Archive for the ‘Gmail Podcast’ Category

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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Protect Yourself

This entry is part 17 of 20 in the series Gmail Master

This episode is sponsored by GotoAssist Express. Try it free for 30 days.

It’s time to take a look at maintaining your Gmail security. It’s no secret that the Internet can be a dangerous place. Fortunately, you don’t have to be an IT security geek to protect your Gmail account. With a few simple, common sense steps, and a little familiarity of some key Gmail features, you can protect yourself from people trying to gain access to your account.

You know the story. You get an email from a friend of yours who is reported to be stranded overseas and needs a couple hundred dollars to get home. This is one of the common messages and, of course, completely false. Your friend’s email account has been compromised, he’s got no idea until it’s too late, and your name happened to be in the address book along with who knows how many others who got a similar message. Remember, they wouldn’t be doing it if it didn’t work at least some of the time.

How do you prevent yourself from the same fate as your friend? (Not the ‘getting stuck overseas part’). The first step is understanding how your account could be breached. One way is forgetting logout on a public computer (a hotel kiosk for example.) Another way would be if someone had installed keylogging software on the computer you used. While undetectable to you, there are steps you can take to mitigate the risk.

First, select a strong password. Use a combination of letters, numbers, and throw in a symbol here or there. Use uppercase and lower case letters. Don’t use dictionary words or common names. Make it meaningful to you. For example: iat#1gmn! would be short for (I am the number 1 Gmail ninja). Also, change your password periodically. Yes, I know this is a pain, but when you think about it, even if someone has captured your password from a keylogger, it won’t be any good once you change your password. You can change your password under Settings> Accounts and Import> Change Account Settings or go to http://www.google.com/accounts

Second, remember to sign out when you’re done. It sounds simple, but it’s easy to forget.

Third, monitor any open sessions and understand what they mean. At the bottom of the main conversation index, there’s a line that says “Last account activity” and a link at the end to display the details. If you, or someone else, is logged on from another computer, it will tell you there. I often see one or two other computers logged in because I forget to logout on my home computer then access Gmail from work. By clicking on the Details link Gmail displays the location and IP addresses of the other sessions, a button to terminate the other sessions immediately, and a history of recent activity. It’s a good idea to become familiar with your home and work IP addresses so you can spot others that you don’t recognize. Remember to periodically scroll to the bottom of the screen and see how many other seessions are going. If it’s one or more, have a look at the details to be safe.

Finally, Gmail has created a feature that removes some of the burden of monitoring your activity. If Google sees activity on your account from two different countries within a few hours, you will see a warning message at the top of the screen in red which starts out “Warning, We believe your account was last accessed from…” You can turn this setting off from the same Activity history details mentioned earlier, but I don’t recommend it. Hopefully you’ll never see this message. While it’s nice to know Gmail is helping with some of the security, it doesn’t relieve you from doing some of the measures mentioned earlier.

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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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Nested Labels and Message Sneak Peak

This entry is part 33 of 35 in the series Green Belt

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For years, Gmail has been touting that labels are more flexible and powerful than folders for organizing your messages. This is because any given message can only be filed in one folder at a time, but in Gmail, you can apply more than one label. The complaint I’ve heard most frequently is that labels lack the ability to be nested like folders. Good news all you organized people – Gmail now has a labs feature called Nested Labels.

You enable nested labels like any other labs feature by first clicking the Settings link in the upper right corner, click the Labs tab, scroll down until you find Nested Labels, click Enable next to it, scroll to the bottom and click Save Changes.

To create a nested label, you first need to create the top level label first if it doesn’t already exist. For my example, I’ll create a label called “Podcast”. Again, I go to Settings, then click the Labels tab, and scroll down to the labels section. I’ll type the label “Podcast” in the text box that reads “Create a new label”, then click the Create button. To create a sub-label, I use the name of the existing label, a forward slash, then the name of the sub-label. For this case, I type Podcast/Gmail, then click Create. Your nested label will immediately show up on the left. Like normal labels, you can add colors as you like. You can nest labels as many levels deep as you like. One warning, you cannot create the a new label and a sub-label at the same time. If you try to create a new label “Podcast/Technorama” before creating the Podcast label, you’ll end up with a top level label called Podcast/Technorama rather than a Podcast label with a Technorama label under it.


If you setup nested labels then turn the labs feature off, it’s nice to know that you don’t lose any information on the conversations you labeled. The label structure is represented literally as you typed it when you created the nested labels. For example the Gmail label under Podcasts, is displayed on the left as Podcast/Gmail. Right below it is Podcast/Technorama..

Another new labs feature is called Message Sneak Peak. When you enable this labs feature you can right click on any conversation on the index to see a preview of the conversation without leaving the conversation index. If the conversation has more than one message in it, you can use the arrow keys in the upper right corner to scroll through the various messages. If you have shortcut keys enabled, you can use the ‘h’ key to bring up the sneak peek window also. Use ‘j’ and ‘k’ to move to the next and previous message and Esc to put the sneak peek window away.

