Archive for the ‘Labs’ Category

My Top Five Labs Features

This entry is part 36 of 35 in the series Green Belt

In this post I cover several of my favorite and most useful add-on features to standard Gmail that keep me productive and organized.

For those of you who are new to Gmail or perhaps haven’t explored the labs features, here’s a little background. Gmail has a collection of features they like to test out. They think they are useful or fun, but don’t put them in the main product unless they’ve proven that they are widely adopted by the public. The features or functionality of labs features can change at any time without notice. The name “labs” comes from the fact that they are still in the proverbial research and development lab.

You can get to the Labs features two ways. The first is to use the gear icon in the upper right corner of your Gmail screen next to your name and select Labs. The other way is to choose Mail Settings from the same gear icon, and select the Labs tab on the mail settings screen. Both menu options get you to the same place.

Once on the settings screen, use the radio buttons next to any of the labs features to enable (or disable) them as you wish. As of this podcast release, there are 56 labs features. I have well over 30 enabled at the moment, but have tried them all at one point or another (including some that have gone in to the mainstream product.) In no particular order, here is my top five list and why.

  1. Background send – This labs feature frees me up a few more seconds while the system delivers the message in the background. This is particularly handy with large file attachments. When I process my inbox, I like to go fast. Background send helps me fire off a message and go on to the next one.
  2. Google voice player in mail – A very handy feature for those with a Google voice account. When someone leaves you a voice mail, the poorly interpreted transcript is emailed to you with a voice mail file attached. With this lab enabled, a handy player displays so you can listen to the voice mail right in Gmail without having to download the file or use another application.
  3. Nested labels – What can I say? I like to label certain messages either automatically through Gmail filters, or manually. While some people like to just archive everything and leave finding old mail to the powerful search, I find it helpful to use some tags to not only spot important messages in the conversation index (colors help with this), but also narrow down my searches later by including a label. Nested labels help reduce the clutter on the left side of the screen by grouping together common themes in a collapsable hierarchy. I can group labels such as the organizations or groups I’m involved in, my podcast related messages, or projects I’m working on.
  4. Undo send – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sent a message only to realize I forgot to include a file attachment, a recipient, or an email address microseconds after hitting the send button. The Undo Send labs feature puts a link at the top of the screen that gives you up to 30 seconds to re-edit that message. This is one of those labs features that was so popular, the Gmail folks put it right in the General Settings tab.
  5. Authentication icon for verified senders – Today, you need to be concerned about security and fraud protection. This little lab gives you a peace of mind when viewing your conversation index and messages. To date, ebay and PayPal are the only known verified senders I’m aware of. They also happen to be two of the biggest targets for fraud. Someone will send you a message that looks like it’s from one of these sites, asking you to log in and verify your settings, but it takes you to a site that looks like ebay or PayPal, but isn’t. It gets your login and password and you’ve just given up your access without realizing it by clicking on a link in your email. With this labs feature on, you know that the little gold key means the message is really from a trusted source and not a fraudulent one.

While there are a lot of labs features, these are just a few that I find most useful. I’d love to hear which ones you find useful or entertaining.

One final note, all of these labs features are designed to work with a desktop browser. I have not done extensive testing on a mobile browser such as an iOS or Android device.

Play

Tags: , , , , , ,

News – August 20, 2010

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

Solve technical issues faster with GotoAssist Express – Try it free for 30 days

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.

Play

Tags: , , , , ,

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.

Play

Tags: , , , , , ,

Mark Unread From Here

This entry is part 30 of 35 in the series Green Belt

markunread1This episode is sponsored by GotoAssist. Try it free for 30 days.

If you belong to one or more mail lists that have lots of traffic, I recommend the labs feature “Mark Unread From Here”. This handy labs feature allows you to mark messages from a certain point in the conversation as unread.

Here’s how a typical conversation goes with me. I receive one or more messages, open the conversation, read them, and then archive the information. Later, I find the conversation has re-appeared in my message index with several new messages. If I open the conversation again, it marks all of the new entries as read, however I might not have time to read all of them. I may only read two or three – because I typically get distracted with embedded links to read, watch, or listen to something.

If I go back to the index, Gmail is going to mark all the messages in that conversation as read, when in fact, I may not have read them all. If I mark the conversation as unread, it marks all messages unread. That’s where the labs feature “Mark Unread From Here” comes in handy.

Enable this feature in the standard way by going to the Labs tab under Settings. Mark Unread From Here is near the bottom. Click the enable radio button and then choose Save Changes at the bottom of the screen.

Now when you open a conversation with many unread messages, use the Reply (or Reply To All) button in the upper right corner of any particular message and choose “Mark Unread From Here”. The remaining messages are marked unread, while the previous ones are marked as read. Alternatively, you can use the Expand All link, just above the sponsored links on the right, to show all the messages that may have already been read and collapsed. Using the Mark Unread from Here feature acts like a bookmark for a specific conversation, allowing you to come back later and finish reading the conversation right where you left off.

One final note, Google engineers are reporting that Gmail mobile now loads 2-3X faster than it did just a few months ago. For iPhone and Android users, the app is up and running in less than 3 seconds.

Play

Default Text Styling and Free Holiday Card

This entry is part 7 of 23 in the series White Belt

default-text-style

This episode is sponsored by GotoAssist Express. Try it FREE for 30 days at http://gotoassist.com/techpodcast

Want to put a little flair in your email? Want to get away from the standard font that everyone else is using in their Gmail messages? Try the labs feature called Default Text Styling. Like other labs features, you can turn it on by:

  • Clicking the Settings link in the upper right corner
  • Click the Labs tab.
  • Scroll down the list until you find Default Text Styling and click “Enable” next to it
  • At the bottom of the screen, click “Save Changes”

Now you can define your default text style under the General tab in the setting screen. It may take a few minutes for the feature to show up if you are using offline mail. If you want to remove the formatting and go back to the default style, use the rightmost icon that looks like a capital T with a red x.
When you compose new a new message, your default text style will be set to the color, font, and size you setup in the General Settings. Your signature will not use the default style if you have one setup.

