By Kelsey Allen
Gmail has been praised by many as the best webmail option out there, and it is filled with loads of tools and options that make it easy to use, fast, and accessible for college students. Of course, with so many features, many people often fail to look beyond the surface of what Gmail can do even though they could be making their lives easier and their emails more versatile. Those who know how to use Gmail well have tapped into all the productivity it has to offer, and you can learn from their discoveries to make your Gmailing experience ever better. Here are some of the habits that college students have employed to make sending, receiving and organizing their emails better and faster than before.
Many students don’t tap into even the most basic features Gmail has to offer when it comes to organizing and sending emails. Here are some ways you can make the most of some of Gmail’s essential features just like a Gmail expert.
- Use keyboard shortcuts. Gmail users can speed up their emailing with a few simple keyboard shortcuts. All users have to do to activate these shortcuts is go into the settings menu and turn them on. Then a simple keystroke can open a new email, flip through messages and take you to all areas of your account. This can save time and make it so that you never have to take your fingers off of the keyboard to do anything.
- Use the advanced search feature. It only makes sense that Google, the most popular search engine, employs powerful search capabilities in its email client as well. Like standard Google searches, there are a number of tricks you can employ to more easily find what you’re looking for. You can check out this list of query words from Google, or you can get some pointers here on how to find just what you’re looking for each time.
- Enable filters. Power users of Gmail know how much easier filters make it to use Gmail. They keep unwanted messages out of your inbox and help you to organize everything. There are loads of different ways that users can customize their filters to make Gmail work more efficiently for them.
- Integrate multiple email accounts. Why check three or four different email accounts every day when you can get all your mail in one easily accessible place? Whether you have multiple Gmail accounts or emails from all kinds of webmail servers, you can get them all right in your Gmail. Effective users of Gmail streamline their emails by combining their accounts.
- Log in with the secure server for sensitive information. Gmail users aren’t without any kind of security protection. To ensure that emails stay encrypted and harder to access for pesky hackers to get to when you’re using Gmail in a public place, the best Gmail users sign into Gmail using the https address rather than the regular http address. This helps ensure passwords and information stay private like they should.
- Import old contacts. There’s no need to manually enter all your contacts into Gmail if you choose to make the switch to it as your primary email account. Whether you use Hotmail, Outlook, Yahoo! or a variety of other email clients, it’s simple to import your contacts right into Gmail by creating a CSV file and bringing it into Gmail. You can import up to 3000 contacts at a time.
- Group contacts. Don’t just let your contacts hang out by their lonesome in your address book. Power users of Gmail know that they can save time by creating groups. This way, they can send out messages to all friends, family or coworkers with one click of a button.
- Don’t delete old messages. One of the basic principles of Gmail is that because it offers so much space, users won’t ever have to delete emails. Instead of deleting old emails, to use Gmail most effectively, archive old emails, create filters and only delete what truly is garbage.
Sending and Receiving
The best Gmail users know how to send and receive emails with the utmost of ease. These habits can help you to speed up your emailing too.
- Use the mute function. Sometimes even the most well meaning of friends and classmates include you on conversations you could care less about. These emails don’t have to keep coming up as new mail in your inbox, however, and you can just tune them out with the mute button, a little known feature of Gmail.
- Auto-forward certain messages. If you’ve got multiple email accounts or if you just want to send certain types of messages to a particular account, you can use Gmail’s forwarding capabilities. You simply just need to set up filters that include the addresses you want to forward from and to, and voila, your mail goes where you want it to with very little effort on your part.
- Know how to send out event notices. You don’t need a program like Outlook to send out invites to your next BBQ or to a work meeting. Gmail has the same function. Simply create a new email and select "Add event invitation." This will make it easy to send out invitations to specific events to everyone on your contact list.
- Use abbreviated addresses to send mail to other Gmail users. Save some time on sending messages to other Gmail users that aren’t currently on your contact list. You don’t need to type in the whole email address, just the part that’s to the left of the @ sign.
- Set up a signature. Whether you’re sending out emails for your business, your blog or just to your friends, setting up a signature can be a great way to personalize your email, and it’s simple to do. You can even link your webpage and other contact information to all the emails you send out.
- Make the most of integrated GTalk. There’s no point in sending out an email to a friend or coworker who is online with GTalk. Make the most of the feature by sending an instant message instead. If it turns out to be important, Gmail will archive it in your inbox so you can reference it later.
- Know how to set up variations of their email address. Many Gmail users are unaware that they are allowed to set up virtually limitless aliases for their email. By adding a plus sign with the alias information to the end of your usual handle, you can create a way to filter out mail from certain sites, find out who’s giving out your email, or just create an easy way to sort out incoming emails.
