In October, Sharninder wrote a great article here at MakeUseOf called “5 Gmail Labs Features Everyone Should Try.” That was only four months ago, but Gmail has made so many great changes over the last few months that it’s time for another edition.
Gmail Labs is full of experimental new features that you can choose to use or not use. There are ways to do small organizational things like move your chat box to the right side, and ways to do bigger and more obvious things (like use Gmail offline!)
Here are five Gmail Labs apps (or you can call them features) that, once enabled, make Gmail an even better application for all your emailing needs.
Access Gmail Offline
I’ll give you three guesses what this one does, but you won’t need two of them. Gmail finally, FINALLY, has released support for Google Gears, the application that lets you take web apps offline. What this means is that you can be using Gmail, lose your Internet connection, and never notice the difference. Your messages, attachments, etc. are constantly synced with your desktop, and can be used while offline.
All emails you write or changes you make are synced back to the server when you go online again. There’s also a “Flaky Connection Mode” that only tries to connect to the server when you make a change – that way, you can keep reading emails without the long load times, etc.
Gmail’s now a step closer to Outlook, and Microsoft had better be (even more) worried.
One of the things I never liked about Gmail was that there was no easy way to manage my tasks: I was constantly switching tabs or windows, and it wasn’t as fluid as Outlook’s task-email integration. Well, no longer. Gmail has released their own, admittedly still basic, task list than can be accessed right from the Gmail window. You can create due dates, sub-tasks, and a number of other things using the incredibly simple interface in your Gmail window.
If you’ve already got a task manager, like I do, there are other options. Remember the Milk, in particular, has a great Gmail gadget that can be added right to your sidebar, letting you manage all your tasks quickly and easily in the Gmail window. Adding the gadget is easy – check out these instructions.
This is a small issue, but makes a big difference: a lot of the email I get is time sensitive, and asking me when I can do or am doing a particular thing. Before, checking my calendar against my email was difficult, involving resizing two windows next to each other and a lot of annoyance.
Now, with the Google Calendar Gadget for Gmail, my calendar lives in the sidebar of my Gmail window, and is available to me at all times. I can see my schedule at a glance, add to it right from Gmail, and keep a firm grasp on what I’m supposed to be doing, and when. Simple calendar integration is another chink in Outlook’s armor, and another huge step in the right productivity direction for Gmail.
Want to see your inbox and the emails you need to respond to, all at the same time? How about your inbox, your reminders, and your emails on a given topic? Done. With the new Multiple Inboxes Labs feature, you can see up to five extra panels that you can fill with any label or search term, right next to your inbox.
It’s a great way to keep tabs on filters, or anything else you need to check regularly, all at once.
Google has recently seemed to be noticing the little things in Gmail, and is taking steps to make your experience as simple, and involving as few mouse clicks, as possible. Two such features are the “Mark as Read” button and the “Send and Archive” button.
They do just what they sound like. You can mark a message as read without going into it, or into a complicated menu. Or, you can send a message and get it out of your inbox, all in one click. Both of these mean you’re not devoting more time or brainpower to emails you’ve already dealt with and can move on to the next thing.
OK I lied. That was six features. There’s just too many great things about Gmail! Google is making a concerted effort to pay attention to their flagship products, like Gmail, and it’s becoming obvious – Gmail is becoming more productive, easier to use, and a truly viable alternative to Outlook (or any desktop email client).
All these features are available to Gmail users, and most or all are available to those on Google Apps. To add them, go to “Settings,” and click the “Labs” tab. In Labs, go through and click the “Enable” radio button next to the ones you want. Refresh Gmail, and you’ll see all your new features!
Which Gmail Labs apps do you prefer? One of the above or another? Tell us why you like them!