Archive for the ‘Organizing’ Category

Merge Duplicate Contacts with One Button

This entry is part 28 of 35 in the series Green Belt

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Gmail has added a feature to the contacts screen to allow you quickly find all duplicate contacts in your contacts database. Until I hit this button, I thought I was pretty good about managing my contact, but I found that out of more than 1600 contacts, I had 163 with more than one entry.

You’ll find the new magic button by clicking on the Contacts link on the left, then in the main window labeled “My Contacts”, there are two buttons labeled “View Suggestions” and “Find duplicates”. After you click the Find Duplicates button, a list of all contacts with more than one email address is presented. Review the list and uncheck any contacts you want to leave alone. Click the “details” link next to each contact to see which addresses Gmail has found for this person, or use the “expand” link at the top of the list to show the details for all duplicate records. Use the collapse link to shrink them back down to a list of names.

After you have reviewed the list, click the Merge button to combine the multiple email addresses in to one contact. Verify the operation worked as expected by looking up your contacts and noting that there are now multiple email addresses for that person. Choosing a name when you compose a message is the same as if the contact was not merged. Start typing the name and all available email addresses are displayed.

If you’ve been considering using Gmail as your central contacts database, this feature makes it easy to keep everything together and then sync it with your phone or other portable device. To find out more about syncing your contacts, search for the term sync on the Gmail blog at

Here’s today’s quick tip – Use the question mark key (?) to see all the shortcut keys Gmail has to offer.


Migrating My Email to Gmail

This entry is part 16 of 20 in the series Gmail Master

Fate conspired against me a couple years ago when I hit the limit on Gmail. If you’re not a Gmail veteran, here’s a quick refresher. When Gmail first came out it offered a whopping 1GB of storage for free. This was far larger than the 10MB my ISP was offering at the time. By mid-2007 the capacity was up to 2GB – and still free. Who was I to complain… Until late 2007 when I ran out of space.

My solution at the time was to start up Mozilla Thunderbird and use IMAP protocol to download all the messages to my local PC, then wipe Gmail clean. Sure it kept the file attachments, but I lost all my labels. I could still search through the archive and rebuild my email in the cloud.

Sadly (for me), only a few months later, Gmail capacity started shooting up again… 3GB… 4GB… 5GB… 6GB… 7GB… in a matter of months. It figures. Now everytime I want to find something I have to search two places when Gmail is large enough to hold the original 2GB, the 2GB I added since then, and still have plenty of space. But how to get my Thunderbird archive back on to Gmail?

Enter Ben Shoemate and his wonderful article explaining it all. Ben made it sound so simple to gather up the email and send it off to Gmail. Except I had problems.

I couldn’t get Gmail to recognize the server on my machine. Long story short, it turned out to be my Windows XP Firewall settings. Although I believed my exception in the port listing did the trick, it did not. I had to completely stop the service in order to make contact between any other machine and port 110 (POP3) on my machine.

What’s more, once I made contact, I had problems authenticating. Solution: I had to create another account and transfer the email messages (again) from one local IMAP account to another. A little time consuming, but soon I’ll have all my email safely back in Gmail’s hands.

And if you really don’t believe all your data is safe in the cloud, you can always use Gmail Backup to keep a copy.

Thanks Ben!

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More Storage

This entry is part 27 of 35 in the series Green Belt

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This week, Google announced they have slashed the pricing on additional storage. If you’ve been using Gmail for a long time, you probably remember when it was introduced with 1GB of storage. Compared to the 10MB my ISP was giving me at the time, 1GB was a comfortable upgrade – and it was free. Later, Gmail increased the storage to 2GB where it stayed for quite some time. A couple years back I ran out of space so I archived everything to my local PC and wiped it off Gmail to start over. If I had only waited a few more months I would still have all my original email online. Today Gmail offers in excess of 7GB of free storage, yet some people still manage to fill up their mailbox.

This week Gmail lowered their pricing on additional storage. You can purchase an additional 20GB for only $5 (US) per year. Additional increments are also available at similar pricing.

