How to Email Smarter With Buit-In Time Zone Converters

Saikat Basu 19-06-2009

thumbnail6Time”¦ this single four letter word is our biggest contradiction. Today, more than ever it is synonymous with productivity. The internet may have erased distances, but it hasn’t erased the clock. Time zones remain a constant.


An email sent by me to a recipient across the globe takes a second to land in his inbox, but was it timed right? Especially if my contact receives a flood of emails daily, I would like my important email to land when he is most inclined to read and respond to it. An email arriving at midnight will get buried under others which reach the next morning. And don’t we all have a habit of skipping through emails when we have lots of them?

This is why I would want to know the exact time of the day for my recipient who is on the east coast of the United States while I send him an email from India. With that in mind, I am going to look at a few ways I can do that with time zone converter utilities in some of the email clients/services we normally like to use.

Sender Time Zone Converter in Gmail

A few months back, Gmail put out a new experimental lab feature called Sender Time Zone that might save you from waking up your girlfriend at the wrong hour of the night. Message headers usually include the dispatch time info and the time zone too. The Gmail just translates what’s Greek into user friendly icons.

  1. Log in to your Gmail account and click on Settings – Labs (Alternatively, click on the little green flask icon on the top right.)
  2. Scroll halfway down the page and enable the Sender Time Zone lab feature. Save your changes.1-gmail
  3. For each email, you will either see a little green phone icon or a red one. The green icons are for those senders who are probably awake (i.e. daylight time between 9:00AM to 6:00PM). The red ones are for those who could have gone out of office or could be unreachable.2-gmail
  4. But for more help click on the show details link located on the top right hand side of the email body. The email header opens up displaying the sender-time and the Current time there in his time zone.3-gmail

If the time zone information isn’t included for an email, then the lab feature will not display the icons.

FoxClocks for Mozilla Thunderbird

Although this Mozilla Thunderbird add-on 10 Must-Have Thunderbird Addons (+ 25 More) Thunderbird lives on. This desktop email client thrives because of its many customization options. These must-have Thunderbird addons will help you make the most of it. Read More won’t give you the sender’s time zone for each individual email, the install does allow you to set up clocks for every part of the world and view it from the Thunderbird status bar. The best thing about this sort of time zone converter is that you can also give a unique color to each clock or have a clock change color during certain hours. For instance, set green for the right time to contact someone in the eastern coast of the U.S.

  1. Install FoxClocks [No Longer Available] from the Mozilla Add-ons page. A detailed set of instructions is available at the FoxClocks developer website.
  2. Use the Zone Picker to browse for and select time zones.4-foxclocks
  3. Use the Add as”¦ button to select a time zone and customize it by giving it your own name. For instance, the name of your contact.
  4. Double-clicking on the time zone/custom name in the Watchlist brings up the Location Properties window. Here, you can configure FoxClocks to display a different color for a particular period in that time zone. For instance, select green for the time range when you think the person can be contacted.5-foxclocks-location

If you use Thunderbird, make sure to check out our Cheat Sheets 10 Essential Cheat Sheets To Download Read More !

Sender’s Time Zone for Microsoft Outlook

This helpful 1.2MB plug-in for Outlook does the job of reading the email timestamp for you and showing the difference compared to your local time. Once you open a message in Outlook, the plug-in displays the current local time of the sender, difference in your time zones and the time since the message was sent. This freeware plug-in installs in a jiffy and requires zero configuration. All you need to do is to decide whether it’s the right time to send a response.


The freeware plug-in is compatible with Microsoft Outlook 2007, Outlook 2003, Outlook XP (2002) and Outlook 2000 and can be downloaded from here.


You can of course, forget about all this and calculate the senders’ local times in your head or turn to an online service to read the clock for you. It’s sure to become an inconvenient habit. The easier way could be to try out the services I’ve just listed.

Do you have a different way of estimating time difference for your email client? Do drop in a comment on how you do the math or even if you consider all this to be a waste of time.

Image credit: FJTU

Related topics: Desktop Email Client, Email Tips, Gmail, Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird.

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  1. Titanium Pen
    June 20, 2009 at 7:47 am

    Unluckily, no Ymail.

    • Saikat
      June 20, 2009 at 8:18 am

      Why not use Foxclocks add-on for Firefox...then it will be available for all online email services. It's similar to the Thunderbird add-on I have mentioned here.