Archive for the ‘Organizing’ 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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Disable Conversations

Staying away from Gmail because you don’t like threaded messages (aka conversations?)

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I tell lots of people about Gmail and by far, the biggest reason I’ve heard that some people don’t like is that all the messages are threaded. All messages, replies, and replies to replies are displayed as a single entry in the conversation index.

Well, not any more. As of Wednesday September 29, 2010 Gmail is offering a feature to allow you to disable the conversations mode and use it like a  legacy email system with one line per email message on the index.

If you’re one of the people who stayed away from Gmail because you don’t like the conversations view, you can now find an option to disable this by clicking Settings in the upper right corner. Look for the section that says Conversations View and choose the way you want it displayed. Save your changes and that’s it. If you prefer, you can always go back to the conversations view.

While you’ve probably read all that from the press releases, I wanted to see it, test it, and let you know how this feature really behaves. My questions included:

  • What happens when you go to individual messages?
  • Does archive, label, star, etc. allow you to manipulate just one message?
  • What then happens when you go back to conversations?

The first thing I noticed is that the help screen is not dynamic between the words conversation and message. Everything is still referred to as a conversation.

As for the shortcut keys, they still work the same, j to go down one message, k to go up, x to select, and so on.

Regarding message management, I picked an example with a conversation containing two labels. Removing a single label from one message in a thread and going back to conversations view shows all applicable labels to the thread. if you go back to non-conversation mode, the individual message label settings are remembered. In short, it seems the application does what you expect it to do.

As for me? I love conversations view and plan to stick with it. With so many email messages going back and forth, it’s just made it so much easier to manage in conversations (especially the mute feature.)

If you’re new to Gmail and you’ve just discovered this podcast because now you want to use it because conversations can now be disabled, welcome aboard! I encourage you to go to chuckchat.com and visit the Gmail Podcast website to find out dozens of ways you can be more effective with Gmail.

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Priority Inbox

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

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Gmail is attempting to make your email easier to sort through by releasing a feature called Priority Inbox. I have to admit, at first I was skeptical of how this feature would work since I’m one of those people who generally keep their inbox to 10 items or less. A few times a day I go through my inbox and archive the reference information, delete the things I don’t want to see again, take action on the quick items, and mark the other actions for later action. That seems to work fairly well. “What value do I get with Google guessing at the importance of my incoming messages?” was my first thought.

Let me back up a bit. When your account is enabled with this feature, you will see a red message in the upper right by your login name indicating Priority Inbox has been turned on. If you like, there is a short video in the pop up window that helps explain the benefits of priority inbox. Click the “Try it now” button in that same pop up window. Once enabled, Gmail does a few things. First, it creates a new link on the left called Priority Inbox. The regular Inbox is still available just below that link. Second, it goes through your mail and makes some guesses at what mail is important to you and labels them as Important. Finally, the conversation index is divided in to four sections. By default, three of these are turned on. They are for messages labeled Important, Starred, and Everything Else. You can change these and even add a fourth section by going in the Settings under the Priority Inbox tab. You can also tweak a few of the other priority inbox settings from that same screen including the option to not show the priority inbox at all.

Like spam filters, the priority inbox needs to learn what’s important to you. Gmail has one of the best spam filters around and it’s these same methods that help learn and identify important email as well. If it gets something wrong, you can use the new + and – tags on the button bar just above the conversation index to help it get smarter. After only a few days and a few keystrokes, I’m noticing a marked improvement.

It is possible to abuse the priority inbox if you mark too many things important. What does “important” mean? That’s up to you. If you mark too many things important and find that 95% of all of your email is ending up in the Important section, then it has lost its value.

One other thing about priority inbox, I noticed that the shortcut keys g-i take you back to the priority inbox if you have it enabled. There doesn’t appear to be a shortcut for the standard inbox while priority inbox is around, but if you find one, let me know about it.

One final note, Google Voice has added email notifications for missed calls. This is not so much a quick tip, but an FYI . While this isn’t terribly useful for people with Android phones who see the missed call on their handset, it is nice if you are on your desktop where you can have the missed calls noted in your Google Voice inbox or emailed to you.

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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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Sign in to Multiple Gmail Accounts

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

Few things from Google fall short of “fantastic” for me, but the new feature to login to multiple Google accounts at once was met with a solid “meh”.

My original thought was “great, now I don’t need all those accounts under ‘send mail as’.” Such was not the case this time. Per Google’s posting on the Gmail Blog, they say you can login to two Google accounts at once, however there are some gotchas.

1) Not all Google services support multiple account sign-in yet. For the services that don’t support it (like Blogger and Picasa Web Albums), you’ll be defaulted to the first account you signed in with during that browser session. So if you click a link from Gmail to Blogger, for example, you’ll be logged into Blogger with the first account you signed in with, even if you clicked the link to Blogger from your second Gmail account.

2) We’re still working on making Gmail and Calendar work offline with multiple sign-in. If you rely on offline access, you probably don’t want to enable this feature quite yet.

3) Multiple account sign-in only works on desktop browsers for now, so if you use Gmail on your phone’s browser you won’t see this option yet.

Since Google Apps customers can already sign in to their accounts at the same time as their personal Google Accounts, we won’t be adding this new feature to Google Apps until the new infrastructure is in place.

This doesn’t do anything for me. It only supports up to three Google accounts, not all apps are supported, and hosted email addresses won’t be coming along for a while. What’s the big deal everyone has been jumping up and down for? OK, setting up shared calendars can be a bit of a pain, but once it’s done, you get to use those calendars on your iPhone, iPad, iCal, and other places. As for shared Gmail, that’s already been answered and I’d rather switch at the top of the message using a centralized account with the Send Mail As feature (read: change the sender on the fly) than switch to a different account to check that mail.

For usefulness, I give this feature a 2 out of 10. Maybe I’ll see more value when the hosted accounts can play.

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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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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