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Gmail gizmadgets

November 5th, 2008     by Catherine Hayday     Comments

Right, so a couple of weeks ago, I was all “colour-coding zomg ftw!”. But colour-coding is just step one of organizational bliss. Step two are filters. Filters much like the one that made this sweet cup of coffee I’m sipping right now (alright, I use a bodum, but still).

Same as last time, I’m going to do a quick runthrough of how I use filters. Gmail writes comprehensive helpdocs, I’m just adding a personal touch. And possibly screenshots. We’ll see…

A propos of nothing, here is a small walking crab (courtesy o’ Gmail’s new emoticon options).

Filters Applying labels is all well and good, but why do something for yourself, when an invisible algorithm (slash elf) can do it for you?

As of this morning, I have more than 20 filters working their auto-sorting magic on my mail.

Granted the above is not a very informative screenshot.

Here are some of the things these filters are doing for me:

  • takes newsletters, adds the appropriate (colour-coded) label, and pushes them straight past my inbox and into the “archive”. To be read at leisure.

  • auto-applies labels to mail from clients, as soon as they arrive. I sort of think of it like a robot that sits in my hallway and sticks a “Hello, My name is: CLIENT” sticker on people as they come through the door.

  • takes mail sent to my different email aliases and tells me which one people are writing to.

I mostly use my filters for professional stuff, but your inbox is your kingdom, and you can use them to manage personal stress too:

  • Find emails from your mom hard to take? Create a filter that applies a “mom” label + skips your inbox. Then her messages will sit in tidy “mom” pile until you’re emotionally-fortified and ready to read them.

  • Have a snoopy partner/sibling/roommate who may see your mail over your shoulder while you’re planning a party/present/ambush? Set up a filter that puts those messages in a “nothing to see here” pile + archives them, and you can read those messages when that person is not around.

Example: I love the one-sentence preview that Gmail gives you (optionally) on your inbox. But come Christmastime it becomes a real problem, when my mother-in-law gets right to the point, starting emails with “so we’re getting him THIS…” and I have to scramble to throw a sweater over the screen as Mr. Snoopypants wanders into my office.

  • Have a big love in your life? Select for messages from them, and automatically “star it” so they never got lost in inbox clutter. Although, you might want to pick one use of the star, and not star all their messages as well as, say, deadlines. “Yay, an email from puppytoes! Oh… wait… no… that’s about my essay.” It’s a big come down.

So, everyone cool on filters?

That didn’t take very long, so how’s about a bonus round: Labs Features!

Most of the time when applications try to get my attention about an earth-shattering new thing they’re doing, I ignore them. Like when iTunes wants me to upgrade (I’m starting to hate you iTunes).

But I dropped by Gmail’s “New! A bunch of stuff” link to see what they were up to.

A few of their features I’ve been trying out – you can access all of these through your Gmail by going to “Settings” then “Labs”. (Update: I should mention that the Labs features are experimental, so they might flake out on you. Use with a bit of buyer beware. If you really have a problem, there is a disable-all-Labs escape hatch you can read about here):

  • Superstars: Gives you more star options – like red exclamation points or blue stars or purple question marks. In the end I found it didn’t add much to my labeling system, but it’s a nice alternative.

  • Right-side chat and Right-side labels: Now this I like. It was getting pretty scroll-y in my Gmail, because I like to leave both my labels and my chats open. But that meant that I was hardly ever starting conversations with my lower-alphabet friends, because they were usually not visible. Now that I have my window balanced with labels to the left and chats to the right, Xandro’s back!

  • Navbar drag and drop: Since I started using a Mac, my need to drag and drop has become acute. I want my labels above my Google Docs gadget. No, I want my chats above my labels. No, I want my… (now if they’ll just enable the right-hand side as a drop-zone).

  • Google Docs gadget: See your recent docs, search existing or create new ones, in a gadget just to the left of your mail. Add a gadget, save a tab. (Not to be confused with these kinds of tabs).

  • Forgotten Attachment Detector: Have a lot of “D’Oh!” moments when you realize that you did not, in fact, attach the “see attached” attachment? Google tries to you help you out with a little warning.

  • Custom Label Colors: drool

  • Mark as Read Button: Yes, I cheat. I know I’m not going to read those threads, they know I’m not going to read those threads, but I don’t want them showing up as unread mail. Because I must-read-unread-mail. Actually my Google Notifier says I have unread mail right now, so… um… I’ll be right… click


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