Tips and Tricks about GMAIL

While Web-based email is nothing new, Gmail introduces some new and unique concepts. Managing email has become very easy while at the same time having powerful tools to find and review information.

1.) Advertizing:

This is probably the single most controversial aspect of Gmail. Opponents have said that Google's approach to inserting ads based on message content is a huge privacy breach.

Gmail does not "read" your email. Gmail does not breach your privacy. Gmail does not care about your message content. All Gmail is doing is running your message through a "processor" that looks for ad-related keywords so that it can display unobtrusive targeted ads.

Another important point about Gmail's ads is that they are VERY unobtrusive. They are much like the "Sponsored ads" you see on the right of a Google Search results screen. In fact, they don't even show up on every email message that you read, and so far, that's the only place you see the ads: when reading messages. They don't appear in any other screen. Gmail's ads are FAR less annoying than the flashy lights and huge billboards that services like Yahoo Mail and Hotmail use. And, given that the ads are intended to be targeted based on message content, you shouldn't see inapropriate or unrelated ads.

2.) Reading Messages:

Note a couple things: First, no external graphics are displayed. By default, Gmail disables displaying externally referenced graphics. The reason is that many spam messages contain externally referenced graphics. When they are displayed, the email sender can use this to track that you opened the message thus validating your email address for future spam. Clicking on the "Display External Images" link will display the images if you want.

There is one glaring problem: If the original email is HTML or Rich Text formatted, Gmail will strip out ALL formatting including links, fonts, and images. ie: you can only reply in plain text.

3.) Archiving :

One of the first concepts that you have to get used to with Gmail is that of "Archiving". The overall power of Gmail is in its message management, searching and archival capabilities. With 1GB of storage, the average email user will have enough storage space to hold several years worth of emails. Yes, there will always be emails that you simply don't want to keep.

Archiving a message simply tells Gmail to remove the message from your Inbox screen and keep it in your "All Mail" screen. All emails will remain in your inbox until you specifically "Archive" them. Archiving simply removes the message from your inbox screen.But what happens to it? Don't worry, all messages are always accessible through the "All Mail" screen. Archiving simply cleans up your inbox. Once a message has been archived, should you ever want to, you can easily move it back to the inbox, but there really isn't a need for that.

4.) Labels :

A Label is a way of classifying an email. It's similar to "folders" but it goes much farther: You can optionally assign a user-definable Label to any email. Then, when you click on a specific label in the label list on the left of the screen, Gmail displays only those emails under that label. Sounds a lot like folders, right?

The power of Labels shows in being able to assign multiple labels to an email. When you organize emails in folders, an email can reside in only one folder at a time. Say you have one folder called "Family" and another called "Jokes". Your brother sends you a joke email, so where do you put it--the Family folder or the Jokes folder? Gmail's Labels let you assign multiple labels to each email, so you could label your brother's joke email with both "Family" AND "Jokes" labels.

At first, this may not seem too exciting, but after a while, you will see how this could be very powerful, especially with large numbers of accumulated emails.

Gmail Tip #1: All About Labels

You can add a Label to a message in one of two ways:
If you are viewing a message listing, you can just click the checkbox next to the message, click on the "Apply label..." dropdown, and select the Label you want to apply. Gmail will display the Label just to the left of the message's Subject.
If you are viewing a message, just click on the "Apply label..." dropdown, and select the label you want to apply. Gmail will display the new label to the right of the Subject line.
OK, you assigned a Label to a message, but at a later time, you want to remove it. How do you do that? Just select the Label view from the Labels box on the left, "select" the specific message by clicking the checkbox next to the message, and then click on the "Remove label 'xxxx'" button at the top of the listing. Your label has now been removed!

Gmail Tip #2: How to Maintain 'Notes'

Some email providers provide a "Notes" function to let you maintain a list of notes. For example you might keep Web site links, random thoughts, etc. Gmail doesn't offer this feature, but by using some of Gmail's other features, you can set up a very nice, easy to maintain group of notes...

Here's what you do:

First, create a Contact with a Name of "Notes" and an Email Address of ""

Next, create a new Label called "Notes"

Finally, create a Filter to add the "Notes" Label any email addressed to "". Also, check the "Skip the Inbox (Archive it)" checkbox.

The effect is this:

When you email yourself from an email account other than your own Gmail account, address the email to "". When the message arrives in your Gmail account, it will automatically be archived into your "Notes" Label view, bypassing the Inbox. Nice and organized.

Gmail Tip #3: The 'Plus' Side of Gmail

Like many Email providers, Gmail supports the standard "plus" addressing scheme. But just what is it, and how can it help me?

The "plus" method of addressing lets you add additional words to your account name (the "left side" of your email address.) For example, if your email address is "", you could add "+club" when you give your email address to members of a club to which you belong. So, your email address would now be "". But why would you want to do this? Think of the "plus" word as an extra "keyword" or "tag" that you can use to better manage your messages.

Using our example, say you email an invitation to your friends in a club asking them to rsvp to the invitaion. You ask them to reply to "" when sending you a responseif they don't want to come, and reply to "". Assuming they follow your directions, You can then set up a Gmail Filters to automatically route emails to specific Labels based on the addresses. It's a simple example, but the uses can be numerous.

Another use is when you are shopping online. When asked for an email address, use something like "". That way, whenever you get future emails addressed to that address, you'll know that it's either from Amazon directly or from someone to whom they sold your email address. This can be a somewhat effctive way to track spam. Just be aware that not all email systems recognize or accept "plus" addresses. In fact, some spammers even strip it out completely, but it's a cool tool, none the less. The best way is to just try it and see if it works for your application!

Gmail Tip #4: What Happens To Sent Messages?

When you "send" a message, two things happen to it:

it gets copied into your "All Mail" view, and
it is visible in the "Sent Mail" view.
Many email clients and Webmail services let you optionally delete all sent messages by default, but Gmail doesn't offer this feature. Here's why...

One of Gmail's intentions is to get you out of the "trash everything" mindset. This is one of the reasons why they offer 1GB of storage.

Gmail Tip #5: Advanced Search - View Multiple Labels :

Gmail has some advanced searching capabilities that, if you take the time to learn, enables you drill down to very specific information.

If you want to search for all messages having a specific label, you can click on the "Show search options" link, click the "Search" dropdown, select the desired Lable, and click the "Search Mail" button.

But a shortcut is to type the Label prefixed with the "label:" query word in any simple search field at the top of any Gmail page:


If you want to view all messages that have selected multiple Labels, for example messages having both 'Label1' and 'Label2', enter the following into the simple search field at the top of any Gmail page:

label:Label1 label:Label2

To see all messages with either 'Label1' or 'Label2', you can enter:

label:Label1 OR label:Label2

Note: the specific label names are NOT case sensitive, but the "OR" operator is case sensitive, and must be in uppercase. The pipe operator '|' can also be used in the same manner as 'OR'.

label:Label1 | label:Label2

Gmail Tip #6: Advanced Search - 'Query Words'

One of Gmail's excellent features is its Search function.Searching can be as simple as entering a keyword or two into the Search field at the top of any page to very complex using Gmail's advanced "Query Words" to better constrain searches.

Clicking the "Show Search Options" link will open up a pane containing several entry fields and dropdowns. This lets you easily specify more detailed search criteria. For example, say you want to search for all email that is unread, regardless of under what Label it is filed. Simply click the "Search:" dropdown, select "Unread Mail" and click the "Search Mail" button. Gmail will display a list of all unread mesasges. Likewise, you can select specific Labels and you can enter specific terms. It's very powerful and useful.

Gmail also provides users the ability to prefix their search keywords with "query words" that instruct Gmail how to search. And there is no need to open the Search Options--these can be entered in the simple search window at the top of any page.

For example, say you want to search for messages containing attachments from your family sent before May 21, 2004? You would simply enter the following advanced search criteria:

label:family has:attachment before:2004/5/21

Yes, this could actually be done in the Search Options pane, but in addition to the available search criteria fields, query words not only let you search using criteria not included in the Search Options pane, (like "cc:" and "bcc:") but you can do "compound" searches otherwise not available in the Search Options pane. For example:

label:doctors label:statements has:attachment before:2004/5/21 in:anywhere

would return all messages with both Labels of "Doctors" and "Statements" containing attachments, sent before May 21, 2004, existing anywhere in my account including the Trash and Spam views.

It's pretty powerful, and fairly intuitive once you get the hang of it.

For more information, you should check the direct link to Gmail's "How do I use advanced search?" help page found [here] (You may need to be logged into your Gmail account to access this page.)

Gmail Tip #7: 'Official' Features and Bugs Status Page

Want to know what features and bugs the Gmail developers are currently working on? Read on to learn how to access Gmail's new "Features, Fixes, & Feedback" page...

First, log into your Gmail account. You must be logged into your account to access the help screens. Next, click on the "Help" link located at the top of any Gmail page. Next, click on the "Send Feedback" link on the left column. You'll be taken to a page detailing features Gmail is working on and bugs being squashed!

Gmail Tip #8: Cleaning Your Contacts

One of Gmail's "features" can leave you with extra entries in your Contacts list. Gmail has a (debatably) nice feature that automatically adds to your Contacts list the email addresses of those to whom you send emails. While this can be helpful at times, just remember that EVERY unique email address you send to gets auto-added.

Log into your Gmail account and click on the "Contacts" link at the top of any Gmail page. A window will open displaying any Contacts you may have. Any you have manually edited will typically have a "Name" and possibly a "Note" associated with it. By default, any Contact Gmail auto-adds and is unedited will not contain any "name" or "note" information, just the email address. Visually scan down the list and look for any that fall into this category. If you find one, determine what to do with it: Delete is, Edit it, or leave it alone. Obviously what you do with it is up to you,

Gmail Tip #9: New feature! Import Contacts

For the best explanation of just how to Import Contacts, log into your Gmail account, click on Contacts, and click on the new "Import Contacts" link at the top of the Contacts screen.

But what can you import and how do you import? Gmail will let you import address books into Contacts from Yahoo!, Orkut, Outlook, and pretty much any other service by uploading CSV (Comma Separated Value) files to your Gmail account. You can even manually edit and create CVS files for importing using Microsoft Excel.

Just remember that currently, Gmail's Contacts fields are limited to just "Name", "Email Address", and "Notes". According to the Help screen, all other fields will be imported into the Notes field.

Gmail Tip #10: Find Your Unread Messages

Want a quick and easy way to view all of your "Unread" messages? If you have assigned Labels and archived unread messages, finding them later can sometines be challenging. Simply create a Gmail Label named "Unread", and you will see all of your unread mail in that folder. Though there are other ways to display unread messages, the nice thing about this method is that it displays the number of unread messages right in the Label list.

Gmail Tip #11: Creating a Pseudo Address Group!

Although Gmail doesn't currently support Groups in your Contacts, you can simulate a Group list by doing the following:

Create a new Contact
In the "Name" field, enter the name of your Group (eg "My Friends")
In the "E-mail" field, enter your list of email addresses in the following format:>,,

Note three things:

You must enter ">,<" (without the quotes) between all addresses.
Be sure NOT to include a leading "<" or trainling ">". This is intentional, because during auto-complete, Gmail adds these characters to the beginning and end of the full string that is in the e-mail field.
Also, there should be no spaces in the string.

Gmail Tip #12: Adding Hotmail Contacts to Gmail

Do you have a lot of Hotmail contacts that you would like to add to your Gmail Contacts? "Montevino" submitted this tip on how to do just that.

Just set up Outlook Express to access your Hotmail account (by creating a new account, making it HTML, not POP3, and giving your Hotmail account name and password.) Then, open Windows Address Book, and synchronize. Address Book finds and auto-ads your Hotmail contacts. You can then easily output your addresses to a *.CSV file, which can then be imported into Gmail.

Gmail Tip #13: 'Gmail Notifier' released to beta!

The Gmail Notifier is a downloadable Windows application that alerts you when you have new Gmail messages. It displays an icon in your system tray to let you know if you have unread Gmail messages, and shows you their subjects, senders and snippets, all without your having to open a web browser.

You can also have it be the default "mailto:" handler so that when you click on an email address on a Web page, Gmail Notify will open a Compose Window.

You can even define a sound to play when new mail arrives!

To download, go here:

For FAQ's, go here:

Gmail Tip #14: Improved and New Contacts Features!

The "Contacts" function has been enhanced to provide some additional functionality, and now adopts the familiar Gmail interface.

Gmail now displays a "Contacts" link in the left column under the "standard views" (Inbox, Starred, etc.) and just above the Labels. Clicking on the link brings up a nicely formatted display that matches the style of the rest og GMail. It displays the contact name, email address, Note, and any additional information (see below). At the top are two "tabs" that display "Frequently Mailed" and "All Contacts". I don't know what the criteria for "Frequently Mailed" is, but it does contain the most-used contacts.

Here are some new or expanded features:

Clicking on a contact displays the contact information as well as "Recent Conversations" associated with that contact. Clicking on one of these entries opens it normally with all options available. Very nice.

Clicking on "Edit" allows you to update the basic contact information (Names, Email Address, Note). But there's a new link: "Add More Contact Info" which lets you add additional "Sections" of information. For example, by default there are "Personal" and "Work" sections defined. Each section contains a Section Name field, Two user-selectable "fields" and an "Address" block. Each User Field has a drop-down label containing the following selectable labels: Phone, Mobile, FAX, Pager, Email, IM, Company, Title, Other. You can also add additional fields as needed.

Near the top of the Contacts screen is a Search field and a "Search Contacts" button. Entering text into this field and clicking the button returns all contacts that BEGINS WITH the text. This is important to know because it will search ALL contact fields (even the :extended fields) for words beginning with the entered text. For example, entering "Ste" would return "Stephanie", "Steve", and "Stewart" but entering "phani" would not return "Stephanie". Obviously, it would be nice to have extended search capabilities, but this is an excellent start!

Clicking on the "Add Contact" link lets you enter the standard "Basic" information, and clicking the "Add More Contact Info" link opens the extended information screen as descrived above.

The "Import Contacts" links is still there letting you import contacts from a CSV file. According to the documentation, "other" information gets imported into a Notes field. There is no mention of importing into the new "extended" fields.

