Archive for the ‘Gmail Podcast’ Category

News – August 20, 2010

This entry is part 21 of 23 in the series White Belt

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This past week were three main stories for Gmail and related apps. First, a new labs feature allows you to search in to your Google docs. Next, Gmail on the iPad got a nice touch to clear up some confusion, and finally, Google now supports voice and video chat on Linux.

First up, you can give Gmail the ability to reach in to your Google docs by enabling the labs feature called Apps Search. Turn this on the same way you would any other labs feature by clicking the Settings link in the upper right, click the Labs tab, scroll down to the Apps Search section, click Enable, the click Save Changes at the bottom of the screen. Now when you do a search, Gmail will not only list your search results in a familiar conversation index listing, but also include a section at the bottom for documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and other Google docs data that matched your search criteria.

As a side note, I noticed that the labs features are now grouped with the enabled labs at the top and the disabled, or available, labs at the bottom. If you’re looking for something new, start scrolling until you get to the Available Labs section to save a bit of time.

Next, Gmail made a slight adjustment to the user interface on the iPad to clear up some confusion that I, and some of you, have experienced. As you may have noticed, when you select messages on the left, a panel appears at the bottom left with buttons for Archive, Delete, and other options. For dealing with individual messages, the buttons on the upper right were used. Thankfully, Google was able to take advantage of CSS3 technology and remove the extra set of buttons on the left. Now when you select multiple messages, they are stacked in the window on the right. The buttons on the lower left never appear and you only need to use the right side buttons for archiving, deleting, and other actions. Perhaps they’ll hear my other request make it easier to apply labels instead of scrolling and scrolling and scrolling.

Finally, Ubuntu and other Debian-based Linux users can now use voice and video chat. Just visit gmail.com/videochat to download the plugin. Google doesn’t often neglect the Linux community, but they took almost two years to implement this feature. They promise to have RPM support soon.

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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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Google Apps In The Enterprise

This entry is part 19 of 20 in the series Gmail Master

Colleague and fellow Friends in Tech member, George Starcher joins me for a look at his experience deploying Google Apps in the enterprise. This podcast runs a little longer than our normal format because it digs in to many aspects you should be aware of if you are thinking of replacing your legacy apps with a cloud solution.

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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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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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iPad

This entry is part 17 of 23 in the series White Belt

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A few weeks ago I got an iPad. Like many people, at first I thought it was just an oversized iPod Touch, until a friend of mine let me use his.

One of the first things I wanted to see was Gmail. The difference between Gmail on the iPhone or iPod Touch compared to the iPad, using Safari, is massive. Some of the things I love about Gmail on the iPad include:

Seeing the index and the current conversation on the same screen. This is similar to how Mac Mail or Outlook display messages and the index. There’s enough screen real estate to get away with this on the iPad – not so on the iPhone or iPod Touch.

I also like the new larger area to compose a message. This was introduced on June 25 and is currently only available in the US English interface for the time being. When you reply or compose a new message, Gmail brings a popup window in front to compose your message unlike before when it was in the right side window with the rest of the conversation. When you’re done composing, use the Save or Send buttons in the lower right to complete your work.

Of course, I like using my iPad in landscape mode and using a full size on-screen keyboard to quickly touch type my way through the interface.

One thing that took a bit of getting used to was tagging conversations then using the Archive and Delete buttons on the left instead of the right. When you start checking off messages from the index on the left, it’s very easy to click “Archive” or “Delete” on the upper right. However, doing so will take action on the current message, not the ones you checked. If you look closely, as soon as you start checking those checkboxes, a new set of buttons appears in the lower left. THOSE are the ones used for the checked items. I know – it took me a while to get trained on those also. Just remember, checking on the left, buttons on the left. Reading on the right, buttons on the right.

I also think improvements can be made to the way labels are used. When you select the label feature from the dropdown list, you are presented with an alphabetized list of all your labels. If you have more than 20 or so labels and want to use one near the end you have to finger swipe to scroll your way down, click on it, then finger swipe back up to apply it – rather clumsy in my opinion. Predictive text like when entering names, and the labels from the desktop interface, would be much nicer.

Overall, I think Gmail did a great job at adapting their interface to take advantage of the new Apple tablet format and there’s room for improvement. I give it an 8 out of 10.

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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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Contextual Apps and Calendar Update

This entry is part 18 of 20 in the series Gmail Master
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This past week Microsoft announced several additions to Hotmail in order to better compete with Gmail. Â No, I am not changing this from the Gmail Podcast to the Hotmail Podcast. We Gmail users snickered because many of these features like conversation view, and one-click filtering have been in Gmail for years . Within hours of the Microsoft announcement, Gmail upped the ante by announcing an API, or application programming interface, to allow developers to create contextual gadgets.
Contextual gadgets allow you to interact with traditional non-email data without leaving your mail application. You may already be using contextual gadgets and not even realize it. Examples include YouTube, photo, and document previews. Watching a video within email is not something email was originally designed to do so Google thought it would be a great idea to look for YouTube (and similar links) and provide the information right in the message so you don’t have to click and switch to another browser window or application, then come back to manage your email.
Now these features is available to developers outside the Google Domain to extend the functionality of Gmail. Several already exist such as AwayFind that allows you to mark certain contacts or messages as urgent and flag the recipient can be alerted via phone, SMS, or IM. Contextual apps are available for those who host their domain with Google. For example, I can add AwayFind as an available feature to those with chuckchat.com email addresses because the chuckchat.com mail is hosted on Google.
The only information I could find at this time regarding the installation and activation of these apps was an article on CNet.com that Google Apps Administrators can install the contextual gadgets for their users.
When I logged in and went to Manage my chuckchat.com domain, a button appeared on the Dashboard near the top just below the menu bar that said “Continue with setup guide”. When I clicked on it, I was brought to the Google Apps Admin Help screen that has a link at the top to the Google Apps Marketplace. If you want to just look around, use google.com/enterprise/marketplace.
I went ahead and installed and configured AwayFind so I can be alerted via SMS to my Google Voice number when important messages come to a specific domain. It only took a few minutes and is nice to have for certain cases. I can manage the contextual app from the main control panel of the dashboard.
While doing research for this article I noticed that labs are now available in Gmail for hosted domains while themes are not yet an option.
One final thing, Google Calendar got a minor update this past week for the first time in a while. The changes may appear subtle at first. They include some tweaks to the fonts and colors to make them a bit sharper. If you use tasks in Gmail and Calendar, take note that the Tasks link in Calendar has been removed and replaced with a listing under My Calendars. When you turn this pseudo calendar on, the tasks will appear on the right hand side. Managing the tasks in Google Calendar is the same as in Gmail. See the Gmail Podcast archives for more information on tasks.
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