Gmail tips

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About

Gmail is definitely one of the best internet web mails. For the longest time I had a Yahoo Mail account, but finally I decided to move to the big guns. It has been a big shift to get used to however.... there are some feature in yahoo mail I actually miss. For instance: coming from yahoo, I'm used to being able to shift select and drag e-mails into folders more easily ..... it's possible to shift click the check-boxes and grab the tiny little handle on the left, but it's not easy!

Below I've recorded a few of the little strategies I've used to transfer and adapt.


Pros and Cons

For me the biggest pros and cons of g-mail are:

  • Pros:
    • Supports IMAP, so you can easily view mail your Gmail in MS Outlook or Applemail
    • Can setup multiple e-mail alias to send from
    • Easy to import mail from yahoo, hotmail and any POP e-mail
    • Can give e-mails multiple labels, give each a color and arrange these in any hierarchy
    • Ability to setup various labs and filters to make sorting e-mail easier
  • Cons:
    • Is no way to sort e-mail by an arbitrary field (eg: sender name)... you have to search for everything instead
    • Interface is a bit cumbersome for several things, for instance: opening an e-mail then return to the list... although fortunately there is now a "Preview Pane" lab and enabling shortcut keys can help a bit too


Settings

When you click the cog you can access many Settings... the ones I find most useful are:

  • Conversation View - is on by default and will group all your e-mail with the same subject together. Takes some getting used to, but it's worth doing.
  • Keyboard shortcuts - worth learning.... the full list of about ~50 keys is here but I found the most useful shortcuts were:
    • [#] (shift+3) - delete selected e-mail or contact
    • [e] - archive selected e-mail/conversation... an archived e-mail can can still be found when you search or under whatever label(s) you assigned it
    • [n] and [p] - moves to next/previous e-mail
    • [j] and [k] - moves to next/previous through contact
    • ... and if you're really keen there is a lab which lets you customize/rearrange these keys mapping


Labs

Under G-mail's Settings the Labs tab provides some great extra functionality to Gmail. You can read up on all these yourself, but here I wanted to record which labs I find most useful:

  1. Preview Pane - this lab will split your inbox screen so you open a mail and still see your list - similar to what you are probaby used to with most e-mail desktop programs like Outlook, Mail, Thunderbird etc. After you enable it, a new widget appears where you can chose a a vertical or (as I prefer) horizontal split. Without this lab I don't think I would have changed to Gmail! NOTE: The widget/icon is a bit hard to find - it appears at the top left next to the settings icon when you're in your inbox.
  2. Undo Send - people often send an e-mail and realize seconds later they forgot something, so this neat little lab will delay the sending to give you a chance to click the yellow popup and cancel the sending. Once enabled, you can go to the "General" tab and you'll see a place where you can set this delay to 5, 10, 20 or 30 seconds.
    1. Update... this is no longer a Lab... to enable: (1) Click the gear in the top right. (2) Select Settings. (3) Scroll down to "Undo Send" and click Enable. (4) Set the cancellation period (the amount of time you have to decide if you want to unsend an email). (5) Click Save Changes at the bottom of the page.
  3. Right-side chat - moves your chat list to the right-side which I find unclutters the left side nicely.

.. and there are many other great labs, but it's up to your personal preferences to choose which you like. Be warned that some labs don't interact too well together, for example I found "Preview Pane" and "Multiple Inboxes" didn't work well together!


Shifting from Yahoo/Hotmail to Gmail (via IMAP)

To change to yahoo to Gmail is relatively straight forward. In Gmail click Settings > Accounts and Import then under "Import mail and contacts" give Gmail your yahoo account password. You then will have to wait between a few hours to possibly two days and you'll watch all your mail and contacts get copied across. Any folders you had setup in yahoo get added as "labels" which you can change later. What's even cooler is that Gmail will continue to periodically copy in new mails you receive to your yahoo - so you'll be in no rush to let all your contacts know your new address.

As for contacts: most of your contacts should copy too under "My Contacts", but be warned that I lost a few fields of information. I had several contact "lists" in yahoo, which became sub-labels under "My Contacts", but unfortunately it added extra labels such that if a contact was in my "friend" list and my "work" list then he'd be put in a "friend,work" label. Doesn't take too long to fix this, but before you try you might find, like I did, that you might get slightly better results if you export all my mail from yahoo to a Window .csv contact file and then imported this into my Gmail contacts.

Note that although I use yahoo as an example, I'm sure Hotmail operates the same. All other accounts, however, are copied across using POP and that can be problematic.


Shifting from your "Other" e-mail to Gmail

If you have a less recognized e-mail account (eg: not Yahoo or Hotmail) you wish to import mail from I have some bad news. These e-mails are usually copied across using Post Office Protocol (POP) - meaning that if you use IMAP and have a bunch of different folders setup these won't copy - only the stuff in your inbox and send copies. I suggest giving this a try (click: Settings > Accounts and Import and enter your password), but if you are then unhappy there's another approach to try - and that is to use a mail client (i.e.: desktop application) like Apple's Mail. The steps are:

  • Open your mail client add your Gmail account using IMAP (use the instructions in the section below)
  • If not already, add your other account to the same mail client.
  • Now simply drag entire folders from your old account to your Gmail. It may take hours, but eventually it will copy across and add all the relevant labels (one for each folder).

