounts, we won’t be adding this new feature to Google Apps until the new infrastructure is in place.

This doesn’t do anything for me. It only supports up to three Google accounts, not all apps are supported, and hosted email addresses won’t be coming along for a while. What’s the big deal everyone has been jumping up and down for? OK, setting up shared calendars can be a bit of a pain, but once it’s done, you get to use those calendars on your iPhone, iPad, iCal, and other places. As for shared Gmail, that’s already been answered and I’d rather switch at the top of the message using a centralized account with the Send Mail As feature (read: change the sender on the fly) than switch to a different account to check that mail.

For usefulness, I give this feature a 2 out of 10. Maybe I’ll see more value when the hosted accounts can play.

Multiple Google Calendar Sync With iPhone

This entry is part 26 of 27 in the series Black Belt

I love my iPhone4 and I love Google calendar. What I didn’t like was how difficult it was to pull these two together. Until now…

About a year ago I setup my iPod Touch to sync with my Google calendar, my wife’s calendar, and a couple others. I recall going to the various calendar settings to get obscure IDs, then setting each one as a separate account in the device’s settings, and modifying URLs under the advanced settings. To say it was painful was an understatement.

Last night when I started looking for those old Google help files, I was surprised to find a much easier way.

The short answer,

  1. Point your mobile browser to http://m.google.com/sync,
  2. Choose which calendars you want to sync
  3. Go look at your calendar on your iPhone and you’ll see the new calendars show up.

It’s as simple as that. I’ve done this on my iPhone 4 and my iPad and just love having the various calendars at my fingertips to avoid the annoying situation where I book an appointment when my wife already had something in that spot.

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Canned Responses and Maps Previews

This entry is part 25 of 27 in the series Black Belt

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Canned responses are a handy way to save time if you have the same message content in a new message, or a reply to someone else. One use might be if you have a routine report to send out each week. You can use a canned response to fill in the content with something like “Hey team, here’s this week’s report. Let me know if you have any questions. Thanks for all the hard work.”

Before you create a canned response, you first need to enable the Canned Reponse labs feature. Begin by clicking the Settings link in the upper right corner of the screen then clicking on the Labs tab. Scroll down until you see the labs feature “Canned Responses”. Click Enable to the right of the description, then scroll to the bottom of the screen and click Save Changes.

To create a new canned response, click Compose Mail on the left to create a new message. Type in the subject and body text of your message. Just under the Subject text box, you will see a link labeled “Canned Responses”. The first time you click it, the only option will be to Save a new canned response. Click on the option “New canned response” and a pop up window appears and prompts you for a friendly name. In my example, I’ll use “Weekly Reports” as the name and click “OK”. You’ve just created your first canned response. To use it in the future on a new message or reply, just click the Canned Response link and choose Insert> Weekly Reports. You can create new canned responses at any time by composing a message, then saving that message as a canned response.

Two bits of information worth sharing, first the canned response only takes the message body as the canned response. The subject, recipients, and other fields are not part of the canned response. It also takes the entire message in the message body window. If you have a signature line in the canned response and you have signatures automatically inserted, you will see two signatures. If your canned response is not exactly as you wish, you can insert it, make the necessary changes, then click the link again and choose Save> Weekly Reports, for example, to update that particular canned response. If you no longer need a canned response, click the Canned Response link and choose the appropriate name under the Delete grouping.

Canned responses are a quick and easy way to save time if you are sending a routine message in Gmail.

Quick Tip: Enable the Google Maps Previews in mail labs feature to have Gmail automatically display a map when someone includes an address in an email. This saves you time for copying the address from a mail message, opening another window then pasting the address in to Google maps. Additionally, if you post a Google maps link in to a Buzz message, Buzz will automatically include a preview image. If you like photo, docs, and other previews, then you’ll want to be sure to add the maps preview labs feature to your collection. Just click on the settings link in the upper right corner, choose the labs tab, and scroll down until you see the labs feature “Google Maps Previews in Mail”. Click Enable, scroll to the bottom, click Save Changes and you’ll get a maps preview when someone sends you a street address.

