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There’s no such thing as too many Gmail tips, is there?
Gmail has an appealing interface and several useful features that give it an edge over other webmail services as well as desktop email clients. Its popularity has developers scrambling to build extensions and plugins for it all the time.
If you are a Gmail user, you have an endless stream of tricks and extensions to make the best of it. We’ll explore some of them in this article, then point you in the direction of 20 more Gmail extensions!
3 Essential Gmail Browser Extensions
Let’s begin with three popular extensions that we know you’ll fall in love with:
- Gmail Offline [No Longer Available]: This official Chrome app from Gmail allows you to process your email even when you don’t have Internet access.
- Boomerang: This app allows you to schedule emails and follow up on them with minimal fuss. It works on Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.
- Checker Plus for Gmail: This Chrome extension is the ultimate desktop notifier for Gmail. It lets you to read emails and even delete them without opening up Gmail in your browser.
With those favorites out of the way, let’s move on to ten Gmail tips that will promote you to the category of Gmail power user. We’ll be using Gmail settings often, so you should know where to find them: click on the gear icon below your profile image (top right) in Gmail and then click on Settings in the dropdown that pops up.
1. Make Gmail Your Email Hub
As far as possible, you don’t want to be shuttling between multiple email accounts on a daily basis. Set up your main Gmail account to do the heavy lifting — sending, receiving, and sorting emails. You can do this from Settings > Accounts.
Look for the Send mail as and Check mail from other accounts options and follow the guided setup process to allow your primary email to send and receive (via POP3) messages on behalf of another account you own. You’ll have to repeat this process for every account that you want to add, and that’s where these mail server settings will come in handy.
If you’d like to delegate the task of processing email to someone you trust, you can also grant access to your account from this (Accounts) section.
1. If you want to receive emails via IMAP instead of POP, you can set up forwarding from each of your accounts to your primary Gmail account.
2. While adding an email address to “send mail as”, you’ll need to decide whether you want Gmail to treat the email as an alias. Unsure what that is? Our guide to Gmail aliases is here to help.
2. Clean Up, Speed Up Gmail
As a power user, you’ll want to get rid of everything that clutters or slows down Gmail. You’ll also want to add a few fixes to speed things up. This is where you can begin:
- Mute group emails by clicking on Mute from the More dropdown in a message. This silences notifications for those emails while continuing to bring you fresh messages in the thread.
- Hide unused labels via Manage labels from the sidebar or via Settings > Labels.
- Display more contacts and messages per page via the Maximum page size option under Settings > General.
- Load Gmail faster by switching to its basic (HTML) version. It’s less pretty and slick than the regular version, but is quite the time saver when you’re dealing with a slow Internet connection.
If you want to micromanage the Gmail interface and workflow, the Gmelius extension for Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Safari is the perfect way to go about it. It allows you to transform the look of your inbox, convert emails into Google Calendar events, block email tracking attempts, and do much more.
3. Back Up Gmail Messages Offline with Gmvault
Gmvault is a free and open-source desktop program that makes Gmail backups painless. Install it on your Windows, Linux, or Mac computer and run the full sync mode to back up your entire Gmail account. Then use the quick sync option to keep the backed-up repository up-to-date on a regular basis. You can use Gmvault to back up multiple Gmail accounts and even encrypt saved emails.
Amazed at the awesomeness of Gmvault (https://t.co/7rtF6DGoab)
Backup and restore of over 4000 emails. Lines of code required: 2. :)
— Sankalp (@sankalped) November 2, 2015
Another reliable way to back up emails is by installing a desktop email client and adding your Gmail account in it to save your emails to the local machine. To ensure that a copy of your emails stays on the server, you’ll need to do this using IMAP.
Note: If your email client is unable to sync emails from your Gmail account, it could be because you haven’t enabled IMAP access. To change that, go to Settings > Forwarding and POP/IMAP in Gmail on the web and under IMAP access, select the radio button next to Enable IMAP.
4. Get Smart with Email Organization
Did you know that the dots in your Gmail username don’t matter? The cool thing is that you can use this to your advantage. Let’s see how:
Suppose your Gmail id is firstname.lastname@example.org. This is the same as email@example.com, which is the same as firstname.lastname@example.org, which is the same as email@example.com. Seriously, the dots don’t matter.
Also, if you append any random text beginning with the ‘+’ sign after your username, that text doesn’t count either, so firstname.lastname@example.org would be the same as email@example.com.
The number of people who don’t understand how dots work in gmail addresses is too damn high!
— Karl (@fcrwx) August 16, 2015
Emails sent to any of the above addresses end up in your inbox associated with the original id: firstname.lastname@example.org, but you can use these username variations to direct specific emails to specific folders using filters.
For example, you can share the id email@example.com with your colleagues and direct emails received at that address to a folder named Work. Similarly, you can share firstname.lastname@example.org with your friends and direct emails received at that address to another folder, say, Personal. You can even use this trick to track/block spammers, but you should know that it doesn’t work with Google Apps accounts.
This is not the only way you can use Gmail filters to organize your inbox. Head to Settings > Filters and Blocked Addresses to set up filters for catching Google Calendar event notifications, newsletters, task reminders, etc. in appropriate, easy-to-find folders. And don’t forget what Gmail labels can do for your inbox (and your sanity). Make use of them!
5. Enable the Best Gmail Labs Features
Gmail’s Labs section in Settings has an array of awesome features that you should use but probably don’t. Here are some of them that we recommend enabling right away:
- Mark as Read Button to mark emails as read with the click of a button.