Update: 12-April-2010 – I am REALLY enjoying using nested labels (despite my better judgement to keep things flat). While I had to tweak some filters to apply the new labels, migrating conversations from an old label to a new label is SO simple. Just click the label on the left, click All to select all the messages (if there are more than fit on a single page of display, use the link to select all of them.) Use the “Move To” feature to apply the new label and remove the old one. When I got that done, I went to Settings> Labels to remove any unwanted labels (where it displays 0 Conversations.) Very cool.

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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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Report Spam

This entry is part 6 of 23 in the series White Belt

gmail-report-spam-1One of the best features about Gmail is its powerful spam detection. Spam is that annoying email that you get from people or organizations you don’t know for products or services that you did not ask for. Some spam is easy to spot such as prescription medicines, or low loan rates. Others are more subtle and the spammers are getting trickier by masquerading as other popular websites such as Facebook and eBay.

Recent assessments show that over 95% of all email on the Internet today is spam. If you are new to Gmail or just started an email address, you may not be receiving too much now. However, if you’ve had the same email address for a while and use it on other websites for registration, comments, or other ways to get information sent to you, you are opening yourself up to those people who will try to sell you something, known as spammers.

Fortunately, Gmail stops a large percentage of these annoying email. However, no software is perfect and you may see a spam message in your inbox from time to time. You can simply delete the message which addresses the short term problem, but you run the risk of similar messages appearing again in the future. A better solution is to check one or more spam messages on the conversation index and click the Report Spam button at the top of the conversation index or just click the button if you have already opened a message to find out it is spam. If you have keyboard shortcuts enabled, you can use the hash (#) key. When you mark a message as spam, Gmail removes the message from your inbox and learns from the message you selected to prevent similar messages not only for you, but for all Gmail users.

If you mistakingly clicked Report Spam on a message, you can click Undo at the top of the screen or use the same button which now reads Not Spam. If you have navigated away from the message you can use the the Spam folder on the left and locate your message. If you don’t see the Spam folder, try clicking “more” just above Contacts.

Similar to spam messages are phishing messages (spelled with a ph instead of an f). These are messages where someone is trying to get you to login to their site so they can get your credentials for the real site. You can find out more about phishing from the Gmail Podcast released October 14, 2006.

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Move To

This entry is part 5 of 23 in the series White Belt

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Gmail is full of so many features that sometimes I forget some of the best ones out there. One of those is the Move to button located on the button bar just above the conversation index and any conversation you open. The button works similar in both contexts. It is a combination of the label feature and archive feature rolled in to one. For more information on archiving and labeling, check the White Belt series Gmail Podcast website.

To use the Move To button from the conversation index, select the conversation or conversations you want to affect then click the Move To button. A list of of your labels appear, much like the Label button. When you select one of these, the conversations you checked are immediately removed from the conversation index and archived with the label you selected.

The Move To button behaves slightly differently if you are in the conversation reading mode. If you click on the Move To here, the same list of labels appears along with two options that let you move the message directly to spam and trash. These two options are identical to clicking the Spam or Delete buttons on the same button bar. Just like the mode from the conversation index, clicking any existing label will apply that label, archive that conversation, and take you back to the conversation index. Additionally, you can also create new labels from this mode, the same as using the Label feature.

Because of the way the Move To button attaches one label and archives at the same time, makes it behave more like a traditional folder action than a Gmail label in that it files your conversation in a specific place with one label associated and it’s done. That’s not to say you couldn’t display the conversations with that label, locate your specific one, and attach more labels to it, but that would defeat the purpose of this specialized button.

Sadly, I cannot find a shortcut key sequence to use this so I often use (the lower case letter) ‘l’ to bring up the label menu, label it, and type ‘y’ to archive it so fast I never think about the Move to feature. As useful as this button is, I rarely use it because it doesn’t have a shortcut key associated with it.

Gmail-Popout-Chat

Here’s a quick update… Google has improved the speed which popout windows appear. Popout windows are available when you are composing, replying, or forwarding messages, along with tasks, chat, and a few other places. For example, normally you see the chat window embedded in the bottom of your Gmail window. If you click the little upward arrow in the label bar with the person’s name, the chat window pops out of that browser window and becomes its own browser window. Previously this was a tedious few seconds. Now almost instantaneous. Thank you Google for continuing to improve our favorite mail program.

Gmail-Popout-Compose

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Themes

This entry is part 4 of 23 in the series White Belt

Gmail-ThemesThis show is sponsored by Citrix GotoAssist Express. Try it free for 30 days.
This episode is another in our getting started series with Gmail. This time I’ll cover a way to change the appearance of your Gmail interface without changing the functionality. Gmail calls these themes; other systems might call this “skinning” because you’re putting a new skin or motif to change the application’s cosmetics while leaving the underlying system the same.

Changing your theme in Gmail is very simple and quite fun. Begin by logging in to your Gmail account then clicking on the Settings link in the upper right corner. Next, click the Themes tab on the settings window. When you click on one of the themes, Gmail will instantly change the look of your interface. There is no Save Changes button to click on this page. Try as many as you like or stick with the Classic look. You can even choose your own colors.

