Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

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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Nested Labels and Message Sneak Peak

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

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

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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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.

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