Offline

This entry is part 16 of 27 in the series Black Belt

I have to admit I was excited to hear about the Gmail Labs feature simply called Offline. The offline feature allows you to use Gmail when you are offline or on a flakey internet connection. To get started with Gmail Offline, begin by going to Settings> Labs. You’ll first need to enable the offline feature and save your settings.You should now see the “offline” icon as a little green circle, or the words “offline” in the upper right by the settings link. Click on this link and walk through the steps of installing Google Gears. Once the installation is complete you make need to restart your browser – the installer will tell you if you need to do so.

The process will then begin to synchronize your online folder with a local copy that you can use when you are not online. You can hide the status window at any time by clicking the “X” in the upper right corner of the small window. To see it again, click the little green circle again. The sych process will take a while. In my case it took about 20 minutes.

From the sync pop-up you can also take some additional actions including:

  • “Sync Now” to resynchronize your offline folder immediately,
  • pause the sync for the next hour, which is always handy if you are in a limited bandwidth situation
  • Disable oflfine Gmail, which allows you a quick way to turn off the offline system
  • and Offline settings – this goes directly to the Settings> Offline tab where you can:
  • Enable/disable offline mode (yes, this is redundant)
  • Set the date range – allowing you to set how far back you want to keep online data locally. By default this is about six months, depending on the number of messages and their size
  • Specify the maximum attachment size – which allows you to limit the synchronization of large file attachments. By default this is unlimited.
  • Create a desktop shortcut
  • and a link to a troubleshooting page to help you out if you have any problems.

I ran this on my Windows machine under Firefox 3 and Internet Explorer 7 and it worked fine in both situations.

Using the offline feature allows you to use Gmail in your browser, read, compose, and even archive messages without an internet connection. When you get back online, the changes you made offline will be available online, and new messages on the server will be downloaded automatically without you doing anything special. This really is a useful feature if you use Gmail a lot like I do.

Here’s today’s quick tip:

Listener Dan Johnson Jr. made me aware of a Phishing attempt via email targeted directly at Gmail users. Phishing, with “ph” is an attempt by someone to gain access to your secured information. In this case, someone is trying to get in to your Gmail account. The message indicates that your Gmail account is scheduled to be deleted. The email asks you for your user name, password, date of birth, and country. If you ever see an email asking for this type of information use the “Report Phishing” option on the “Reply” pulldown on the right side of a message so Gmail can prevent similar messages in the future.

One other little cosmetic change to Gmail that I hadn’t noticed earlier was the status bar when doing file attachments. Now when you specify a file attachment an animated gauge will display showing you how much of the attachment has been uploaded. While not necessary, it is a nice touch.

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Contacts Sync with Mac Address Book

This entry is part 24 of 27 in the series Black Belt

Before I dig in to this I would like to thank my long time friend, co-worker, and mentor, Scott Reynolds for passing on this wonderful tip for Gmail. Those of you with iPhones, Macs and Gmail will find this very helpful.

This is based on a recent article at googlemac.blogspot.com showing how you can sync your Mac address book with your Google contacts.

Before you start, we strongly recommend that you back up your Mac Address Book. You can do that in the File menu by choosing Export, Addressbook Archive. That way if anything goes wrong, you’ll still have your original data.

The key to syncing your Google contacts is in the Mac Address Book. Go to the Address Book menu, choose Preferences. Under the General heading, at the bottom of the screen check the box that says “Synchronize with Google”. It will ask you for your Google login and password – use the credentials you normally use to get access to your Gmail.

Now start up iSync under the Mac Applications menu. Click “Sync Devices”. Depending on how many contacts you have, it may take a few minutes to synchronize all the changes. When it’s done, click on the Card menu and select “Look for duplicates”. You can resolve conflicts one at a time by choosing which card you want to take precedence, or you can merge the changes by highlighting one or more cards and click “Merge cards” or using the keyboard shortcut Cmd-Shift-| (that’s a verticle pipe character).

Click “Sync Devices” one more time and your contacts in your Mac Address Book and Google contacts are now in sync. To keep things in sync in the future, just use iSync periodically. It’s a bit manual, but once setup, it’s only a couple mouse clicks away.

Here’s today’s quick tip: Fiona King over at collegedegrees.com has posted an article titled “57 tips of highly effective Gmail users“. If you’re a long time listener to the Gmail Podcast you’ll recognize many of these and I encourage you to go over and take a look – there are some great nuggets of information like backing up your messages, cleaning out your contacts, or tricking out your labels.

