Save Your Time With 10 Underused Google Features

Saikat Basu 24-03-2015

Google’s email service was born on April Fool’s Day. Today, it’s no joke. We can’t do a day without it.


Trivia about Gmail may not be useful for productivity, but I bet you will jump at a tip that shows you how to delegate your email to an assistant or spouse. It turns out Google is filled with these little nuggets. We ignore them because sometimes we take common tools for granted.

Google’s tools are a continuing source of time-saving productivity tips A Guide to Google Tools: Tips and Tricks You Can't Live Without Find tips, tricks, and hacks that'll help you make better use of Google tools you already use. The guide covers five main Google Services. Read More that can help maximize our use of resources available to us. We could probably live without them – but why should we?

Here are ten time-saving features in Google products we shouldn’t do without.

A Checklist of Google Tasks

Google Tasks

Google Tasks has often brought me back when my brain had gone for a walk. It could be one of the more underused tools to create actionable tasks from your emails.


Matt Cutts, the well-known Google engineer thinks so. He uses Google Tasks to manage his to-do list and supercharges it with extensions like New Tab to Tasks and Better Google Tasks. The latter gives the utilitarian Google Tasks a more pleasing face. You can also try out Improvements for Google Tasks which gives you labels and keywords to highlight the important stuff in your task list.

As long as it is around, you can also use these five methods to use Google Tasks Five Killer Ways to Use Google Tasks If you're like me, you spend more time managing your tasks than you do actually performing them. It’s all about multiple lists, offline access and getting your tasks on-the-go. Since we last took a look... Read More on your desktop.

Remember the Video Meeting

Add a link to a Google+ Hangout to any Calendar event in one click. It’s a little setting that saves a mail or two. Often, I have sent a separate mail to tell someone about a Google Hangouts meeting. Or the video meeting has slipped my mind till the last instant (an emergency if you have to declutter the room viewable by the web cam).

Add Video Call to Google Calendar


Set up a future Hangout in three simple steps:

  • Go to Google Calendar. Click Create.
  • Enter the details for your event.
  • Click Add video call. With all information in place, click Save.

Others can also add a video meeting to an event if the calendar is shared between the participant.

Inbox Zero with Archive & Quick links

I think we worry too much about Inbox Zero. Gmail has two handy (and often underused) features that can shovel all messages behind the curtain while not losing track of them.

The Archive button on top banishes all emails from your sight while keeping them intact in the All Mail folder. But how do you keep track of the important ones you need to come back for later?


Quick Links is the little hero in Gmail Labs. Quick Links helps you save any messages you want to read for later.

Quick Links from Gmail Labs

Enable Quick Links from Gmail Labs. If you don’t see it on the left sidebar, click on the three little dots (Gadgets). Open any email you want to read for later. Next, click Add Quick Link in the bottom left of the screen. Give a descriptive name in the box that pops up with the link to the email.

Gmail Quick Links


Now, you can recall that email from anywhere in your inbox with just a click. How difficult is Inbox Zero with Archive, Labels, Quick Links, and the powerful Gmail Search at your beck and call?

Read Email Faster with Gmail Auto Advance

There’s no running count of how many times the Gmail Labs “Undo” feature has saved my bacon. This feature is a face-saver. There’s also an Auto-Advance Lab feature which is a time saver. It’s recommended for people with hefty inboxes.

Gmail’s behavior is to return you back to the inbox whenever you delete, archive, or mute a conversation. Enabling Auto-Advance takes you straight to the next (or previous) email whenever you delete or archive a message. The little seconds saved do add up when you wading through hundreds of messages.

Gmail Auto-Advance

Enable it from Gmail Labs (Gear icon > Settings > Labs). Definitely enable it if you are on an inbox springcleaning 5 Action Steps for Curing Your Inbox Zero Email Frenzy Inbox Zero is one of the most popular buzz words. To truly solve your email issues you need to go beyond Inbox Zero and address the underlying problems. Read More spree.

Don’t Mind the Dots

You didn’t get the email ID you wanted and had to tweak it with a dot or two. Try spelling that out over the phone with a lot of background noise. Gmail aliases nix that annoyance and prevent misdirected emails.

If your email address is, that’s the same as

Go with the latter when giving it to someone over the phone. The “dot-less” version of your email ID makes it easy for everyone.