What’s nice is that the storage is shared between Gmail andPicasa, their online photo manager, as well. Picasa defaults to 1GB of storage so the extra space for your photos makes a nice upgrade at a reasonable price.


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Integrated Gmail

This entry is part 20 of 27 in the series Black Belt

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OK Google users, listen up. If you’re like me and use Gmail, Google Reader, Calendar, and many more apps, you likely find yourself wishing there was one single place to see and manage all that information rather than jumping between many different interfaces and applications.
Even though Google hasn’t come up with a unified interface, there’s a Firefox add-on that can do it for you called Integrated Gmail. It allows you to pull together your Google applications plus third party sites in the Gmail interface.

Listener John writes in that he’s got a netbook and is looking for something to offer him more screen real estate to see his conversation index and messages. I didn’t realize it at first, but Integrated Gmail add-on also offers screen controls to expand the screen usage on the top and left of the screen. Just look for the little green arrows. Whether you are a netbook user or just looking for a page to view all your Google apps, Integrated Gmail is a good choice.
Here’s today’s Quick Tip – Hey Google Voice users, Gmail now has a labs feature that allows you play your voice mail messages right in Gmail. Google Voice is a service that allows people to call one number and ring each of your multiple phones. If you are already a Google Voice user, you are used to getting your voice mail notifications as email. After someone leaves a voice message, you get an email with a transcript of the message (with varying degrees of accuracy) and a link to play the message. Previously, if you used the link it would take you to a different page to play it. By using the labs feature, you can play the message right from within Gmail. To use it, go to Settings, then click on the Labs tab, look for Google Voice player, select enable, and save you changes. Now when you get a message, the player will appear right below the message in Gmail.


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 or check the website for full information and archives of all previous Gmail tips at 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.


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Drag and Drop Labels

This entry is part 10 of 23 in the series White Belt

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Gmail has made some significant changes to the way you label and store conversations. They have now made labels work more like folders in more conventional mail applications by adding drag-and-drop actions. Once again, Google has impressed me with their web programming savvy.

Before getting started on the drag and drop feature, you should be aware that your labels have moved and are displayed a bit differently. Labels are no longer in their own little side window, but are now parked right underneath the standard system folders Inbox, Trash, Spam, and so on. You may also notice that all your labels are not displayed as they once were. Only the most used labels are displayed by default. If you don’t like this, click on the little down arrow just below the first few and click “Settings at the top of the new window. You can also get to this location by going in to Gmail Settings and click “Labels”.

In this redesigned Labels settings screen, you can show or hide any number of the standard folders or your labels quickly and easily. Go ahead and give it a try. You could save yourself a lot of screen real estate. If you don’t like it, just turn them back on.

I should point out that if you used the “Right Side Folders” labs feature, that it no longer functions. It is the first of the Gmail Labs features to be retired. A pity, I kind of liked having labels and chat on the right of the screen.

OK, now that you’ve got your labels and folders displayed the way you like, it’s time to try that drag and drop feature. You can drag any conversation on to a label or any label on to a conversation. To grab the conversation, click on the dotted area just to the left of the checkbox. Your mouse may change to the shape of a hand with all fingers extended, as opposed to the standard link cursor with just the index finger pointed out. Once you have the message, continue to hold the mouse button and drag the message to the desire label. This moves the message to that label and archives it, effectively treating it like an operation of moving a message into a folder.

If you would rather just apply a label and leave the message in the inbox, place your cursor over the desired label and click, then drag the label to the specific message shown on the conversation index. It’s really that simple. Remember, if the label you are looking for is not in the list, try the down arrow to show them all.

I have to admit, I’m very impressed with this new way of doings from a developer’s perspective and I’m sure most of you use your mouse a lot to click on that checkbox, conversation, or label. However, I’ve found that I can still process messages many times faster with keyboard shortcuts, so aside from cleaning up my screen by hiding most of the labels and folders, I won’t be using drag and drop too much.

If you’re not familiar with the keyboard shortcuts, have a listen to one of the first Gmail Podcasts I did in January 2006 to learn things like “l”, then start typing the first few letters of a label, or using “g” and “i” to go to the inbox quickly.