Here’s today’s quick tip. Send a free holiday greeting card through the U.S. Postal Service and let Google pay for it. You can choose from six different styles and send one card with a personalized message to anyone with a U.S. Postal Address for free. Find out more at http://services.google.com/fb/forms/googleholidaycard.

A couple quick updates before I go. First, the Gmail website has been redesigned. We’ve cleaned things up and modernized. There are still a few tweaks to make, but I think you’ll find the interface quite familiar. Second, if you’re a WordPress user or are thinking about starting your own blog, watch for the book “Sams Teach Yourself WordPress in 10 Minutes” written by me and my Technorama co-host Kreg Steppe. The book won’t be out until March 2010, but you can pre-order now at Amazon.com.

Play

Offline Attachments and Green Robots

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

Sponsored by GotoAssist. Try it free for 30 days

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

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

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

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

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

Play

Docs Preview and Got The Wrong Bob

This entry is part 26 of 35 in the series Green Belt

Welcome the Gmail Podcast, a collection short hints, tips, and tricks to help you get more from your Gmail account. I’m your host, Chuck Tomasi.

Try GotoAssist Express Free for 30 days at gotoassist.com/techpodcast

Let’s say you’re a typical Gmail user and your colleagues send you links to a Google document, either a spreadsheet, presentation, or regular text document. Typically, you would click the link to open the document in Google Docs. That’s a little cumbersome when all you need is a quick peek to get a few facts or figures. That’s where the labs feature called “Docs Previews” comes in handy. Like any labs feature, you can find it under setttings, on the labs tab. Enable it and save your settings. Now when you get a link to a Google doc, an option will appear on the bottom of the message to preview the document, almost as if it were an attachment. Sorry, it doesn’t allow you to preview actual Microsoft document attachments like Excel or Word.

docs-preview
Another handy labs feature that can save you from some potential embarrassment is called “Got the wrong Bob?” This feature looks at the patterns of recipient groups you have sent to and tries to prevent you from including the wrong one.
For example, I normally send email to Kreg S, Victor C, and Steve H, about a surprise party we’re planning for Steve R. Well, it’s Saturday morning and I’m feeling a little tired from a long Karate workout the night before. I start typing and the automatic insert changed the order of my lookups for some reason so my quick typing gets me Kreg S, Victor C, and Steve R! It would be a bit of a problem if the mail went to Steve R instead of Steve H – obviously, it would ruin the surprise. Fortunately, I’ve got “Got the wrong Bob?” feature turnd on and it shows a red message just under the recipient box that says “Did you mean Steve H instead of Steve R?”
Again, like all other labs features, you can find “Got the wrong Bob?” under the labs tab of the settings screen. As a side note, be aware that the labs feature formerly known as “Suggest More Recipients” has been changed to “Don’t forget Bob”.
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. Thank you for listening, and don’t forget to write.

Play

Auto Unsubscribe

This entry is part 9 of 23 in the series White Belt

This episode is sponsored by GotoAssist – try it free for 30 days.

Have you ever wondered what to do with those messages that you get because you are on someone’s mail list? You don’t read them regularly (or at all), but you just don’t see a quick link, or you are not ambitious enough to unsubscribe. Well the geniouses at Google have an answer for that now too.

The feature is called auto-unsubscribe. The feature is quite simple to use. Just open the message like you normally would, and click the “Report Spam” button. If the message is recognized as a mailing list, Gmail will present a popup window with an option to unsubscribe or identify the message as actual spam. The main difference is that marking it as spam won’t stop the sender from sending more messages in the future.

If you click the option to unsubscribe, Gmail will send back an Unsubscribe request to the list. This request could take up to several days to process, but I found it to be pretty reliable. I read about this feature several weeks ago, but it took a while before it started working on my account.

Here’s today’s quick tip… actually two tips regarding labels. The first is my recommendation to enable the labs feature called Goto Labels. Begin by enabling keyboard shortcuts in your general settings, then enable to labs feature Goto Labels. Now you can use the keyboard shortcut ‘g’ then ‘l’ (letter L) which brings up a quick popup window allowing you to type the label. Like addresses, quick typeahead is available. Using this, combined with the condensed screen options mentioned a few shows ago, this gives you rapid access to your labeled messages while maximizing your screen real estate. Which is very important if you have a smaller screen such as those found on netbook models of portable computers.

The screen resolution of many netbooks is 1024×600 which can be a little constraining for people used to much higher resolutions on desktop or full size laptop machines. When you start applying and displaying one or more labels, you lose the effectiveness of the subject line. Fear not, there is a labs feature for this growing problem also. The feature is called “Hide Labels” and it allows you to turn off labels on the conversation index without affecting the functionality of the labels themselves, like the Goto Labels labs feature just mentioned. Now you can use your netbook and enjoy Gmail even more with the Hide Labels labs feature.

Finally, it was discovered this week that Gmail has surpassed AOL mail and moved in to third place for online mail services with 37 million users, right behind Hotmail with 47 million, and Yahoo with a commanding lead 106 million unique visitors.

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. Special thanks to listener Scott Reynolds for his tip on the Goto Labels labs feature. Thanks to you for listening, and don’t forget to write.

Play

Tags: , , , , , ,