Save Tabs for Later

Too many tabs are resource hogs and add to the clutter. They are also a worry if you have to close them without losing their whereabouts. Tab management extensions Save & Reload Your Browser Tabs Just The Way You Like It With Layout Manager [Chrome] Layout Manager in my humble opinion is a feature that Chrome or all browsers for that matter should have as a default. It not a complicated piece of work, it simply allows you to save... Read More like Layout Manager address this problem. But then here’s a simpler workaround that doesn’t involve bloating your Chrome with another extension. The secret lies in the humble bookmarks folder.

Add a new bookmarks folder to your bookmarks (either the bookmarks bar or the menu). I named mine “All Saved Tabs”.

When you want to save all your open tabs for later, right-click on any tab in your browser and select Bookmark All Tabs… You can also use the shortcut — Ctrl-Shift-D.

Bookmark All Tabs

Select the created bookmark folder as the location. Give your tab group a specific name — this creates a new folder within your “All Saved Tabs” folder. You can save your tabs with the same method in Firefox.

To restore your tabs, simply right-click on the group (folder) that you want to restore and click on “Open All Bookmarks.” This workaround is also helpful if you sync your bookmarks across devices.

Auto-generate Passwords in Chrome

Auto-generate passwords in Chrome

There are many ways to set up secure passwords. Throw this experimental Chrome feature into the mix for some quick sign-ups. The Lastpass “competitor” saw light of day back in 2012 and it’s still not certain as a permanent fixture. Dive into Chrome’s secret settings and enable it for some quick and secure passwords. The random method is no different than the one created by apps like LastPass.

It’s a simple and just has three steps.

  1. Launch Google Chrome. Type about:flags in the Omnibox. Note: about:flags or chrome://flags is a URL in Chrome that reveals hidden settings and allows you to try new features in Chrome while they are experimental.
  2. Scroll down the list till you find the field Enable password generation. Click the drop down menu and select Enabled.Enable Chrome Password
  3. Relaunch the Chrome browser. Every time you register for a new account, you should see a key icon on the password field. Clicking the icon creates an automatic password. You can also save the password in Chrome.

Delegate Your Email

You wouldn’t trust your Gmail to someone else. I hear that having a real-life Jeeves is a luxury, but a virtual assistant The 5 Best Websites To Find A Virtual Assistant A virtual assistant is a real person that supports you or your business remotely from their home office. They can virtually be anywhere and the services they provide range from professional administrative, technical, personal, or... Read More can be a huge time saver. In the collaborative economy, any help is welcome to manage your inbox overload. If you are concerned about security, setting up a second email identity to handle specific emails could be useful. Permissions can be revoked anytime.

Gmail allows you to delegate your email and calendar tasks to ten people. Google Apps users can specify 25 users. Google shows you the steps to set up email delegation and the restrictions that are in place. A similar approach works for Google Calendar.

Precise Selections with Caret Browsing

Maybe you are a keyboard ninja. Or just don’t want to rely on the mouse too much. Turn on Caret Browsing which is an advanced accessibility feature in Chrome. The caret is a moveable cursor to select text. Use the arrow keys to move through webpage just like a word processing document.

To activate Caret Browsing install this accessibility extension. Toggle it on and off with F7. Use arrow keys to move through the page. Press Shift + arrows to select text. Open URLs with the Enter key when the caret is on the links.

Caret Browsing

With practice, text selection is more precise if you do a lot of copy and paste. I am not a virtuoso on a laptop track pad, so I turn it on for better productivity on small screens Working on a Small Screen? Use These 6 Tips to Improve Your Productivity Laptops are great for getting things done on the go, but the small screens can be limiting. You can get more done with a few shortcuts, some useful apps, and good organization. Read More .

Your Own Google-Powered Search Engine

A custom search engine is a sniper rifle. A custom search engine that targets a bunch of your favorite sites is like a multi-barrel rocket launcher. Google Custom Search can be created for your own blog or bookmarked as a public URL. CSE comes in two flavors – paid and free with limitations. The free version limits you to 100 search results, but for individual needs it should be enough.

Google Custom Search

Create a simpler free version that has a public URL. Save it as a bookmark and share it with others on your team. A custom search engine is a timesaving shortcut when you search a few select sites regularly. Searching by recent date and relevancy helps narrow down to the topics you are looking for.