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Offline Attachments and Green Robots

This entry is part 23 of 27 in the series Black Belt

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Beginning November 22, 2009, Gmail has added the ability to add attachments to email while in offline mode. This was not previously possible and frustrated many people who use offline Gmail. Now email attachments will behave just as you would expect whether you are online or offline, with the exception that you cannot do inline images when you are in offline mode.

When Gmail sends your mail, it goes through the outbox whether you are offline or online. This allows Gmail to capture all the attachments. If you are online, your message is sent immediately. If you are offline, it sits in the outbox until you are reconnected. Oddly, I would have expected this behavior already since I am so used to it in Outlook.

To get started with offline access:
1. Go to Settings and click on the Labs Tab.
2. Select Enable next to the Offline Gmail option
3. Click Save Changes at the bottom of the page
4. Your browser will then restart and you should see an offline link represented as an icon of a white checkmark in a green circle, next to your name in the upper right corner of Gmail. Click the offline icon to start the setup process.

Listen to the Gmail Podcast from March 1st and November 8th 2009 for additional information on setting up Offline Gmail and selecting specific messages to synchronize..

Here’s today’s quick tip. If you have friends with Android phones, enable the labs feature Green Robot to identify in your chat listing which people are online, but perhaps not always available because their Android phone has them automatically logged in. Android users will show up as a green robot indicating they are ready, but not ready-ready.

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Selected Offline Messages and Password Tips

This entry is part 22 of 27 in the series Black Belt

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Back in January 2009, Gmail came out with a labs feature to let you access your Gmail without an Internet connection. The mail was synchronized when you were connected and then you could access it when you were offline. For frequent travelers, this is a terrific feature. You can learn more about it by listenging to the Gmail Podcast episode simply titled Offline from March 1, 2009.

The downside of the standard offline mode is that it took a very long time to download the messages or in some cases, all the messages you wanted were not there due to the way the software chooses which messages to download. You might find yourself with plenty of messages from a year ago that have little value, but not all your inbox was synced.

Gmail Offline now lets you choose which items to download and how far back to get them. This not only saves download time, but also ensures you have relevant information at your fingertips. For example, my Gmail archive is currently around 30,000 messages. It would take a couple hours to download all those messages, and according to the heuristics, I might not get all of the the ones I want.

To setup selected offline messages, you’ll need to enable the “Offline” labs feature from the Labs tab on the Settings screen. Once that is done, you can use the “Offline” tab from the Settings screen. The “Download Options” section of that screen is where you configure how far back you want to sync your conversations and from which labels. The old method would have defaulted to all conversations from all labels. I setup mine to only go back a month and then fine tune it to first, ignore most labels, then chose some like Inbox that I want all conversations, and finally chose a few fairly active labels where I only need the past month. Once I saved those options, I was able to sync my data in a few minutes and take it on the road.

This feature really makes Gmail Offline a lot more convenient, but you will need to remember to check the settings from time to time to ensure you add labels as they are needed and remove those that are not.

Here’s today’s quick tip – Be sure to change your Gmail password at least a couple times a year. There are people on the Internet who make a career out of trying to steal passwords. Some guidelines to follow when choosing a new Gmail password:

  • Make it unique. Don’t make it the same as your other Internet accounts. If someone compromises your Gmail account, they could have access to lots of other information on the Internet. If you have lots of different passwords to remember, I recommend a password vault program like KeePass available from keepass.info. I use because I have over 100 different passwords to remember at home and work.
  • Use a combination of upper case and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. One common trick is to replace letters with symbols. For example, replace S with a dollar sign, or T with a 7.
  • Don’t use simple words found in the dictionary like “house”, “automobile”, and definitely not “password”.
  • Don’t use personal information that is easy to find such as your street name, dog’s name, and so on.
  • Putting two or more words together with symbols is a good idea. Something like “dino+eggs”, of course replacing some of those letters with numbers or other symbols would make it a much stronger password.
  • Finally, make you password something you are likely to remember. “dino+eggs” would be great if you are a paleontologist, but not necessarily if you are a stock trader.

You can change your password by going to google.com/accounts, or if you are starting from Gmail, go to settings, click on the “Accounts and import” tab, then look near the bottom for a link labeled “Google Account Settings”.