Be selective with your theme and inspect all the various things on the conversation index and compose screens. You may find some things don’t contrast well. For example the light graphics at the top of the screen on the Phatasea theme makes it difficult to read the text “Show Search Options” and “Create a filter”.

Some themes actually change throughout the day. You may be prompted to enter your location when you pick one of the themes. If you are very mobile, you can change your location at the bottom of the themes settings. These dynamic themes change to show the proper sunrise, sunset, and even weather conditions. Yes, I’ve seen it snow in Gmail!

If you select one of these themes, you’ll see a drop-down menu appear asking for your country or region. Select the country you want, and then enter a city in the field provided. If you don’t enter a city, or enter an invalid one, Gmail will set your location to the capital city of the country you selected. When you’re done, click Save.

One important footnote, Gmail Themes aren’t yet compatible with all browsers. Themes are only available in Internet Explorer 7.0+, Firefox 2.0+ or Safari 3.0+, and Google Chrome. If you’re using an older version of one of these browsers, you may run in to problems or not see the themes tab at all. Also, themes are not available if you host your own domain on Gmail. The hosting and themes have been out for quite some time, and I haven’t quite figured out why Google hasn’t added themes to this set of Gmail users yet. You can find more information about hosting your own domain on Gmail in the Gmail Podcast archives on the website.

Quick update – Google has promoted six labs features to full Gmail features and removed five of them. Labs features are features in Gmail that allow you try out cool new things that Google is considering adding to Gmail. They may have errors and they may change, but most are useful to some degree. Again, more information on Labs can be found in the Gmail Podcast archives.

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Creating and Sending Messages

This entry is part 4 of 7 in the series Getting Started

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This episode is another in our getting started series with Gmail. Creating and sending email may seem like an self-evident task with any email client. I want to ensure we cover everything to make you effective using Gmail. I’ll cover the basics to get beginners started and you Gmail veterans may still want to listen because I’ll throw in a few extras too.

Let’s get started by logging in to your Gmail account at https://mail.google.com. In the future, I’ll assume you know how to do that, but since this is still one of the first getting started series, I want to make sure nothing is glossed over.

On the left side, just under the Gmail logo, click the Compose Mail link. Next, enter your recipient’s email address in the To field. If you have a list of contacts setup, you can also start typing the name or address and Gmail will start auto populating the list. If you’re not sure how to spell the name, you can click the To: label and bring up the contact chooser to help narrow down your search. Don’t worry if you don’t have any contacts entered yet, there’s another show on setting up contacts that guides you through that simple process so you don’t have to remember and type an email address every time.

Enter the subject of your message in the Subject text area, then click your mouse anywhere in the large text area on the screen to create the main body of your message and type away. As you type, Gmail will periodically save your message in the Drafts folder. In the event your browser or computer crash, you won’t lose all your work. Alternatively, you can also use the Save Now button at the top of your message. When you’ve completed your text, click the Send button just above the To field to have Gmail deliver your message. You’ll see a confirmation message at the top to let you know your email has been sent.

Now for some extras…

Below the To field are two additional links labeled Add Cc and Add Bcc. Clicking each of these links presents an additional text area for you to enter additional recipients. These are used to include additional people or groups in your message. Cc stands for Carbon Copy. When you enter a recipient here, they are included in the message, however their email client may display the message slightly differently because the message was not directly to them, but rather they were a secondary recipient. Bcc stands for Blind Carbon Copy. Like Cc, you add one or more recipients in the Bcc field, but it has the added advantage that people in the To and Cc fields do not know who is in the Bcc field. An example of this may be that I want to send a message to Dave asking him to explain his behavior in the meeting yesterday, but I’d also like to include his boss Sally without letting Dave know that Sally is included. If I include Sally in the Bcc field, she receives a copy of the message I sent to Dave, but Dave doesn’t know that. Be aware, that some email systems, particularly corporate ones, may block email if your name is in the Bcc field so use it with caution.

If you want to include a photo, document, or audio file, you can use the link labeled Attach a file just below the Subject field. Clicking this link presents a file browser that lets you navigate and choose a file to attach with your email message. When you’ve selected a file, click the Open button (on Windows machines) or Select (on a Mac) and your file will be uploaded to Google’s server and included as part of your message. If you want to remove the attachment before sending it, just uncheck the checkbox next to the attachment name. To attach more than one file, use the link Attach another file just below the list of file attachments. Gmail lets you attach up to 20 megabytes of attachments per message. If you have files larger than that, you should consider using another means of transferring your data.

Finally, you can change the look and feel of your message by using the toolbar just above the message window. The various icons let you make your text bold, underlined, larger or smaller, change the font style, create lists, and more. As a general rule, don’t go overboard with colors and fonts or your text will be unappealing to the reader.

Finally, l et’s say you’re in a bad mood or discovered the answer to the question you were starting to write in an email and don’t want to save it or send it, just click the Discard button above the To line, or at the bottom of the message window, to dispose of your work.

That’s it. Creating basic and sophisticated messages is quite simple with Gmail. I no time you’ll be sending email without a second thought.

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