How to Geek has an in-depth tutorial that shows you the simple in’s and out’s.

The Seconds Add Up

The “underused” bit is relative. But often, shiny new apps sidetrack our attention while the solution could be hidden in plain sight. Even a little setting change to increase the number of search results to 100 per page ends up saving time. The best productivity tool is the one that just works for you. Do these work well enough?

Tell us about the tip or feature that changed how you negotiate your life with Google tools. Which is the Google service that you would love to know more about?

Related topics: Gmail, Google, Google Calendar, Google Chrome, Time Management.

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  1. ChicaGeek
    April 17, 2015 at 6:39 am

    Yes, I also updated the browser... Strange indeed!

    • Anonymous
      August 11, 2015 at 2:03 pm

      A - Disable All Extensions,

      B - Restart The Browser,

      ( A ) + ( B ) Is The Equivalent Of Working In Safe Mode,

      C - Try Again - Any Luck ?

      ( Whatever Happens Only Enable Extensions After Trying Again ).


  2. ChicaGeek
    April 15, 2015 at 2:58 pm

    Have you guys been able to use the password generator? Because I've tried it in a zillion different ways (with the browser in English, with the browser in Spanish, on Mac OS, on Windows...) and it doesn't work for me.

    I enable it in chrome://flags, relaunch, the feature is definitely enabled... but when I go to any site to create an account, it just doesn't pop up in the password field.

    I've read that you need to have password syncing enabled in Chrome and I've also done that... but still it doesn't work.

    Any clues?

    • Saikat
      April 17, 2015 at 3:28 am

      Strange. Can't figure out the reason from here. Is your browser updated?

  3. Anil Kannambille
    March 27, 2015 at 1:04 am

    Very helpful. Wasnt aware of these tools. Thanks. Will start using them now

  4. George Schwarz
    March 26, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    As best I can assess it quickly between other tasks, it shows up and works as you describe on the in-box, but not on emails in boxes that are labeled, if that makes sense.

  5. George Schwarz
    March 26, 2015 at 1:29 pm

    Thanks for the tip. The selection tip worked, but the archive icon at the top of the screen remains in hiding.

    • Saikat
      March 26, 2015 at 1:32 pm

      Strange. The archive icon is a standard part of the menu. It should be there (?)

    • Saikat
      March 27, 2015 at 2:13 am

      Ah, now it does. Apparently:

      "If you have filters that skip the inbox and apply a label, you won't see the archive option when viewing those emails under their label."

      Found it in this discussion thread.

  6. George Schwarz
    March 25, 2015 at 12:10 pm

    Archiving would be more awesome if I could be done in groups. Looks like it can be only done one at a time. Or did I miss something?

    • Saikat
      March 26, 2015 at 2:48 am

      It CAN be done in groups. Use SHIFT to select contiguous emails, or the CTRL key to select non-contiguous emails. Then hit Archive.

  7. Jamie
    March 25, 2015 at 11:15 am

    If you did not get the email address you wanted and had to add dots in your email address, if you remove those dots wouldn't your email go to the person who got the (dotless) email address that you originally wanted?

    • Saikat
      March 25, 2015 at 12:05 pm

      The funny thing is Gmail does not recognize dots and periods. Here's the support page to ease your fears -- they anticipated this :)

    • andy
      March 25, 2015 at 12:11 pm

      No, there is no such eMail address existing. So you get all your eMails ;)

  8. Bhavia
    March 25, 2015 at 10:16 am

    This is really awesome. I think this is very useful, I wasn't aware that there are so many options available. I am glad, I came across this blog. Inbox zero and Reading emails faster features looks very helpful to me. Thanks for sharing.

    • Saikat
      March 25, 2015 at 12:06 pm

      Hi Bhavia. There are little things we discover every day. You are welcome :)

  9. ron
    March 25, 2015 at 6:55 am

    Thanks for this info, but all of these tips are known to everyone. Hope you can come up with some new tips.

    • Saikat
      March 25, 2015 at 10:20 am

      Hi Ron,

      Over the years, we have found that many readers use just a few of the surface features on any app or website. Even Google has commented on this. Microsoft in fact did a survey where they found that only 4% of Office features were being used. Glad you know them, but many of us can do with reminders :)

    • Mark Davies
      March 27, 2015 at 4:06 am

      Speak for yourself Ron - I was only aware of 1 of them!