Archive for the ‘Composing’ Category

Default Email Program

This entry is part 34 of 35 in the series Green Belt

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One of the things that has annoyed me about web-based mail services like Gmail is when I click on an email link on a web page or document, the computer starts up Outlook, Mac Mail, or some other locally installed mail app instead of my favorite – Gmail.

If this issue has bothered you, then I have a solution for you. This podcast covers the steps necessary to make Gmail your default email program for the big four browsers, Firefox, Chrome, IE, and Safari. Some solutions require additional software be installed. Links to those applications are provided in the posting on the website.

Firefox users have the easiest time. Just open Preferences for Mac Users, or Tools> Options for Windows users, then select the Applications tab from the top. In the search box, type mailto and change the selection to read “Use Gmail”. If you use more than one email program, then you can choose “Always ask”.

I would think Chrome would have been the easiest since it’s a Google product like Gmail, however at this time your best bet is to install an extension called Mail Checker Plus (http://bit.ly/bUs51I). Mail Checker Plus also has some nice features to let you preview messages, and indicate how many unread messages you have on the toolbar.

Mac Safari users are also required to install an additional piece of software called Google Notifier (http://bit.ly/bYxrC7). Once the software is installed, the trick is to go in to the preferences in the Mac Mail app (not Safari), and change the Default email reader option to Google Notifier. Sorry, I don’t yet have a way for Windows Safari users to do this trick.

Internet Explorer is probably the most complex solution to use Gmail as your default mail application. It’s actually a little more complex than I have time to cover here so I’m only going to mention that the best solution I’ve come across is a free third party application called Affixa Basic (http://bit.ly/cT8BIR).

I subscribe to the KISS, or Keep it Simple Stupid, philosophy. If there’s an easy way to do something, use that. Firefox is my choice if you like an easy way to click a link and open Gmail.

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Rich Format Signatures

This entry is part 18 of 23 in the series White Belt

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At long last, Gmail has provided a simple way to include different fonts, images, links and more to your signature. Previously this was done using Google Docs and some other tricks. Now you can simply go to Settings, scroll down to the Signature section, and format your signature just like your message with the WYSIWYG, or What You See is What You Get, editor.

Another nice feature is that you can now use a different signature for each account, if you have multiple accounts feeding in to a single Gmail account. Me? I have about 11 at this point. Some share a common theme, but I prefer others to be specialized, including a unique title, link, phone number, or tag line associated with my organizational presence. My signature for chuck.tomasi@gmail.com is different than my gpodcast@gmail.com address because they generally serve different purposes and audiences, yet thanks to Gmail, they end up on the same central point for me to read and manage. Even better, when I switch accounts while composing or replying to a  message, Gmail automatically switches the signature accordingly. Now how cool is that?

Here’s a quick reminder on email signature etiquette. Unless you have a compelling reason, try to keep your signatures to 4-6 lines of text. Typical signature elements include your name, phone number, email address, website, title (if you’re affiliated with an organization), if it’s personal email, perhaps a favorite or thought provoking one-line quote. Too many times I’ve seen signatures that are longer than the messages they convey. Gmail also allows you to add images to your signature. While this seems like a good idea at first, I occasionally see an email client that includes the image as an attachment rather than in the signature where you expect it. Also remember, Gmail doesn’t display images in messages unless you are in the recipients contacts list, sent that person a few email already, or have previously agreed to always accept images from that person. In which case, the effectiveness of the image is somewhat diminished.

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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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Drag and Drop Images

This entry is part 16 of 23 in the series White Belt
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This is probably one of the shortest Gmail Podcasts to let you know that the drag and drop feature that was announced for file attachments in April 2010 is now also available for images in the body of your message.
To use it, start composing a new message. Then simply use your mouse to click on a JPEG, GIF, or PNG file and drop it on the body of your message. Once the image is uploaded, several links appear under the image that let you size it to small, medium, large, or original. That’s it.
Currently this feature is only available for Chrome. However, combined with the drag and drop file attachments, I’m starting to use Chrome as my primary web browser over Firefox. Although, I’m sure the feature race between these two browsers isn’t over yet. Keep listening to the Gmail Podcast and watching the blog for updated information.
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Address Suffixes

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Here’s a tip how to track if your email address is being circulated and stay organized using Gmail.

This past week I was out having dinner on a business trip. The hostess approached the table and asked if we would like to be emailed promotional information for their establishment. Since the restaurant chain and a place nearby where I live, I agreed; all they needed was my email address.

I don’t know about you, but every time I give out my email address, I get uneasy about the trust that the company I give it to won’t be selling it to someone else. While I can’t solve the trust issue, I can determine if they give the address away.

Here’s what I did. I added a “+” and a keyword to the first part of my address. For example, john.doe+joesdeli@gmail.com if I went dining at Joe’s Deli. Now I can filter on any email that has a “+” in the to address and star it, label it, or flag it someway to determine where it came from. Listen to some of the earlier Gmail Podcast episodes for information on filtering and labeling to determine how to automatically assist in visual identification of these messages. With luck, I will only see messages with the “+joesdeli” suffix from Joe’s Deli. If I start to see that address appear somewhere else, I will be less trustful of Joe in the future.

