When Google launched Buzz in February 2010, it tried to take the easy route to critical mass by placing the social media service inside Gmail. The 176 million or so users who opened their email accounts to find their contact lists compromised might not have been too pleased but they shouldn’t have been too surprised. Gmail has always been packed with all sorts of extra goodies from video chat to SMS messaging, including many that few people are aware of. Here are five tips, tricks and techniques to help you get more out of Google’s free email service:
1. Kick out the Ads
Gmail might be free but it still rakes in giant piles of cash for Google. They make their dough by reading your messages (electronically, of course) then placing ads on the page that match the content. It’s not a terrible thing but it is a little intrusive and it does remind you that a robot is going through your email at the same time as you.
There is though a neat little trick that you can use to get rid of those ads.
Google, being a nice sort of company, doesn’t serve ads in messages that contain very bad news. Inserting a sentence or two that includes keywords such as “suicide,” “death,” or “fatal accident” can be enough to warn the ad server to steer clear. Including the terms in the header won’t work but you can put the sentence at the bottom of the email and in a text color that matches the background color so that it can’t be seen by – or frighten – your recipient. Just in case though, it’s probably a good idea to include a sentence that explains what you’re doing.
2. Use Gmail as a Hard Drive
When a company gives you giant gigabytes of free storage space, it seems a shame not to use them – rude almost. And when you know that anything you put in that storage space is going to be safer than a bank, and certainly safer than your own home-based storage bank, not using Gmail as a free storage service looks like a waste.
The easiest option is always to email your most important files to your Gmail account. Label them as back-ups and you’ll be able to pull them down with relative ease should the worst happen. But that sort of backing up is always a little sporadic.
Better options are Softpedia’s Gmail Drive Shell Extension which, despite its unfriendly name, provides a very neat service. The freeware creates a virtual filesystem in Windows, allowing you to drag and drop your files into Gmail using Windows Explorer. It actually emails them to Gmail later, but the action for the user is very familiar. You can also use Gmail-Backup but Softpedia’s program is cooler.
3. Back up Your Friends’ Emails – and Bookmark Your Own
Backing up your files on Gmail will keep them safe if your hard drive crashes, and the emails you’ve received and sent will be safe anyway. But what about your friends’ emails? You can’t back up all of them but when you conduct a search in Gmail for a message, the email’s address is a permanent link that can be shared.
If a friend says that he can’t find the email you sent him with the project specs, for example, you can search for it in Gmail then send him the message’s URL. Of course, you could also just send him the message again, but having a permanent link means that you can also bookmark your most important messages and keep them just a click away.
4. Create Multiple Addresses and Track Spammers
If you’ve ever tried to create more than one account on Twitter, you’ll recognize the problem. Each account requires a different email address so to set up multiple accounts, you’ll need multiple addresses. Fortunately Gmail supplies them all – automatically.
Insert periods into your Gmail address, for example, (so that [email protected] becomes [email protected] or [email protected]) and you’ll have created an entirely new email address. Gmail though will ignore the periods and send all messages to your usual account. It also ignores the difference between @gmail.com and @googlemail.com, giving you another option to play with.
More interestingly, if you insert a plus-sign into your Gmail address, Gmail will also ignore everything between the “+” and the [email protected] symbol. Register for a newsletter from a sleazy marketing company, for example, and you can give them the address [email protected] When that address starts receiving adverts for Canadian meds and male enhancers, you’ll know who sent them.
5. See All Your Unread Messages First
Open your Gmail account and the top of your inbox list will show your latest messages, the ones you haven’t read yet. Ignore some of them and they’ll gradually drift down the page, through the pages and disappear into your message pile. Next to your inbox, you’ll have a nagging reminder of the number of emails you’ve ignored but you also won’t have any way to find them. Because you don’t know who they’re from or what they contain, you can’t search for them, and unless you feel like browsing back through page after page of read emails, you’ll have no way to dig them up.
There is a search string you can use though that will pull up your messages.
Search for “label:unread label:inbox” and all of those ignored message will be at the top of your inbox – ready for you to ignore all over again.