Power Up Your Gmail!
Don't be afraid of that little gear on your Gmail screen... you can use it to organize your inbox, reduce the time you spend reading junk mail, and customize Gmail to work in ways that make your life easier. Read on to look at some of the fun and useful settings you can customize. I'm sure you'll learn something to make your Gmail experience even better!
Customizing Gmail: A Quick Tour of the Settings
I started using Gmail back in 2004, and over the years, I've shared lots of tips and updates on the evolution of Google's Gmail. This article peeks inside that little gear-shaped icon in the upper-right corner of your Gmail interface. Are you ready to teach your email some new tricks? Let's get started by clicking the gear icon, and then clicking on Settings. Then we'll explore the most useful settings on each tab.
Maximum Page Size: Sets the maximum number of contacts or conversations (message threads) that will be displayed; handy for smaller screens or slow connections. Defaults are 50 conversations or 250 contacts. I have a large monirtor and like to minimize clicks, so I max out my inbox to show 100 messages at a glance.
Browser Connection: Make sure it’s set to “always use https” so that your Internet connection to Gmail is encrypted and secure from all but the most sophisticated eavesdroppers. In May 2014, Google made ALL Gmail sessions encrypted. See The Big Problem With Wifi Hotspots to learn why this is important.
Default reply behavior: Set this to “reply” and not “reply all.” Then your boss won’t get your snide remark that was intended for only one person on his mailing list.
Stars: Colorful, eye-catching labels for messages. The default assortment is one yellow star, but you can add more star types and colors; just keep clicking on the star in a message header to rotate through your available options. Some of the "stars" are actually squares, but they all work the same. I like to use the purple "?" and the red "!" to flag items as questions to be answered, or of high importance. Stars can also be search criteria, e. g., "has:yellow-star" or "has:red-bang".
Desktop notifications: When enabled, this option puts popup alerts on your PC’s desktop whenever a new email or chat message arrives, so you don’t have to keep checking your browser. Note: this option is for Chrome browser users only, and you must be signed into Gmail in Chrome.
Signature: Create a signature that will appear at the bottom of emails you create, and can also be inserted into replies, to indicate quoted text that was written by you.
Snippets: The first few words of a message, similar to the snippets displayed in Google Search or Google News. Turn snippets off to see just the subject lines of messages.
Vacation responder: Write a message that will be sent in response to all incoming messages, telling people you’re not available and (optionally) when you will return or who to contact in your absence. If one person sends multiple messages while you’re gone, the vacation response will be sent no more often than once in 4 days. The downside is that you're alerting the world that you're not home, and your house is guarded only by goldfish. With the ability to check email on mobile devices, I feel that the vacation responder is less useful now than in the past.
Inbox type: Select “priority inbox” and unread messages and messages marked “important” will be displayed first, followed by starred (read) messages and then everything else.
Select “default” inbox type and you’ll see Google’s latest innovation: up to five Categories of mail (Primary/general; Social media such as Facebook notifications; Promotions from Groupon and other marketers; Updates including e-bills, bank statements, etc.; and messages from Forums to which you may belong. Categories appear as tabs on your inbox page. Turn off all Categories to display everything in your inbox the traditional way.
The trouble I see with Categories is that an “unread messages count” is displayed only on the Primary tab. You get no prompts about unread Social, Promotions, etc., messages, so you must remember to check those tabs occasionally or you may miss some things.
Send Mail As: edit this option to send new messages and replies from any of several email accounts you may own. This gives you the ability to change the "From:" line in your outgoing messages.
Check mail from other accounts (using POP3): Gmail can pull email from up to 5 other email accounts you own, even if they’re not Gmail accounts, and display all your mail in Gmail.
Grant access to account: Specify trusted Gmail users who can read and send email on your behalf. Good for delegating email management at work or while you are out of touch. Also good for accidentally granting access to your ex-girlfriend. Be careful with this one.
Gmail filters are powerful tools for sorting and tagging, filing, deleting, forwarding, and otherwise managing incoming email automatically. For some bizarre reason, the “create new filter” link is at the bottom of this tab page instead of at the top where it belongs. Read about the rich tools available in filters here.
Add an address to which incoming Gmail messages will be forwarded automatically. Specify whether the original message should remain in your Gmail inbox, be deleted, or be archived after a copy is forwarded. (Alternatively, create filters that forward messages that match specified criteria).
This tab is a playground and showcase for Gmail features that are still in development. I wrote a whole article about some of the fun things you can try in Labs. (http://askbobrankin.com/gmail_on_steroids.html)
The gear icon on your Gmail page is easy to ignore; most of the time, for most people, Gmail just works. But you should familiarize yourself with these and other settings options. If you use Yahoo Mail or Outlook.com (the replacement for Hotmail), you can probably find some similar settings and customization options there. Explore and experiment!
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 25 Jul 2013
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Power Up Your Gmail! (Posted: 25 Jul 2013)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved