Computer Science Association, BITS Pilani

October 29, 2009

Using GMail better

Filed under: Geeky — Shyam Sunder @ 8:29 am

GMail has become one of the most extensively used e-mail programs both for general as well as enterprise use. The most exciting aspect of it being that it offers all its great features for free! As college students we would have started creating GMail ID’s for the purposes of:

chatting with one’s family
staying in touch with old friends or
simply for the sake of opening new social networking accounts

But many of us would have overlooked some features that are present in the inbox page of GMail which make our life more comfortable. So here are seven tips that should make using GMail an enjoyable experience:

  1. Leave your inbox as less cluttered as possible
  2. Tasks and Calender
  3. Use Google Docs
  4. Surf the best articles using Google Reader
  5. Multiple Accounts
  6. Documentation
  7. Use GMail Theme

The above points have been expanded below with illustrations. This would definitely get you exploring various other things in GMail for yourself (which is thoroughly enjoyable).

1) Leave your inbox as less cluttered as possible: Use multiple inboxes? Honestly, there is nothing more disgusting to look at! Instead use labels and filters extensively. How? Read on

  • Suppose you are a part of a Google Group which sends you a lot of e-mails every day then apply a filter on it. The option is available in the “show details” part of the mail header: filter messages like these. Just click on it. The best sequence of actions that can be taken for further mails is: i) skip the inbox ii) apply label iii) apply to already existing conversations.
  • The down arrow on the labels (in the labels section on the LHS of your inbox) is to customize the label colors. Choose your pick since that will help to distinguish between different labels in case you are using many.
  • Labels and filters can be especially helpful if you subscribe to mailing lists:, FORBES India, etc. You can put a filter and apply a label so that you can check out the mails when you have time.

2) Tasks and Calender:

  • Need to arrange a meeting with someone? Or have to remember test dates? There is nothing more useful than a calender. It is more like the calender we would have used during our school days for marking exam dates and assignment submissions.
  • Just mark all the dates and important things to remember and click on print. A new window will open which will let you save the calender as in PDF format that you can refer to time and again!
  • Tasks are another light-weighted useful feature which you can use as easily as you would use a To-do list in a mobile phone. And what’s more all your tasks appear on the calender as well so you would have no excuse to miss out on anything.
  • Once you set up an alarm you would receive a mail telling you that a particular task is due.

3) Use Google Docs: These have come under severe criticism from time-to-time; but honestly what is the best way to

  • share a document with multiple users
  • create a questionnaire and maintain the entered information
  • quickly be able to get multiple users to work on a sales presentation at the same time

No prizes for guessing: Google Docs it is!

4) Surf the best articles using Google Reader: It is the best alternative to

  • subscribing to mailing lists or
  • visiting a blog/website to check for updates or
  • sending links of articles you like to family and friends through GTalk or mail

Google Reader lets you get information from various websites simply by adding feeds (Atom and RSS) and what is more you can decide who to share it with and in return also read shared items from their list. It is increasingly becoming similar to Twitter nowadays with strikingly familiar phrases like:

  • ‘follow more people’,
  • ’21 people are following you’,
  • ‘like this item’, etc

5) Multiple Accounts: The tip is to bring everything to GMail. You have more than one account? Get all the mail delivered to an account you prefer to use. It cuts down your job of looking at multiple email ID’s. You can also send mail from that particular account. This is a must do if you use too many accounts and can’t keep track of which to use when! 😀

6) Documentation: Part of a college association that stresses on the need for formal documentation? Now it so happens that documentation work comes right at the end of the semester where you would rather find yourself studying than compiling what you have done in the year. You can make your life much simpler by simply going to the mails/chats which you used to communicate details or plan out work and click on “print”. This will open up a new tab consisting of all the conversations and they can be used as a reference; especially useful for internal documentation.

  • You can save the page as PDF using MS One Note or Adobe PDF
  • This bookmarklet is a useful tool for converting webpage to PDF but doesn’t seem to work well with GMail so prefer the above.

7) Use GMail Themes

  • There are a lot of themes to try from and they are visually more pleasing when you compare to the disastrous Orkut themes.
  • It will let you approach GMail in a different way each time 🙂

If you are already  at ease with using various facets about GMail or if you are beginning to discover GMail, please write about it and drop the link in the comments. Either way, we would love to hear from you. Happy mailing!


1 Comment »

  1. Here’s another tip:
    Apply a label or remove the inbox tag on ‘useless’ incoming mail. Some of these could be forwards, offline chat messages, etc. Helps to keep only useful mail in the inbox.

    Comment by csa2010 — October 29, 2009 @ 8:37 am | Reply

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