Archive for the ‘Contacts’ Category

User Interface Update – Aug 2010

This entry is part 20 of 23 in the series White Belt

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If you’re a regular Gmail Podcast listener, you’ll notice that I recently updated the Contacts and Groups podcast to be more accurate with the current user interface. That was done just in time for Google to update the interface one more time. While most of the Gmail Podcast content is evergreen, every once in a while they do a feature update that renders some of this content obsolete. I just didn’t think it would be a week after I released a cast on groups.

So what’s new with the interface? At first glance, not much. If you look closer at the main page, you’ll see on the left, Mail, Contacts, and Tasks are now grouped together. If you hover over the Mail link, you’ll see a little dash appear to the right. Clicking that expands or collapses the trio of Mail, Contacts, and Tasks links to clean up your screen a bit. Also, Compose Mail is now a button instead of a link, and the other gadgets below the labels have been cleaned up.

The buttons and links at the top of the conversation index have also been cleaned up. Rather than links to select all, none, read, unread, starred, and so on, there is now drop down list to the left that has multiple selections. A nice touch in my opinion. Another nice touch that is often overlooked is the fonts. It’s subtle, but I think it gives Gmail a crisper look.

Finally, the main changes to this update in Gmail have been to the contacts and groups management. When you click on contacts, the three column display has been replaced with a list that looks more like the way conversations are managed in Gmail. Groups are applied like labels, although they are displayed on the far right of each entry instead of somewhere in the middle like conversation labels. Like the conversation index, a dropdown list is available above the list to the far left of the buttons to select all or none of your contacts. If you select one or more of your contacts, and go back to the conversation index, when you come back, those same contacts are still selected. Nice job Google developers! Some other very nice features like sorting by last name (available under the More Actions drop down list), and my favorite, keyboard shortcuts have also been added.

Clicking any one of the contacts presents a display that is significantly different than its predecessor. The layout includes all the standard fields you would expect, photo, name, phone, address, email. It also has a larger notes section and at the bottom of the left side there is an “Add” dropdown list that allows you to add additional fields in case someone has more than one email address, phone number, a nickname, or whatever. You can even create your own customer fields. And of course, there’s a link to display recent conversations with that contact which can really help with those old archived conversations.

As mentioned earlier, managing group membership with your contacts is now very similar to applying labels to your email conversations. If you are at the contact index, you can search, select, and use the Groups dropdown to apply or remove the groups you wish. I did a quick search for Jerry, came up with six hits, quickly selected all and created a new group called Jerry. Now if I want to send a quick message to all my contacts named Jerry, I compose a new message and start typing “Jerry” in the to field. Along with the six possibilities, I also get one with the suffix “(group)” and I send to all six at the same time.

From the Contact details screen just pull down the Groups list and select the groups you wish to apply or remove. You can even type a new name and create a new group, again much like labels.

You will probably notice that there is no Save Changes button on the contact screen. That’s because all changes to the contacts are now auto saved. Thank you again Google Developers.

And don’t forget about hitting “?” on the new contacts screen if you have shortcuts enabled in your settings to manage your contacts more effectively and efficiently.

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Groups

This entry is part 19 of 23 in the series White Belt

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I was going over the Gmail Podcast archives and discovered I covered groups several years ago. After listening to the podcast, I found that many features of managing contacts and groups had been improved so I thought it was time for an update. Groups allow you to organize and manage related collections of contacts and also address them at the same time. This podcast covers five main topics:

  • Creating a new group
  • Adding and removing contacts form a group
  • Renaming a group
  • Deleting a group
  • Sending mail to a group

Creating a group
Let’s begin by creating a group. Start by clicking on the Contacts list on the left side of the screen. You’ll be presented with a screen with three columns. The first lists your groups, the middle column lists the members of the group you select, and the right column displays the properties of the contact or group selected.

Next, select one or more contacts from the middle column by clicking on them, using the checkboxes next to each name, or using shift-click, or control-click to select multiple contacts, then click the icon just above the left column with a plus and two people. A dialog will appear prompting you for a name for the new group. Enter a name and click OK. The selected names will automatically be placed in the new group. If you don’t want to select any names, you can still create a new group using the same icon.

Adding/Removing people to a  group
Once you have created your group, you can add contacts by selecting the names in the same way as above, checking the checkboxes, shift-click, or control-click ranges of names, then use the Groups button above the right column to add them to an existing group, or create a new group.

To remove someone from a group, use the same selection method and Groups button. When the selections drop down, the appropriate groups will be presented for that person or persons under “Remove from…”

Renaming a group
You can also rename a group by highlighting the group name, and clicking the Edit button on the right column. Just type in the new name and click Save.

Deleting a group
If you find you no longer need a group, simply select the group for the left column, and click the Delete group button above the right column. This will remove the group and not the contact information. If Kreg is a member of group Podcast Listeners, and I delete Podcast Listeners, I still have all of Kreg’s information. You will be given a warning because removing a group cannot be undone.

Using a group
Now that you’ve got groups defined, you can simply type the name of the group in the To, Cc, or Bcc fields when you are composing or replying to a message. Groups will be listed in the auto-complete list in italics and have a suffix of “(group)”. After entering the name of the group, hit the tab or enter key and Gmail will replace the group name with the names of the contacts in that group.

You can create groups with as many contacts you like. However, in an effort to fight spam, Gmail won’t let you send a message to a group containing more than 500.

