I have to admit that over the years I’ve slowly gravitated toward utilizing Google apps for just about everything. First it was Gmail. Then, it was Calendar and Tasks. Finally I started using Google Reader, Google Notepad and most recently Google Voice.
While I love each of these services, the one thing that irritates me the most is that you would think it would be easier to view all of the data from each of these Google services in one spot. While there are apps that will import some of your Google information like DocsInOffice, which imports Google Docs into Office, or the 5 apps Jason covered that let you access Google Tasks from your desktop, it’s hard to find a way to draw multiple data streams from your Google services into a convenient central point.
There are ways to do it, and maybe you already have your favorite method to access multiple Google apps, but once I discovered the Integrated Gmail Firefox plugin, I knew I’d finally found a keeper.
Setting Up Integrated Gmail
Once you install Integrated Gmail into Firefox, make sure to click on the Options button in the add-ons window so that you can set up Integrated Gmail to work with all of your Gmail accounts. In my case I have my personal account, and then a couple of accounts that I use with other clients that I work with. By utilizing Integrated Gmail, you can configure each Gmail access point as a collection of a list of your most important Google services, like Calendar, Tasks, Reader, Voice and more.
For each Gmail account you want to set up, click on “Add” and add each Google service you want to include within the Gmail page for that account. For example, in my case I’m going to include Reader and Voice for my private Gmail account, but for my MakeUseOf account I’m going to stick to Calendar and Tasks.
For each service, there are a list of settings that you can configure for how that service will display within your Gmail window in Firefox.
Now, when you go into Gmail and log into that account, the plug-in looks up your configuration settings and loads all of your preferred services into your Gmail display. As you can see below, now you can access every one of these services within one Firefox tab, just by clicking on the “+” button to expand that service.
Below, I’ve dropped down my Google Reader account within Gmail. I have to be honest, I rarely ever take the time to visit Google Reader. I have it all set up to pull in feeds from some of my favorite blogs, but I rarely, if ever, take the time to go in and check it out. Well, now that it’s right there within Gmail – I can glance through the titles in my favorite blogs at the same time that I check my emails every day.
And then there’s Calendar and Tasks. I have periods where I spend hours configuring one of the most well thought out schedules that incorporates every single thing I have to get done for the month. I might even configure email reminders for important tasks so that I don’t forget when they’re due. However, nine times out of ten, after the first few days of the month, I just stop visiting Google Calendar. Well, now you can have it right within Gmail, as another drop down only a click away.
Another nice feature of Integrated Gmail are the “collapse” arrows. Both the left menu bar and the top search bar feature green arrows that, when you click, let you collapse the navigation bar to make more room for the content that you want to view in the center pane.
Now, once you configure different Google accounts within Integrated Gmail, when you log into your other Google Account, the tool immediately recognizes this and utilizes your settings for that account. For example, when I switch to MakeUseOf, my Gmail page features the unique Calendar and To-Do list for that account. This lets you quickly and easily switch between your roles, with all of the Calendars, Tasks, Docs and everything else nicely organized within the Gmail page for that account.
As a final useful feature, the Gmail tab also gives you a quick view of all of the content within Integrated Gmail. It’ll show you the number of new email messages, reader updates, voice messages and so on.
There are a few things that I would probably add to this tool, like the ability to reduce the size of displayed items in the dropdown window, and also the ability to organize them side-by-side rather than just one on top of the other. However, as it is, the plug-in does exactly what I’ve been looking for – it transforms the Gmail page into a central data feed for the most commonly used Google services.
Give Integrated Gmail a try and let us know what you think. Do you know of any other plugins or desktop tools that do the same thing? Share your own ideas and insight in the comments section below.