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Have you been using Gmail for a while, but you’re still overrun by an overflowing inbox? Time to sort you out! There’s a few simple tricks pro users use to make very good use of Gmail. We’ll make it clear for you.
Most of us here at MakeUseOf use Gmail, whether we then import that mail to a client on our computers or not. The point is, Gmail makes things easy for us “” especially by doing a lot of work before our email even gets to our eyes. I personally can’t imagine life without Gmail’s spam filter “” I’d probably give up on email altogether without it.
Let’s take you through some of Gmail’s most awesome features and how you can become a pro user by making use of them.
1. Filters, Filters, Filters
Gmail’s priority inbox might be enough for some people, but others prefer to keep track of their own filtering. This involves filtering email into relevant folders (for when they do want to read them) and archiving so that the email doesn’t clog up their inbox.
Set up filters for everything you refer to or need to separate from everyday reading (basic instructions here):
- Filter and archive out your bacn.
- Filter and archive out social networking notifications and blog responses.
- Filters to highlight work email.
- Filters to highlight email which requires an immediate response.
- Filters to highlight email from your partner, family and friends.
- Other cool filters, like grouping together family photos sent to you, funny emails, recipes or links to read later.
- While you’re at it, set up filters to teach Gmail’s priority inbox: set some things as high priority, some as low priority and add stars to things you will want to refer to later.
Most importantly, you need to keep adding to these filters. If some bacn finds its way to your inbox, the only way to stay on top of it is to set up a filter to remove it straight away. Else, next time you see your inbox it will be full of email that could already have been filtered out. Just do it whenever you process your email.
2. A System To Process Email Regularly
Whether you archive email after reading or simply leave it as read, you still need a system for noting that you’ve read your email. That, and you need to do it regularly “” once per day is good. Pro users know this processing is a pivotal point and ensure they do so religiously.
Personally, I make sure I read all of the email arriving in my inbox briefly. I either respond straight away and do any associated tasks, or I label it as “@To Do” for later (usually after sending a quick message saying it will be done soon). Yes, this means also having a system to process the email labelled as “@To Do”, but I don’t want to have important unread email sitting around.
3. The Best Labs Features & Add-Ons
Gmail has some amazing Labs features and add-ons which you can use easily to make your life more simple. Here’s some pro user favourites.
RTM Gmail Extension Or Gadget
For those who organise their To-Do list with Remember The Milk, it would be a potential problem to leave another to-do list hanging around in Gmail. So, try using the RTM Firefox extension to automatically add tasks to RTM whenever you label an email as “@To Do”. Saves headaches!
If you don’t use Firefox, try using the Labs RTM Gadget and setting up a filter or a “canned response” (also in Labs) to forward mail to RTM as a task.
Whatever you do, your life will be much easier if you keep your tasks together.
There’s a labs extension which allows you to view multiple inboxes (to use, enable it in labs settings, then you’ll get your own settings area for multiple inboxes). I thought I would never need such a thing, until I considered the searches I could use for each inbox.
Make good use of OR statements (using “|”), brackets and the is:unread search.
label:professional AND is:unread
(label:family | in:inbox | label:@to-do) AND is:unread
label:!-blogs---networks AND is:unread
I find this set-up keeps me from worrying that I need to check the filtered-out labels too often, since I can see if the last nine emails to fit the criteria are pretty mundane. It also allows me to quickly spot work email if I’ve been away from my email for a while.
If you ever get email in a language you don’t normally speak, Google Translate in Gmail is a life saver. In settings, language is the first option. Choose: Enable Translation.
Then, whenever you get an email which might need translation, you have a handy link within the email to translate it. Then you can even toggle to the original and back. This is incredibly useful when you’re new to a country or still learning a language.
Google Docs & Google Calendar Labs Widgets
If you refer to Gmail more often than Calendar or Docs, it’s handy to have these gadgets showing in Gmail which give you quick access to your agenda and latest documents (find them in Labs).
Pro Users Always Look For More Tips & Tricks
There’s always plenty more pro user Gmail tips and tricks to be found around here.
- 6 Little Known, Yet Useful Gmail Tips
- Gmail Craze: 40 + Tools and Hacks for Gmail
- How To Set Up Email Filters In Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo
- How to Link Multiple Gmail Accounts Together in 4 Easy Steps
- Gmail Cheat Sheet [PDF]
- Gmail’s Priority Inbox Solves The Bacn Problem
- Evolve Your Gmail Inbox Nightmare Into A Streamlined Messaging System
- 4 Alternative Uses For Your Gmail Inbox
- How To Turn Gmail Into A Multitasking Machine
Let us know your favourite Gmail tricks and Gmail Labs uses in the comments!