Tip: As a time saver, add people directly to a group at import time with the checkbox that reads “Also add these imported contacts to ” and select the group you want to add them

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Managing Contacts

This entry is part 6 of 7 in the series Getting Started

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Whether you are just getting started using Gmail or have been using it for years, this cast will help you manage your contacts.

If you are new to Gmail, you are likely typing in the email address of the person when you send them email. For example, chuck@chucktomasi.com. A more effective way is to use the Gmail contacts list. Once information is in there, you can simply start typing the name of the person and Gmail will find the contact and use the proper email address.

Begin by clicking the link on the left that says Contacts. You’ll see three columns in the main window. The left column lists group names. You can organize your contacts in to groups such as friends, work, rocket club, and so on. Gmail provides a few examples to help get you started, but you can configure these any way you like. I cover groups more in another podcast.

The second column lists the individual people in your contacts list. You may see some names listed here already even if you haven’t used Gmail much. (You see) Gmail learns these by analyzing the email you’ve previously sent. To add a new contact, click the icon in the upper right with a plus and a single head. At a minimum, provide a name and email address and click save. Note the email field is red until Gmail determines you have entered a valid email address consisting of an “@” sign and a domain such as .com, .org, and so on. If this person has more than one address, click the little blue “add” link to the right of the Email label to enter more addresses for this person. You can also add phone numbers (handy for using Google Voice), addresses (useful for Google maps), and even a photo of the person.

If you need to update someone’s contact information, just highlight their name from the middle column and click the Edit button above the details column on the right to update existing information or add any new data.

Deleting a contact is also quite easy; just click on the name or check the checkbox next to that entry and use the Delete contact button in the upper right of the contact details. Checking more than one contact allows you to delete multiples at the same time.

The contacts database is also useful if you are trying to find a conversation you had with someone. Often times I want to verify someone sent me something or I sent something out. I can’t always remember keywords or dates to search on, but I do remember who the conversation was with. To find that mystery conversation, simply click on the person’s name, and just below their details in the right column, there is a link reading “Recent conversations: Show”. Clicking on the show link does a search for any messages to or from that person.

As your contacts list starts to grow, you can also use the Search contacts field above the three columns to help locate names and addresses more quickly.

Over time, you may also find that Gmail has collected multiple email addresses or entries for the same person. For more information about merging contacts, I recommend listening to the Dec 2009 podcast on merging duplicate contacts. I also have information how to import your contacts from another mail service such as Hotmail, AOL, Yahoo, and other systems from June 2009.

Listen for upcoming podcasts on managing groups, importing from a CSV file or spreadsheet, and synchronizing contacts between Gmail and other services like Outlook or your iPhone.

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Merge Duplicate Contacts with One Button

This entry is part 28 of 35 in the series Green Belt

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Gmail has added a feature to the contacts screen to allow you quickly find all duplicate contacts in your contacts database. Until I hit this button, I thought I was pretty good about managing my contact, but I found that out of more than 1600 contacts, I had 163 with more than one entry.

You’ll find the new magic button by clicking on the Contacts link on the left, then in the main window labeled “My Contacts”, there are two buttons labeled “View Suggestions” and “Find duplicates”. After you click the Find Duplicates button, a list of all contacts with more than one email address is presented. Review the list and uncheck any contacts you want to leave alone. Click the “details” link next to each contact to see which addresses Gmail has found for this person, or use the “expand” link at the top of the list to show the details for all duplicate records. Use the collapse link to shrink them back down to a list of names.

After you have reviewed the list, click the Merge button to combine the multiple email addresses in to one contact. Verify the operation worked as expected by looking up your contacts and noting that there are now multiple email addresses for that person. Choosing a name when you compose a message is the same as if the contact was not merged. Start typing the name and all available email addresses are displayed.

If you’ve been considering using Gmail as your central contacts database, this feature makes it easy to keep everything together and then sync it with your phone or other portable device. To find out more about syncing your contacts, search for the term sync on the Gmail blog at chuckchat.com.

Here’s today’s quick tip – Use the question mark key (?) to see all the shortcut keys Gmail has to offer.

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Import Mail and Contacts

This entry is part 3 of 23 in the series White Belt

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Gmail is rolling out a feature that will allow you to migrate your email and contacts from other email providers including Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL, and many others.

For years, you’ve heard me – and probably dozens of other people – preaching the virtues of Gmail. To some of us, it practically IS a religion. We want people to convert and Google understood the downfalls of changing from one email service to another. It can be painful to switch all your contacts using some clumsy export and import using a CSV file. No only that, what do you do with all your legacy email?

Now Gmail makes it much easier to make the transition. This feature is enabled for all new accounts and is being slowly deployed to all existing accounts. Unfortunately, businesses and schools using Google Apps won’t have this feature available to them any time soon.You’ll know you have it if you go in to Settings and you find a tab labeled “Accounts and Imports”, formerly just labeled “Accounts”.

There you will find a section with a button labeled “Import Mail and Contacts”. Click that and you’ll see choices to import contacts and mail immediately, continue importing email for the next 30 days, allowing you to take Gmail for a test drive, and even apply a Gmail label to all imported mail to quickly identify it as information from your other account.

If you don’t have the option, or prefer doing things the more traditional way, you can still use POP3 mail fetching or CSV export and import to retrieve your old information.

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