- Authentication icon for verified senders to weed out emails from scammers by highlighting authentic emails with a special key icon.
- Canned Responses to avoid typing the same text snippets in emails over and over.
- Preview pane to load individual emails in a pane instead of on a new page, à la Outlook. You can choose from a horizontal split view or a vertical split view once you enable this feature.
- Multiple Inboxes to split up your inbox into several sub-inboxes for convenience. You can group messages based on which account they were sent to, whether they’re starred, whether they contain attachments, etc.
- Auto-advance to automatically move on to the next message in line after you process an email.
6. Move Attachments Smoothly Between Gmail and Cloud Storage
If you use Google Drive, the cap of 25MB on the file size of Gmail attachments is a barrier that’s as good as non-existent. That’s because you can send huge files as attachments by linking them directly to your email from Google Drive. This process also works in reverse, i.e. you can save Gmail attachments directly to Google Drive.
Want to use Dropbox for saving and uploading attachments? Dropbox for Gmail is what you need, but it works on Chrome only. That’s why you might also want to check out Kloudless [No Longer Available], which works on Chrome and Firefox and supports Dropbox, Box, and Google Drive.
Now let’s see where you’ll find the option to:
- Save attachments:
- Upload attachments:
If you’re using Dropbox or Google Drive, look for the icon corresponding to that service in similar locations as above.
7. Process Emails in Batches with Batched Inbox
Even if you can’t put off email every morning, it’s smart to have an email ritual that works for you, preferably one that involves dealing with email in batches at fixed times. Batched Inbox is great for that and works across all major browsers.
— Brenna L (@brennakL) October 22, 2015
The service directs incoming email to a special folder with the label BatchedInbox and then at specific intervals (chosen by you!), it moves those emails to your inbox.
What if you want certain emails or messages from certain contacts to skip the BatchedInbox label? That’s not a problem. You can configure such emails to go the inbox directly as and when they arrive. You can even batch updates from social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.
If you want to learn more about Batched Inbox before linking it to your Gmail, this FAQ page tells you all you need to know about it.
8. Use Custom Keyboard Shortcuts and Input Tools
You know power users don’t fool around with mouse pointing and clicking, don’t you? They head straight for the keyboard shortcuts everywhere possible. Some users even customize the shortcuts to remember them better, and you can do the same. But first you’ll need to enable the Custom Shortcut feature via Settings > Labs. Once you do that (and save changes), you’ll see a new tab called Keyboard Shortcuts in Settings. Switch to it to remap Gmail shortcuts for various actions.
While you’re adding custom shortcuts, you might also want to add handwriting input support to Gmail. This allows you to customize the language and keyboard layout for typing emails. You can enable input tools under Settings > General > Language. If the Enable input tools checkbox doesn’t show up, click on the Show all language options link in the Language section to reveal it.
9. Manage Your Account
Like any other digital entity, your Gmail account is not immune to hackers and scammers of various stripes. The best you can do to protect it is to keep a close eye on your Gmail account for anomalies and beef up Gmail security with tools like email encryption and two-factor authentication.
As if hackers don’t give you enough to worry about, Google insists on prying into your digital affairs. The only consolation is that Google now gives you a roundup of the data it has on you and the option to clear that data. You’ll find both of these in the My Account section. To access it, first click on your profile picture at the top right in your Gmail inbox and then click on My Account from the dropdown that follows.
With all the apps that request my gmail to login, google probably knows more about me than I do.
— Oliver (@Glow_wuff) September 26, 2015
In the My Account section, you’ll find three sub-sections: Sign-in & security, Personal info & privacy, and Account preferences. Go through each of these sections and check every last setting. You’ll be able to see which third-party apps have access to your Gmail, whether you’re seeings ads tailored for you, whether Google is recording your web search queries, etc. Tweak all these settings to your liking and to ensure maximum privacy for your Google account.
10. Back Up Your Account Information
While you’re doing a thorough check your account, take the time to note down the following details when you come across them, and store them in a safe place:
- The month and year when you created your Google account
- The answer to your security question
- The phone numbers associated with your account
- The email address you have specified for account recovery
- The names of four Gmail labels
- The emails ids of five people whom you email frequently
If you ever happen to lose access to your Gmail, these details can help you regain access to it by establishing your identity as the true owner of the account. You’ll thank us for this reminder if you’re ever faced with Google’s taxing account recovery process.
Wow, gmail recovery is a nightmare. Requires the EXACT DATE you signed up for mail, or create a new account. So much no.
— Jacqui Kramer (@GrrlGotGame) December 30, 2015
Are You Ready to Become a Gmail Power User?
Gmail has its critics, largely due to its intrusive approach to email. But its high degree of convenience seems to trump all its negatives, if Gmail’s huge user base is anything to go by. In any case, if you use Gmail, you might as well make the best of it.
We’ll leave you with some nice Gmail extension roundups for three popular browsers, giving you another 20 unique extensions to choose from:
- 11 Chrome Extensions That Will Super-Power Your Gmail Experience
- Send This: 10 Life-Enhancing Firefox Add-ons for Gmail
- 5 Extensions That Make Safari a Gmail Productivity Powerhouse
If you had to choose one Gmail feature or extension as your just-can’t-do-without -it favorite, which would it be? Share your choice with us in the comments!
Image Credits:Mysterious power by Mopic via Shutterstock