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Gmail Notifiers Compared

This entry is part 21 of 27 in the series Black Belt

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Using webmail makes sense. It’s easy to access from any computer, and you don’t need to worry about installing and maintaing software, but the drawback is you have to keep a browser window open to know when you have email. The solution to this is to have a small application installed on your machine that monitors your Gmail account and pops up an alert when you get a message.
For notifiers, I found a few options. Gmail Notifier for Windows from Google, Google Notifier for Mac (same thing for Mac with a slightly different name, also available straight from Google), Gmail Notifier from http://gmailnotifier.com, and Notify for the Mac from Vibealicious (http://vibealicious.com/apps/notify/). I know, the names are all very similar.

Let’s start with the one that Google provides at http://toolbar.google.com/gmail-helper/notifier_mac.html called the Gmail Notifier. It’s pretty basic. It supports Windows and Mac, sits in your system tray or menu bar, monitors your Gmail account and pops up when you get a message. Pretty simple to download, install, and be up and running to monitor your Gmail account.

Let’s say you have more than one Gmail account and you chose not to use the multiple account feature on the server to send and receive all your mail in one place. That’s where you might want to use Notify from Vibealicious. It allows you to monitor multiple Gmail accounts at once. It’s only available for Mac, but looks beautiful. It sits in the menu bar with a little icon and number of unread messages next to it. When you click on it, you get a full interface. Like the other tools, Notify is free.

Finally, there is Gmail Notifier from http://gmailnotifier.com. Like Google’s product, it supports both Windows and Mac. Similar to Vibealicious, it also supports multiple accounts. It runs in the system tray (or Mac menu bar) like Google’s tool, and when you click on it, you can pop up an index of all your accounts and how many unread messages are in each. It has simple controls to let you manage the message index and select messages for deletion, mark them as read, etc. It even supports Google Calendar alerts. I was caught off guard by the default alert which announced in a female voice “Incoming messages” with my laptop volume a little high. And of course, it’s free.

Of the three, Gmail Notifier from gmailnotifier.com is my pick for feature robustness and platform compatibility.

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Integrated Gmail

This entry is part 20 of 27 in the series Black Belt

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OK Google users, listen up. If you’re like me and use Gmail, Google Reader, Calendar, and many more apps, you likely find yourself wishing there was one single place to see and manage all that information rather than jumping between many different interfaces and applications.
Even though Google hasn’t come up with a unified interface, there’s a Firefox add-on that can do it for you called Integrated Gmail. It allows you to pull together your Google applications plus third party sites in the Gmail interface.

Listener John writes in that he’s got a netbook and is looking for something to offer him more screen real estate to see his conversation index and messages. I didn’t realize it at first, but Integrated Gmail add-on also offers screen controls to expand the screen usage on the top and left of the screen. Just look for the little green arrows. Whether you are a netbook user or just looking for a page to view all your Google apps, Integrated Gmail is a good choice.
Here’s today’s Quick Tip – Hey Google Voice users, Gmail now has a labs feature that allows you play your voice mail messages right in Gmail. Google Voice is a service that allows people to call one number and ring each of your multiple phones. If you are already a Google Voice user, you are used to getting your voice mail notifications as email. After someone leaves a voice message, you get an email with a transcript of the message (with varying degrees of accuracy) and a link to play the message. Previously, if you used the link it would take you to a different page to play it. By using the labs feature, you can play the message right from within Gmail. To use it, go to Settings, then click on the Labs tab, look for Google Voice player, select enable, and save you changes. Now when you get a message, the player will appear right below the message in Gmail.

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Password Reset by SMS

This entry is part 19 of 27 in the series Black Belt

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Let’s face it, sooner or later we all forget a password. There are just so many of them to keep track of. Gmail has made this a little easier by allowing you to recover your password via text message.

Begin by going to http://www.google.com/accounts. Under the personal settings, you should see a section labeled “Security”. Click on the link that says “Change password recovery options”. You’ll need to provide your Google Account credentials one more time to verify your account.

Once that is done, you can add email addresses to send a reset link, or set a mobile phone number to send a password reset code via text message. To this, click on the link under the section “SMS” labeled “Add a mobile phone number”. Choose your country and enter the mobile number you wish to send the text message to and make sure to check the checkbox labeled “Use this phone number for password recovery via text message”. Finally, click the “Save” button at the bottom.