What really makes this shine is the fact that it now uses the same interface as the rest of Gmail giving it some better consistency. That has always been one of Gmail's strengths: a slick, clean, non-cluttered, fast interface. The added Contacts handling keeps with that philosophy.

Gmail Tip #15: Drafts!

Gmail now has the capability to save "Drafts" of your messages! If you are in the middle of composing a message, but want to finish it later, just click on the "Save Draft" button now located between the "Send" and "Discard" buttons. This droops the message in a new view located on the left side called "Drafts" located under the "Sent Mail" link and above the "All Mail" link. Later, you can just click on the message, complete it, and then click "Send" normally.

Gmail Tip #16: Auto-forward received Gmail!

Want to use your Gmail account as your main email account but have some or all email auto-forwarded to other email accounts? Well, now you can!

Gmail has added tha ability to forward received emails in two ways: "All" or "Selective"

This is a "global" setting that lets you optionally forward all received email to another email address. Click on the "Settings" link, and click on the new "Forwarding" tab. In there, you have the option do Disable or Enable email forwarding. Click on Enable, enter the email address to which you want to forward, and then select one of the following self-explanatory actions from the associated dropdown:
-keep Gmail's copy in the Inbox
-archive Gmail's copy
-trash Gmail's copy

This setting will forward all received email to another email address and take the appropriate action on the received email.

Filters have also been enhanced with a new "Forward it to: emailaddress" action letting you selectivly forward emails based on filter criteria. You can use the same or different email addresss for each filter if you choose providing very powerful email management. For example, I may get statement notifications from a bank and want to auto-copy it to my wife. I just set up a filter to select emails with the bank's sending email address and then select the "Forward it to:" action and enter my wife's email address. Now, she'll get notified also!

Gmail Tip #17: Google Gmail Minibrowser

"The Google Deskbar includes a minibrowser that you can use to quickly open your Gmail account in convenient window that automatically hides and can be accessed with a keyboard shortcut. Read on for more information about this tool...
The Google Deskbar is a little Google search tool for Windows taskbar. It can do most of the Google searches using shortcut keys too. (See the link for a picture.) It also include Google's "Minibrowser" which is fast and cute. If you press Ctrl-Alt-G—by default, you can turn it off—you'll go right to the bar. Typing a search, by default, will open in the mini browser—again you can turn it off if you want or have it use your default browser (Firefox, etc).

So here's the tip: Go to Options > Customized Searches > Add. Name it "Gmail" and put in the url: For the shortcut I used Ctrl M. So if I press Ctrl alt G, then Ctrl M, instant GMail window in the Google Minibrowser! Awesome.

(Google Desktop isn't included in the default searches either. (Yet!) But you can also add it in the customize dialogue to search your desktop just as easily. Since the minibrowser vanishes automatically it's tres convenient to find a file!)

Gmail Tip #18: GMail

Note: Must have "keyboard shortcuts" on in settings.

C: Compose new message.
Shift + C: Open new window to compose new message.
Slash (/): Switch focus to search box.
K: Switch focus to the next most recent email. Enter or "O" opens focused email.
J: Switch focus to the next oldest email.
N: Switch focus to the next message in the "conversation." Enter or "O" expands/collapses messages.
P: Switch focus to the previous message.
U: Takes you back to the inbox and checks for new mail.
Y: Various actions depending on current view:
Has no effect in "Sent" and "All Mail" views.

Inbox: Archive email or message.

Starred: Unstar email or message.

Spam: Unmark as spam and move back to "Inbox."

Trash: Move back to "Inbox."

Any label: Remove the label.
X: "Check" an email. Various actions can be performed against all checked emails.
S: "Star" an email. Identical to the more familiar term, "flagging."
R: Reply to the email.
A: Reply to all recipients of the email.
F: Forward an email.
Shift + R: Reply to the email in a new window.
Shift + A: Reply to all recipients of the email in a new window.
Shift + F: Forward an email in a new window.
Shift + 1 (!): Mark an email as spam and remove it from the inbox.
G then I: Switch to "Inbox" view.
G then S: Switch to "Starred" view.
G then A: Switch to "All Mail" view.
G then C: Switch to "Contacts" view.
G then S: Switch to "Drafts" view.


Michael said...

After reading this I thought I would leave a note about a tool that you can use to track how many times someone read your email....something google doesn't do

I've been using BigString (not only because its free), but, like I said, I found it to be a great way to send out emails....they self-destruct too!

Here's some more info if your interested:
BigString ( ), the new free webmail program, offers revolutionary features. When you send mail from your BigString account, you are protected. BigString is like an automatic shredder for your email. You can self-destruct or change an email that's already been sent or read. Don't leave your messages sitting in peoples' inbox forever.

Anonymous said...

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