The IT Guy: Get the most out of Gmail

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The IT Guy: Get the most out of Gmail

By MORGAN BONNER
theitguy@islandpacket.com
Published Sunday, January 6, 2013   |  721 Words  |  

I vividly remember the day I signed up for a Gmail account -- at the time, all those years ago, 1GB of email storage for free seemed like winning the lottery. Since my work email has been my primary one for so long, I didn't migrate to Gmail but did use it occasionally when the situation would present itself.

However, not spending all day in it left me with no incentive to get to know the features it provides -- and then one day, the Packet and Gazette switched over to Gmail as its company-wide email provider.

Suddenly, I was thrown into a world I'd only heard about, left to fend for myself and survive in the world of webmail, after all those years of using a desktop mail client. At the beginning, I couldn't stand it -- the lack of drag-and-drop support alone made me want to never use Gmail again.

Time passes, wounds heal, corporate IT won't let you use something else, etc., and now I'm living the Gmail life. If you are too, take advantage of some of these tips -- they might just make your life a little easier:

1. LABELS

Gmail is essentially one big folder holding all your email. Labels are the equivalent of subfolders, and I'm always surprised by how many people don't use them.

Labels help to get your mail organized (if you're feeling frisky, assign them a color so you can know at a glance, which category new mail belongs to), but they really come in handy when you use them in conjunction with ...

2. FILTERS

Here's a simple filter I have set up: every day an email summarizing what mail was caught in our spam filter for my address is sent to me. I don't care about it and I don't want to see it. I created a filter that has email sent to "theitguy@islandpacket.com" that has the words "Quarantine Summary" in the subject set to "Skip the Inbox" and then "Delete it." And just like that, I am never bothered with that email again.

Here's a more advanced filter: Because Gmail will ignore text after a plus sign in your address (but still deliver your mail), use said plus sign to skip all that spam you get when you r a new social network or some other site you don't want to hear from again. Example: Let's say you want to buy something from Walmart.com but don't want to see all their subsequent emails in your inbox. Use "theitguy+walmart@gmail.com" as your address when you sign in and make your purchase. Now, back in Gmail create a filter that has any mail delivered to "theitguy+walmart@gmail.com" sent directly to the trash, or apply a label and have it sent straight there.

Filters are a powerful tool. Use them.

3. GMAIL CALENDAR

I tend to use my inbox as my life's "to-do" list, and at the end of every Friday afternoon I had better be at "inbox zero" or my entire weekend is ruined. Use your Gmail account's Calendar to create an event and then send yourself an email reminder at a designated time. For example, I'll get an email reminder 24 hours before my next dentist appointment that I scheduled six months AGO.

4. IMPORT EMAIL

Gmail lets you add any other POP3 mail to your account, so why not have all your mail ce? Find this option in Settings>Accounts. Be sure to create a label for it so you know which email is for which account.

5. LABS

Found in your settings, Gmail Labs is a place where you can go to add new functionality to your account. Are you a heavy Outlook user? Find the option to turn on an Outlook-style preview pane. Want to send a text message to someone's phone from Gmail? Turn on this feature and then you can send anyone an SMS via Chat. There's lots of stuff in Labs, so check it out.