- Know how to handle conversations. One feature of Gmail that some users love and others hate is the nesting of conversations. While in general these messages function like regular emails, users who are familiar with working with them will tell you it’s easy to delete or forward an entire conversation when you only meant to erase part of it. There are controls to do both, so ensure you’re not getting confused before managing conversations.
- Set up personal level indicators. One of Gmail’s many features can let you know what emails are meant just for you and which are from mailing lists and less important sources. Simply select this feature from the options, and you’ll get a helpful indicator arrow letting you know the degree to which the email is just for you.
- Use the vacation responder. Make sure friends and family don’t think you’re ignoring them while you’re on vacation with Gmail’s vacation responder. You can set it up to respond to all your emails for the duration of your vacation with a personalized message.
- Keep mailing list emails out of the inbox. By using filters, Gmail users can keep messages that are from mailing lists, newsletters and other bulk email from appearing in their main inbox. This makes it easier to handle mail that’s of a higher priority and keeps all these other emails together for when you have time to look at them.
- Report spam. If you want to emulate those who are getting more from their Gmail experience, don’t simply delete spam that gets into your inbox. By reporting it, you keep future mail from the same source from getting into your inbox and you prevent these kinds of messages from bothering everyone else at the same time.
- Can forward entire conversations. Sometimes it’s necessary to forward all responses and discussions in a conversation, not just one email. While the regular forward button works in some cases, for long conversations users can simply check the "forward all" button that appears to the right of the text box. This will take care of sending it all at once.
Gmail makes it easy to organize your emails even without using folders — if you know how to get the most out of their features. Here are some habits you can employ to keep your emails easily accessible.
- Back up their messages. While your messages are fairly secure residing online, there is always the chance that something could happen to them. If you have important information stored on them this could be disastrous. There are a number of ways you can back up your Gmail so that it’s accessible both online and off.
- Can easily find unread messages. Sometimes you may skip over unread messages, and it can be a pain to find them when you go back later and want to read them, especially if you get a lot of email. There is an easy way to find all your unread messages, however, using the search feature. This should bring up all unread messages quickly and easily, saving you the trouble of hunting for them.
- Label their emails for future reference. Labels are a big part of how Gmail’s organizational system works. They have an advantage over traditional folders in that emails can be given more than one label. This makes it easy to find emails later just by looking up a particular label, and it keeps all like content together. No power Gmail user would get by without using at least a few labels.
- Star important emails. Sometimes you’ll have an email that needs your attention but you don’t have time to get to it right away. By putting a star by it, it allows you to easily find and access the email later, no matter how long you take to respond. It can also be a great way to keep track of emails you need to reference frequently, making you more efficient and productive.
- Import archived email. You can move your entire email archive over from another email address to your Gmail account to make it easy to get to all your messages in one place. This guide here will give you step-by-step instructions to bring all your old emails in. It only takes a few minutes to set up, and you’ll be better organized afterwards.
- Clean out contacts. While having contacts automatically added by Gmail is a nice feature sometimes, over time some saved email addresses will accumulate that you could truly care less about and don’t want cluttering up your contact list. Going through every six months or so and deleting these can help pare down your contacts to only those you really want to store.
- Archive old messages. You may not have to delete messages on your Gmail account, but you don’t always want them all hanging around in your inbox either. Using the archive feature tells Gmail to take these out of your inbox and stores them in a separate archive. This keeps them out of your way but saves them for future reference.
- Trick their labels. Labels appear in the menu to the left of the main Gmail screen in alphabetical order, but the alphabet doesn’t always reflect the labels that you use the most. You can fix this by preceding your most used labels with a symbol or with a letter near the beginning of the alphabet. This will make it easier to find the labels you need access to more often, with little effort on your part.
- Know how to include or exclude chats from search results. Sometimes you know what you’re looking for, and it may or may not be a chat. Efficient Gmail users know how to make sure these chats show up when they want them to and go away from search results when they don’t. Simply include "+label:Chat" if you’d like to see chat results as well.
- Use color-coded labels. You used to need special extensions to add color to your Gmail, but no longer. Now Gmail has built in label coloring. Make your Gmail work better and faster by color coding all your labels so you’ll be able to tell at a glance what labels are associated with your messages.
While Gmail is constantly adding new features, sometimes the developers can’t keep up with the demand for new, productive features. You don’t have to wait around, however. Try out some of these extensions for Firefox to make your Gmail experience more effective.
- Get notifications of new mail. This add-on to gmail is from Google and allows you to get alerts when you have new mail right in your task bar. This can make it easier if you’re waiting for an email to arrive or just want to keep up with your messages throughout the day without having to constantly refresh Gmail.
- Use macros. Speed up commands you use regularly in Gmail by using this GreaseMonkey script which gives users shortcuts for everything they’ll need.
- Save searches. Instead of searching for a particular email or set of emails every time you need it, efficient users just use this extension to save searches for later. This allows you to quickly access your past searches without having to remember exactly what you searched for every time.