One word of caution, you may not be able to use this trick on web forms. Many websites don’t allow the “+” symbol in an email address. They think it’s an invalid character, so you may not be able to use this trick everywhere. Since I wrote it on paper at Joe’s Deli, I’ll let that be their problem since my email address has a higher value to them than me getting their promotional mail at this point.

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Insert Invitation and Drag & Drop Attachments

This entry is part 15 of 23 in the series White Belt

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Adding extra content to a Gmail message just took another giant leap forward this past week with the introduction of two features. The first is Insert Invitation. This feature allows you to stay within Gmail to create a quick appointment and see what is on the other person’s Google calendar if they have it shared with you. This is much easier than the old “Add Appointment” link.

Begin by composing a message and enter the recipients of your message. In my case, I’ll enter my wife’s email address which happens to be a hosted Gmail account and not a gmail.com address. She agreed to share her calendar with me a while ago, but if she wasn’t already setup for that, I would Click the calendar link at the top of Gmail, go to the Other Calendars section on the left, click the link “Add” in the lower right corner of that box and choose “Add friend’s calendar”, and enter her email address to send a request to share the calendar. She has the option of how much information and the amount of control I have, if any, on her calendar. Once she has shared her calendar, it will show up on the left in that Other Calendars section and her appointments will appear in the corresponding color. If you get too many other calendars you can simply click on the name of the calendar and it will turn them off .

With the calendar displayed, let’s got back to Gmail’s Insert Invitation feature. With one or more recipients entered in the address field, I click the Insert Invitation link just below the Subject field and a window pops up with the subject filled in as the “What”. I pick the dates and times for the “When”, and just below that, Gmail displays the availability of all the email recipients who have shared their calendars with me. This makes it much easier to see conflicts and reschedule. While I don’t have too many calendars shared with my friends (yet), I suspect this will be a bigger benefit to companies and other organizations trying to schedule meetings.

The other neat new feature doesn’t need much explanation. It’s a simple feature we’ve all come to expect from graphical computing over the last 25 years to drag items from one window to another. In some rare cases, even web applications allow you to drag files from your local file system to a web application. Gmail offers the ability to attach files simply by dragging them from your desktop, or any other folder to the link that reads Attach a file. This feature currently only supported in FireFox 3.6 and Chrome, but Google promises to support drag and drop attachments in other browsers soon.

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Drafts

This entry is part 32 of 35 in the series Green Belt

Gmail-Drafts
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When you think of drafts in Gmail, you probably think of the auto-save feature that comes along periodically, or the fact that you can save your draft and come back to it later to complete and send. Those are terrific features and I’d like to add a couple more neat ways to use drafts to be more effective with Gmail.

The first way is to use drafts to save notes. This idea was originally conceived before the introduction of Gmail tasks. While not as elegant and organized as Tasks, it can be used in a different way. The basic idea is to start composing your notes in a mail message, and save it as a draft. One idea is to save multiple copies, let’s say one for work ideas, one for home ideas, one for special projects, and so on. With the rich text formatting, Gmail makes a pretty nice note taking system, especially when you factor in Gmail’s search capability also looks in the Drafts folder.

The second neat way you can use drafts is for temporary file storage – even beyond the 20 MB limit! Let’s say you want to copy a file from one machine to another, but you don’t have a thumb drive, or an account with a file sharing service like DropBox. Begin by composing a message, attach a file of nearly any size, then click Save Now to save it as a draft. Login to another computer, login to your Gmail account, go to the Drafts folder, and click on your file attachment or right-click and select Save link as… to download your file to the second machine. When you are done with that draft, you can click Discard to have it removed completely.

Remember, drafts can be used for more than just a handy way to restore your work if your connection is interrupted. You can keep organized notes and file transfers using the same standard Drafts features.

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Texting – Part 2

This entry is part 3 of 20 in the series Gmail Master

google-voice-sms

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Welcome to part 2 of our 3 part series on texting from Gmail and Google applications. If you haven’t listened to part 1, you can download it from iTunes or listen directly from the Gmail Podcast blog at chuckchat.com.

In part 1 I showed you how to send free text messages from Gmail chat. Another way is to use Google Voice. Google Voice has several features that make it attractive, including:

• Publish a single phone number and have it ring your home, work, and mobile phone or any combination based on the caller.
• Free voice mail with personalized greetings
• Voice mail automatically converted to text and emailed to you with both the audio file and translated text attached
• Listen to, or read, your voice mail on your computer or mobile phone
• Free text messaging

Begin by signing in to Google Voice using your Gmail account at voice.google.com. At the top, just under the logo, click the SMS button. Begin typing the name of the contact or their phone number. Make sure you have mobile phone numbers associated with the contacts you intend to send text messages. Unlike the Gmail Chat feature, it will not prompt you for the contact if you enter only the number. Similarly, if you enter a name that has no mobile phone number associated in your contacts list, you cannot send a message.

