Archive for the ‘Mobile’ Category

Mobile Labels

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

Just a short one today… Some of you may already know this. If you use Gmail from the web browser on your iPad, iPhone, Android, or other mobile device, you might find it a bit annoying to label your messages. When reading a message, use the drop down chevrons on the upper right, select Label, and you are presented with a list of all your labels. Until recently, I would scroll to the label I wanted, check the checkbox, then have to scroll back up to the Apply button.

One day I was doing this and for some reason missed the checkbox and just clicked the word “Finance” and it put the label on and went back to the message – much faster than scrolling back up and clicking Apply! Of course, if you want to apply more than one label, you will need to scroll, tick the appropriate checkboxes, and click Apply, but for just one, tap the label text for a quicker experience.

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Auto Advance

In this episode, I cover

  • A way to advance to the next conversation without going back to the index,
  • A recommendation from a fellow podcaster whose Gmail account was hacked
  • A quick note about an update to the iPhone interface.

First up, long time listeners will know that I’m a fan of the Gmail keyboard shortcuts. They have been a huge time saver for keeping my inbox organized when using the desktop browser interface. I also understand that not everyone uses the keyboard shortcuts and there are some features that are not available from standard screen interface.

One of those is the ability to archive a message and advance forward or backward in your conversations without going to the index. Keyboard junkies already know about the right and left square bracket keys (“[” and “]”) to do this. Unfortunately, there was no way for those who prefer the mouse to do the same thing. Once again, Google has heard the cries of their Gmail audience and created a labs feature called Auto-Advance that lets you determine if you want Gmail to advance to the next or previous conversation, OR return to the index after you archive, delete, or mute a conversation.

Like other Labs features, click on Settings in the upper right, then click the Labs tab. Look for the feature labeled “Auto-Advance” and click Enable, scroll to the bottom and click “Save”. This turns the feature on, but doesn’t change the behavior until you go to the General Settings and tell it to advance to the next or previous conversation. If you’re the kind of person who likes to start with your newest mail first, change the setting to go to the previous conversation. If you read your older messages first, then set tell Gmail to go to the next newer conversation. If you decide this option isn’t for you, either change it to the setting “Go back to the threadlist” or disable the labs feature.

Whether your a keyboard shortcut junkie or prefer the mouse, the Auto-Advance feature should make it easier to keep your inbox clean without having to go back to the index every time you archive, delete, or mute a conversation. I activated the feature shortly after I heard about it and love it.

Next, I received the following message from Dennis Gray over at the 101 Uses for Baby Wipes podcast:

Apologies to all for the strange e-mail you received from my account.  Google advised me that my Gmail account had been accessed from China, and once I received that notice I locked the account for a few days and changed the password.

If you’ve ever been curious about what the warning looks like, I have attached a snapshot of the warning. (Which I have included in the show notes on the Gmail Podcast website) Sad thing is, the warning doesn’t show up in mobile Safari browsers, which are now my primary web access tools.  The warning also does not appear in the mail app for iPad.

It does show up in Firefox, though, and that is how I captured the warning, saved for posterity in the attached .PNG file.

Once again, my apologies for the spam, and the ‘radio silence’ that followed.

The key take away from this is the recommendation to change your password once in a while, say every six months, and use a secure password with mixed case, numbers, and throw in a symbol to keep those hackers off your mail account. Remember, you can change your password from Settings> Accounts and Import or go to google.com/accounts. If you’re not good at remembering passwords, I recommend using a password tool like 1Password at agilewebsolutions.com or KeePass at keepass.info.

Finally, a quick note for your iPhone Gmail users. You probably already noticed, but the floating toolbar is no more. When you select one or more conversations from the index, the option to archive, delete, and more is at the bottom rather than floating at the top. It’s a subtle change, but a nice one in my opinion. What’s neat is that they are willing to share the JavaScript and HTML techniques used to do this with other developers. Watch for that on code.google.com/mobile. Thanks Google!

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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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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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Gmail for iPad

ipad-screenshotAlthough I don’t have an iPad (yet), I find the Gmail mobile app for the Apple iPad compelling. This two column interface resembles the preview pane of Microsoft Outlook (which I use all the time.) It makes me wonder if the standard web browser interface will have this option soon or if it is better suited for the larger touchscreen UI only.

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Google Sync

This entry is part 25 of 35 in the series Green Belt

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Google Sync can help keep your iPhone/iPod Touch, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, and Symbian smartphone stay synchronized with calendar, contacts, and email on your Google account wirelessly.

This is more commonly known as “push technology” because you don’t have to manually request your calendar, contacts, or email be updated. Most people find push technology more convenient. The advantage is that you get your updates sent automatically to the native apps on your mobile device and those are synced with your Google account information. The downside is that you cannot take advantage of many of the features of the web application such as labels, stars, and archiving in Gmail, for example.

Setting up Google Sync was pretty basic. I was able to follow the instructions online and get my iPod Touch setup to sync my email and calendar items in a matter of minutes. The key is to setup the account as a Microsoft Exchange account. Google Sync uses the Microsoft ActiveSync technology to do the heavy lifting. Generally, I still use the web interface or the Gmail applet on my iPod Touch so I can use the cool extras to manage my email. The place where Google Sync has made a big difference for me is the calendar. It sure is handy to have my Google calendar items, which are generally personal, right next to my work items all in the palm of my hand. Now when someone asks me “Are you available next Tuesday?” I have everything I need in one place.