- Conversation previews. While some users prefer the abbreviated version of the email Gmail usually shows, there are others who want to skim over emails quickly to look for important conversations and information. This extension allows users to see a small preview of the content of the email so users can decide what’s most important and what can wait until later.
- Use Gmail as a hard drive. Most people only use a fraction of the space their Gmail account allots to them. Efficient Gmail users know better than to use let that space completely go to waste. The Gmail Drive app allows Windows users to use Gmail as if it were another drive on their computers, making it easy to drag, drop, store and send data.
- Cut out repetitive email. If you find yourself sending out loads of fairly repetitive emails, you can cut down the time you spend working on tasks like this and get more time to work on more important things with AutoHotKey. Users can create scripts that whip up emails quickly and easily.
- Search by date. Don’t sort through loads of messages with the same keywords as what you’re looking for if you know the date you sent the email. This script adds a date button to Gmail’s search form to speed up your searches.
- Drag files into Gmail. Don’t make sending attachments inefficient by searching through files to find what you need. Just use this extension to drag and drop files right into an email to send them.
- Integrate with GTD. If you’re trying to make your Gmail more productive, why not make everything in your life more productive at the same time by integrating a popular GTD program right into Gmail with this to-do management extension.
- Customize Gmail’s appearance. Gmail users who are getting the most out of their accounts customize the appearance of Gmail to make sure it meets their needs. GmailSkinz makes it possible to integrate calendars, weather, Picasa albums and more right into your Gmail, seamlessly and easily.
- Set Gmail as their default email service. There are few things more irritating than clicking on an email address and having it bring up Outlook or an other email application you don’t use. Change this by using GmailTo, which sends all mailto commands right to Gmail.
- Switch between Gmail accounts. There’s no reason to sign in and out of separate Gmail accounts if you have more than one to check your messages. Efficient users take advantage of tools like this, which allow users to switch between multiple accounts right from their browser.
- Don’t forget attachments. Everyone has those moments when they send an email without the attachment that is supposed to be with it, only to have to send out another email afterward with the attachment. Avoid feeling like an idiot and save time with this script which reminds you to send the attachment along as well.
Take advantage of these various habits to emulate the most effective Gmail users.
- Take advantage of integrated features of Gmail. Those who are looking to make the most of their Gmail experience know that Gmail can be much more than just email. Integrated documents, calendar, blogs and photo albums make it easy to send pictures, open documents, update your blogs and keep track of appointments right in your email.
- Can use Gmail as a notepad. Got some ideas you want to jot down quickly but don’t need to open a separate document for? Simply type it up in an email and Gmail will save it as a draft for you which you can later access, change and save again. Best of all, this information is available on any computer.
- Customize Web clips. Web clips are the tiny ads and information bits that appear above your email window. You can customize what shows up in these clips so that they reflect your personal interests just by going into Gmail’s setting menu.
- Chat through AIM on Gmail. Now you can access AIM from any computer, even one that doesn’t have it installed by logging in through your Gmail account. This integrated chat function adds your buddies into your contact list so you can chat with them or anyone else online at your convenience.
- Have a photo for their account. Don’t let your account be bland. Add a photo of yourself, of your business logo, or anything else you want to your account to make it more personalized.
- Show snippets of new mail. While not all users are in love with seeing previews of the content of their mail, for some it helps a great deal in looking through loads of emails to see what’s important. If it helps make you more efficient, you can adjust whether or not it shows up in the settings.
- Get Gmail on the go. You don’t need a computer to access Gmail, just a connection to the Internet which you can get on your mobile phone. Make Gmail a more effective tool for you by installing Gmail on your phone so you can read your emails anytime, anywhere.
- Join Gmail power users. You aren’t alone in your desire to get the most out of Gmail. Join this forum along with loads of the other Gmail users to keep up with the latest and greatest in Gmail updates, extensions and more.
- Bookmark any message type. If you need to quickly access unread emails, those with a certain label or filter, why not just bookmark them? This makes it quick to get to each type right away, without having to go through your mail email inbox.
- Embed MP3s right into emails. Many users aren’t aware that Gmail comes with a built-in MP3 player. This can allow you to listen to music right from your email, share your favorite songs or send a special message off to a friend.
- Safely publish email address. Don’t put your email out there for any spammer to just get a hold of and abuse. While Gmail is great at filtering spam, why deal with the hassle if you don’t have to? Generate an icon of your email address to post on your website or blog to minimize spam.
- Find out who’s giving out your Gmail address to spammers. Don’t let spammers sell your email out. This guide will let you easily find out who’s giving out your email to those annoying spammers.
- Open documents right in Gmail. With the addition of Google Document you no longer need Word, Excel or an html editor to open documents that are sent to you. You can speed things up by opening them right in Gmail. You’ll be able to edit, save and send them back in seconds.
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