After you have entered a phone number or contact, type your message and press send. It’s that simple. Managing your Google Voice conversations from the web interface is very similar to Gmail. Responses will show up in your Inbox or you can look at just SMS messages and filter out voice mail by clicking the SMS link on the left. You can reply by typing in the text area just under the conversation and click Send.

Currently, Google Voice is free and open by invitation only. Contact me if you are interested in trying it out.

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Texting – Part 1

This entry is part 2 of 20 in the series Gmail Master

gmail-sms-from-chatThis episode is sponsored by GotoAssist Express. Try it free for 30 days.

Google offers a number of ways to send and receive text messages for free without using a mobile phone. This is part 1 of a 3 part series on using text messages, or SMS, with Gmail and other Google applications.

Let’s begin with Gmail. Texting from Gmail chat is fairly easy. To do this you will need to enable the Labs feature “Text (SMS) in Chat”. You can find this in the Labs tab in the Settings page.

Once the labs feature is setup, begin by opening the chat window and signing in to chat. Type the name or phone number of the person you want to send a text message to in the “Search, add, or invite” box. If this person is not already in your contacts list, don’t worry. As you type, a window appears under your text with options “Mail, Invite to Chat, and SMS”. If you entered a phone number, only the SMS option will be displayed. Finish entering the text then choose the SMS option and a window appears. In the window, finish filling out the contact information. If you entered a name, provide the phone number, if you entered a phone number then provide a name and click Save. This information will be added to your contacts list for easier reference later.

gmail-sms-contactWhen Gmail gets done saving the contact information, a window appears at the bottom of the screen – much like a chat window. Type you text message and send it with the Enter key. If the other person responds, you will receive a response in the same window. Gmail makes it as easy to send text messages as it is to chat – and best of all it’s free.
Another way to send text messages from Gmail is to use the SMS in Chat gadget. This is also a labs feature that works very similar to the Text (SMS) in Chat feature. I don’t recommend using this labs feature. First, it requires the Text (SMS) in Chat feature to be turned on – so why not use that instead? Second, at the time this article was written, the labs feature seems to have a bug in that it prompts you for contact information each time instead of reusing previous entries from the contact database. This creates duplicate entries in the contact database each time you use it.

Keep in mind that although the text messaging using Google may be free to you, it may not be free to the person receiving or sending replies. Currently, text messages from chat only work with US phones.

Listener John writes in and asks “Is there a way to set a primary email for a contact that has multiple addresses?”

While I cannot find a definitive rule or setting to make any particular email address the primary one, my own experience has shown me that mutliple email addresses seem to be ordered by the frequency they are used. The more you use a specific address for a particular person, the more likely that address will appear at the top of the list. If you’ve got information to the contrary, let me know on the blog or drop me an email.

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Contact Chooser

This entry is part 8 of 23 in the series White Belt

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Have you found yourself trying to send a message to someone and you cannot remember their last name? John? John? What was John’s last name? OK, John’s not your closest friend and you don’t send him email all the time. In fact, you don’t even know if you added him to your Gmail contacts, you may have only sent a message to his email address and never used his full name. You start typing j-o-h-n in the To: field and auto-complete comes up with the people who have John in their name and you don’t find the person you are looking for. Was he even in the hundreds of contacts you have listed?

Now I have to admit, there are times when I would love to just browse my contacts list, or type a few characters, or even just poke around the contact groups I setup to get a better idea where John might be hiding. The latest update to Gmail answers this question. Google has placed a link on the “To”, “Cc”, and “Bcc” labels that bring up a contact chooser (see the image.) This works similar to the buttons next to the fields in Microsoft Outlook, only better.

If you type in text in the area marked “Search my contacts”, Gmail will start filtering out your people. In my case, I typed “tomasi” and got several of my family members. Now I can just click and choose them. I can also narrow down the search to my groups by using the drop down list just below.

This is a nice addition to the auto-complete feature if you’re really not sure how to spell someone’s name or want to quickly select all the Tomasis at once.

Here’s today’s quick tip. Listener John wrote in about the Goto Label feature. He says:

“One of my computers is a netbook, so the space saving tips catch my ear.
The “G” “L” combination to go to a label sounded like a great feature, but there is no drop down reminder. So I have to remember the name of the label.
My solution – kind of clunky – was to rename my labels so they all start with “L-“
Now when I enter “G” “L” and then “L”, I see a list of my labels.”

Thanks for the tip John. I generally use a dozen or so labels frequently; then there are some obscure ones that may go unused for months and I don’t recall their names or functions. Your suggestion seems to address that nicely. If you’ve got an tip about Gmail, send it along. I’d love to hear from you.

That’s all for this time… Comments, suggestions, or questions can be sent to gpodcast@gmail.com or check the website for full information and archives of all previous Gmail tips at chuckchat.com/gmail. I have no affiliation with Google other than as a satisfied Gmail user. Thanks to you for listening, and don’t forget to write.

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