Now if you lose or forget your password, click on the link labeled “Can’t access your account?” in the login box of any Google application. On the right, look for the article labeled “I forgot my password” and click it. This link is also available on the bottom of the page. You will then be taken to the password recovery page where you first need to provide your username. In my case, I entered chuck.tomasi and clicked Submit. You’ll need to enter the text in the captcha page, one of those graphics with squiggly letters. I’ll admit, sometimes these are a little hard to read and I often have to enter more than one.

Once you’ve passed that test, you will be given several options to reset your password based on the account options you chose. If you set an alternate email address, you will receive an email to initiate the password reset process. If you setup the SMS option, you’ll get a text message with a recovery code.

Here’s today’s quick tip. Fight phishing with new labs feature. If you are unfamiliar with the term, Phishing, with a “ph” is a term used for nefarious email that tries to lure you to a website that impersonates another in order to get secure information from you. The most notable of these are eBay and PayPal. For example, some Internet villain will send you a message that looks like it is from PayPal and take you to a site that looks like PayPal, only to get your login and password and exploit your real account. This Labs feature in Gmail verifies that an email that says it’s from eBay or PayPal actually is from one of those sources – making it more trustworthy. To use this, go to the Labs tab in Settings, turn on the feature called “Authentication Icon for verified senders”. Now when you see an email from one of these sources, a little gold key appears next to the sender’s name in the message. This currently only works for eBay and PayPal, but I’m sure Google will be extending this functionality in the future.

Finally, Google has promoted their first labs feature to a full fledged feature. Tasks is now a permanent fixture on the main page for all Gmail users. This labs feature was so successful that everyone is now able to use it by clicking the Tasks link on the left. While there is still no syncing with other systems, I expect more functionality in Tasks in the future. After all, they already implemented my suggestion to move tasks between different tasks lists. Thank you Google!

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Improved Search

This entry is part 18 of 27 in the series Black Belt

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Let’s face it, few of us take full advantage of the full power of the Gmail search feature. We look for a keyword or email address and perhaps we add “has:attachment” if we know the message included a picture or something. If done properly, the search would look like “chuck.tomasi@gmail.com filename:(jpg OR png)”. I’m sorry, that’s a little too geeky.

Fortunately, Gmail Labs includes a feature that can speed up and simplify the search process. It’s called “Search Autocomplete”. Turn it on by going to Labs under Gmail settings. Now as you type in the search box, Gmail will provide suggestions as you type. The nice thing about this is Gmail also provides the “geeky” way of doing the search.

Let’s take the example above. I start typing “Chuck Tomasi” and Gmail provides my address. Now I just type “photos” or “pictures”, select “has photos” from the drop down list and the search query automatically inserts (filename:(jpg OR png)). Similarly, you can type in the word “attachment” and Search Autocomplete will list the most common attachment types for you.

Gmail includes the geeky query for you so you can tweak it as necessary. Say you want to include GIF image types to your photo search. Just manually change it to “filename:(jpg OR png OR gif)”.

Personally, I think Search Autocomplete should be on by default because it really cleans up the search process. You’ll save so much time you can send me a note writing a quick review for this podcast on the iTunes Music Store.

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Google Searches from within Gmail

This entry is part 17 of 27 in the series Black Belt

Gmail has had a search feature for a while to allow you to search your mail, but until now, there wasn’t a convenient way to search the internet from within Gmail. Many times I’ve been asked in an email or chat for something and had to jump to Google to find the answer. Rather than open a tab, search the web, copy and paste my answer in to a response, Google has made this much easier with the addition of a Labs feature aptly called “Google Search”.

Adam de Boor, Software Engineer, explains, “When you turn this feature on from the Labs tab under Settings, you’ll see a new search box on the left side of your inbox. Type your search in, and a window (like a chat window, but a bit bigger) appears at the bottom of your screen with the first few search results. You can click on a search result and it’ll open up in another window (or another tab) so you can make sure it’s what you’re looking for. Once you’re sure it’s a result you need, moving your mouse over the result back in Gmail reveals a pull-down menu that lets you do stuff with the search result.

What’s more, it remembers the last three searches you did. You can even launch multiple searches and have more than one pop-up window at a time. This is sure to be one of my more used labs features.