If you’ve got a great idea or heard about a new feature in Gmail, or something that works with or enhances Gmail, I’d love to hear from you. Visit the website at chuckchat.com or drop me an email at gpodcast@gmail.com.

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Shortcut Keys Help Screen

This entry is part 15 of 27 in the series Black Belt

It’s almost as if Google can read my mind! This is really scary. Just yesterday I was getting frustrated at looking up shortcut keys I rarely use. No, I’m not going to print one and put it next to my monitor – that’s clutter. Fear no more, the shortcut key to end all that has arrived! Just remember “?” and you get a lovely overlay with all the shortcut keys (sample shown below.) Of course, you’ll need to make sure you have keyboard shortcuts enabled in the settings.

Help Screen

There is a link on the bottom to open it in a new window (or tab). After you’ve gotten what you need from the overlay, press “Esc” and it goes away. This one isn’t even in the “What’s New” list yet!

I’m told this does conflict with the same key found in Better Gmail 2, a Greasemonkey add-in, but how bad can it be to have too much help?

Let’s see, what else did I wish for in Gmail?

GSpace

This entry is part 14 of 27 in the series Black Belt

Gspace is an add-on to the Firefox browser that allows you to use your 5+GB of Gmail storage as drive space.

Start by downloading GSpace from http://addons.mozilla.org. If you enter GSpace in the search box at the top of the screen, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding it.

The download process is straightforward and requires Firefox to restart. Once that is done you’ll notice that the Tools menu now has an option labeled “GSpace”. When you select that option, Firefox will open a new tab that looks and works like a file transfer client. There is also a little icon on the Firefox status bar to bring up an embedded browser window to manage your files.

The first time you use GSpace, you will want to click on “Manage Accounts”. Enter your Gmail credentials and you’re ready to go. Don’t forget, if you host your own domain with Google you can use that account as additional, but separate space.

You should find GSpace very easy to use. It operates much like any other graphical file transfer program with the files from your computer on the left and the remote files on Google on the right. Transferring data is done by highlighting files or folders then using the arrows to move items back and forth. Status windows at the bottom of the screen show which items are being transferred and which are done. You can create a folder hierarchy in GSpace just like any other filesystem on your computer or network.

What’s really happening behind the scenes is Gmail is mailing you a message with your files as attachements. If you check your inbox you will see that you have received a message from yourself. You can retrieve the files from any computer, even if it does not have the GSpace add-on installed, by using the web browser and downloading the file via the Gmail web interface. Once you delete the files in Gmail, they no longer show up in Gspace, however I found deleting files from GSpace appeared to delete the files and associated email messages, but they came right back moments later.

Here’s today’s quick tip:

Create a filter that looks for messages from you, or with the subject that starts with GSPACE, then labels it with something like GSPACE and skips the inbox. Now the files you sent to Gmail with GSpace are automatically processed and stored out of the way.

And as a final note, Google’s chat feature now supports group chats and graphical emoticons. To start a group chat, just click “Group Chat” from the options menu when chatting.

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IMAP 101

This entry is part 13 of 27 in the series Black Belt

Gmail now supports IMAP. What’s IMAP you say? IMAP stands for Internet Message Access Protocol. This is just another way for your Outlook, Outlook Express, Apple Mail, Thunderbird, or even your iPhone, to communicate with Google’s mail server.

So what are the advantages of IMAP? For users with many, or large messages, IMAP can result in faster response times. Unlike POP3, You can have multiple clients connect to the same mailbox. That means you can leave your computer connected at work and any changes you make at home are reflected at work, or any other client that is talking to the server.
IMAP also allows you to access parts of a message independently. This is really done in the background without your knowledge. What this means is that messages with large file attachments don’t retrieve the large attachment unless told to do so. You can retrieve and read a series of messages much quicker with IMAP.

In short, IMAP is a more modern and bandwidth-friendly protocol.

You can enable IMAP by logging in to your Gmail account on the web, going to the Settings link in the upper right and select the tab that now reads “Forwarding and POP/IMAP”. A new section has been added labeled “IMAP Access”. Click on the radio button that says “Enable IMAP” and then the button labeled “Save Changes”. It’s that simple. There you will also find a link to help you configure any number of popular applications.

If you haven’t noticed, storage space has increased. After gradually going up from the original 1GB to 2 and then nearly stopping at 2.8GB, a sudden surge starting in October 2007 has seen significant growth in the Gmail mailbox. As of this recording I’m over 4.5GB. Sadly, the storage increase happened right after I archived all my mail to a local Thunderbird application and cleaned out Gmail entirely. It seems funny to only be using 5% of my storage space again.