It should be noted that the iPhone and iPod Touch require OS v3.0 or higher.

You can find step-by-step instructions for your mobile device at m.google.com/sync.

Here’s today’s quick tip. You might want to check out the labs feature “Hide Read Labels” if you want to have a little less clutter on the left side of you screen in the labels tab. If you turn on this labs feature, it will only show you the labels that have unread messages in them, in essence, hiding all the labels where the messages are all read. This is particularly useful if you are one of those people who use labels as a to-do list. For example, saving unread messages in a label called “Weekend” will have this folder displayed until you’ve read all the messages, in effect, checking them off your to-do list, then the list goes to hidden. Just another handy way to keep the relevant information at your fingertips while keeping the interface clean.

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Enhanced Gmail Plugin for Blackberry

This entry is part 23 of 35 in the series Green Belt

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A few days ago my mobile phone at work was replaced with a Blackberry Curve. I’ve used many smartphones in the past, but this was my first Blackberry. I am still learning my way around the interface, applications, and their options, and I have to admit – I can see the attraction to this platform. It was only a couple days later that my Technorama co-host, Kreg Steppe, let me know that there is a new plugin available for the Blackberry that lets your standard Blackberry mail app work better with Gmail. Until recently you could send and receive email using the standard IMAP protocol, but that fell far short of the functionality that many Gmail users want including labels, stars, and more – causing them to download a separate app to manage their Gmail. Well, those days are over.

With the Enhanced Gmail plugin for Blackberry, you can: Add and remove labels and stars from your messages, report spam, perform local and remote searches, archive mail messages, view related messages as a single conversation (also known as threads in other mail programs), and much more. The plugin requires Blackberry Device Software version 4.5 or greater and Google Mail Integration with the Blackberry service. Most of you probably already have this if you have a recent Blackberry.

Begin by pointing your Blackberry web browser to blackberry.com/gmail. Be sure to follow the instructions carefully. If you have an existing Blackberry mail setup to Gmail, you will need to remove it and recreate it.

It should also be noted that mail synchronization is one way, from the Blackberry device to Gmail. Many changes that happen on the Gmail web interface are not reflected on the Blackberry. To find out more, visit the link to the Blackberry forums, found in the show notes on the Gmail Podcast website.

http://supportforums.blackberry.com/rim/board/message?board.id=Hello&message.id=198#M198

Finally, if you use the Blackberry Storm, this functionality is built in to version 2.0.0.13 so you won’t need to download this plugin. I don’t yet know if the enhanced Gmail functionality will be a standard feature of other Blackberry phones in the future. Stay tuned to the Gmail Podcast or visit the website for updates.

Here’s today’s quick tip. Gmail now has a feature to email your task list. From the Tasks window, choose the Actions menu, and select “Email Task List”. A new message is composed with all the items in that list shown as bullet items and completed items are crossed off. This is a good way to show project status, or let someone know how busy you are and why you haven’t gotten to something they asked you for. Of course, you’ll want to make sure at least a few things are crossed off so you can backup your claims of being so busy.

Finally, Gmail is rolling out the ability to easily import email and contacts from other email systems like AOL, Yahoo, and Hotmail. This feature was announced to new users in June of 2009 and existing users would be able to do this later. Well, now it’s later. if you want a refresher on the feature and how to access it, you can fid it on the Gmail Podcast recorded June 14, 2009. The short answer is that it is in the settings under accounts.

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 long time listener and Technorama co-host Kreg Steppe for pointing me to the Blackberry plugin. Thanks to you for listening, and don’t forget to write.

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iPhone and Android Enhancements

This entry is part 22 of 35 in the series Green Belt

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If you’re an iPhone or Android user, you’ll definitely want to look at the recent changes to the mobile web Gmail interface for those devices. Google has made some major improvements to the UI.

First, Gmail mobile now supports labels for your email conversations very much like the desktop version. Now you can add color coded tags to respective emails for managing your inbox while you’re on the go. You can find the Label feature in the new “floating menu bar”, as I call it, that also has buttons labeled “Archive”, “Delete”, and “More”. Click on “More” and select “Label As” just below “Mute”.

Another new addition is address auto completion of recipients’ names. Now you can simply start typing a name and Gmail will start filling in the name for you.

Finally, my favorite – keyboard shortcuts. Yes, now you can use keyboard shortcuts if you own an Android phone. Most of the same keyboard shortcuts map the same way they do on the desktop. From the official Gmail blog at Google, “if you’re reading an e-mail you can press ‘u’ to return to the inbox or ‘n’ to move to the next conversation.”

Interestingly, these changes to the iPhone and Adroid platform came at the same time in April 2009 when they completely redesigned their mobile application. This is a change from previous enhancements which came out on the larger target audience of the iPhone first.
This new Gmail interface is available for iPhone/iPod Touch with OS 2.2.1 versions and Android-powered devices in U.S. English language only.

Look for more nice tweaks to the mobile version of Gmail in the future and keep listening to the Gmail Podcast to stay up to date on them.

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