Keep in mind I tested this only in Apple's Mail program, but it should work in Outlook just the same. Personally I'm still deciding if I want to keep my work and personal e-mail separate. One thing you can do is create several "alias" and automatically assign different labels, with different colors, to e-mail received to your personal (eg: blogman@gmail.com) and work (eg: joe.blogs@industrialmining.com) email addresses. To me however, I still dislike that all e-mail will still show up in the same inbox in Gmail. And so in my cases I've decided to not forward (not yet) my work e-mail to my personal e-mail. It is nice to know, however, that if I get a new job I can copy across all my old work folders into my Gmail to achieve under "OLD WORK"... otherwise the problem with changing jobs is that you may lose all those e-mails forever when they eventually closed down your old e-mail account.



Setting up Gmail on your Mail Client (Outlook or Mail)

The big draw-card of Gmail over yahoo is that it supports IMAP - meaning that you can get your Gmail account to show up in your favorite mail client and see all the correct folders and hierarchy representing your labels. If you have assigned multiple labels to an e-mail then you'll see the same e-mail in each of the corresponding folders. Changes you make in your mail client will show up in G-mail and vice versa. In other words: it works just like it's supposed to!

To get it working simply follow these instructions:

This will copy all your mail, but keep in mind it won't copy your contacts, you have to do that separately.


Importing Contacts from Outlook to Gmail the easy way (without photos)

If you are happy to lose your contact photos, you can pretty easily copy contacts from Outlook to Gmail:


  1. Open Outlook and export all your contacts to a "Comma Separated Values (Windows)" file.
    ... To do this in Outlook 2010 click: File > Open > Import then "Export to file" then "Comma Separated Values (Windows)" select your contact folder and hit okay.
  2. Import this into Gmail by going to Contacts (use the top right "Gmail" drop-down button to get to Contacts).
    ... Under Contacts click "More" then "Import" and select the .csv file you generated in the last step.


And there you have it - contacts are copied. In some cases you may lose small bits of information in the conversion, but unfortunately, these comma separated value (CSV) files are just text - same with the (vcf) files - so one thing you definitely lose are photos.


Importing Contacts from Outlook to Gmail with Photos included

Manually adding photos to your contacts is notoriously slow - it requires you to click each contact (there is no split pane for contact), click "add picture", locate a picture, crop out the face and then repeat. In my case I already had all my photos nicely named (eg: "First Last.jpg") in a folder on my desktop, but with 400 contacts this would still take me many, many hours! My hope is that Google will one day add a feature and/or lab to import a bunch of photos for contacts. Of all the things I struggled with, I struggled the most with trying to get photos for all my contacts in Gmail. Fortunately there is *one* solution I found in among many solutions/programs which don't work.

The program I used was called "GO Contact Sync Mod". It's Window only (as you probably guessed) and you can download the latest release version from sorceforge. Once installed, there are some great options choose from. In this case I just selected "Outlook to Google only", but what's cool is that it can also do "Google to Outlook only" or you can try to merge the two and/or even set this to run periodically. In my case I'm using Outlook 2010 and although it worked great - which is reflected in an 88% approval rating (here). One annoying thing for me, however was that all my contacts in Gmail appeared as "Last, First" and there is no easy way to change this. If you like that convention you'll be happy, but I really prefer "First Last", so I had to manually change all these entries in Gmail using the keyboard shortcut [j] to go through each contact.... it gave me a chance to review all my contacts, but was definitely a bit of a pain. Google accepts both forms "Last, First" and "First Last" and even if you change your contacts with a mixture of both it will still sort them consistently (eg: "Andy Zebra" - "Xin, Brett" - "Calvin Yetti").

There are lots of forums pointing to other programs, but often these programs are buggy. Just one example: "Google Outlook Contact Sync" didn't work for me at all. Some people on the forums claim success with "soocial.com", but soocial isn't free and isn't particularly cheap either - hence I've given you a free solution that I know works.


Chrome/Firefox Extension - Rapportive

[Rapportive https://rapportive.com/] is an extension/add-in for Chrome and Firefox which enhances Gmail by showing extra information about your contacts inside your inbox. To do this it replaces the ad banner (which usually appears on the right or e-mails) with information about the sender which it collects from Facebook, Linked-in and Google itself. It does take a little while to load and setup (you must link it to Linked in and Facebook), it's very cool to see the persons picture and recent posts they may have made (rather than looking at ads) and so I think this is a very cool little chrome extension. If you have Chrome you can install the extension here, but keep in mind it will only work on that computer and browser.


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