Keep listening to the Gmail Podcast. News sources have it that more exciting improvements to Gmail are coming out soon.

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IMAP Support

This entry is part 12 of 27 in the series Black Belt

Several Gmail Podcast listeners and readers are reporting that Google is rolling out support for IMAP. The “Forwarding and POP” tab has been renamed to “Forwarding and POP/IMAP”. Although it only appears to be available on some accounts at this point, particularly the hosted domains, I will have a podcast and detailed blog entry on setting up and configuring it as soon as I can.

Technical Tip: IMAP is an alternate protocol to retrieve your email to a computer or portable device. Clients like Thunderbird support it. One major benefit is that IMAP only retrieves the headers of information to display your index, unlike POP that retrieves the entire message every time. This makes it faster for devices like cell phones. The body of the message, and any attachments, are downloaded when you read the message.

Stay tuned for more details.

Twitter offers import of Gmail Contacts

This entry is part 11 of 27 in the series Black Belt

For those who use Twitter for your social networking, they have added a nice feature under the “Find & Invite” section to allow you to invite people from your Gmail address book quickly and easily. As a quick side note, Twitter is similar to instant messaging on a web page. You login with an account then answer the simple question “What are you doing now?” with a short text phrase such as “listening to the Gmail Podcast”. There two types of people, those you follow, and those who follow you. When you post something, the people who follow you will see it. When someone you follow updates their twitter status, you’ll see that update. It’s a simple concept that is catching on quickly.

To use your Gmail address book, login to Twitter at twitter.com. If you don’t have an account, simply register. It’s free and quick. Next, click on the link near the top that says “”Find & Invite”. There you will see an option to use your Gmail address book. You will be offered a secure login for your Gmail credentials and then the screen will go to your contacts. Once Twitter imports the information you can simply click on names to follow and whether to turn on or off the notifications. It’s that simple.

When you’re done, click “Next” and another page will come up suggesting to invite people you email the most. A pretty neat idea for inviting a lot of your friends to join Twitter without a lot of effort from you.

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More HTML Signatures

This entry is part 10 of 27 in the series Black Belt

In an earlier episode of the Gmail Podcast I described how to do HTML signatures using Google documents to copy and paste the content. Thanks to listener Bob, there is an easier way using Greasemonkey.

Step 1 involves installing Greasemonkey. Greasemonkey is a Firefox extension that lets you manage other scripts. You can find it at www.greasespot.net. This is a pretty straight forward download and install to Firefox so I won’t get in to the details here.

Step 2 involves downloading and installing the actual HTML script for Greasemonkey which I have included in the text of this show available on the web site.

http://gootch2.googlepages.com/htmlsig.user.js

Once Greasemonkey and the script are installed, you are ready for step 3 – Editing the signature. Right click on the monkey icon on the bottom of your Firefox screen and select “manage user scripts”. You should see a selection on the left that reads “HTML Signatures for GMail”. Highlight that by clicking on it and then click on the “Edit” button.

Here is where things get a little technical. Stick with me and we’ll get through this together… The first time you click Edit, you may be asked to locate a text editor. On Windows you can navigate to C:\Windows\Notepad.exe. On a Mac I suggest using TextEdit in the Applications folder.

Once you have chosen your text editor, you will see the actual script that does all the hard work. You don’t need to be a fluent JavaScript programmer to modify this. Just find the line about half way down that says “var htmlsignature =. Change the text between the quotes. By default it reads Edit the script to change this signature, with some HTML tags. If you are comfortable with HTML, be creative and have fun. If you aren’t, start by just modifying the text and see what happens. When you are done, save your file and close the dialog box in Firefox for the Greasemonkey script.

Remember, good email etiquette suggests you keep your signatures short. Four to six lines of text is a good rule of thumb.

To test your creation, compose a new email in Gmail. You should see your signature pop in the message body automatically. If you want to change your signature at any time, go back and repeat step 3 of this process.

That’s it for using Greasemonkey to create HTML signatures in Gmail. I’ve installed it, confgured it, use it, and love it. Although, I have to admit that I did spend most of my time tweaking the HTML to get the styles just right.

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Google Alerts

This entry is part 9 of 27 in the series Black Belt

Learn how to use Google Alerts as part of your Gmail account to know when your favorite topics are found on the web.

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HTML Signatures

This entry is part 8 of 27 in the series Black Belt

While the Signatures option in the general Gmail settings allows plain text only, there is a way you can leverage Google Docs to help you create a signature with different fonts, styles, and even images. Listen to this episode of the Gmail Podcast and find out how.

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