You already know that Gmail beats most email providers with its endless customization capabilities, Google product integration, and a fantastic spam filter. Take it to the next level with these Gmail power user tips, add-ons, and plugins.
1. Gmail Keyboard ShortcutsIf you haven’t already, master the shortcut keys to simplify the way you compose, read, archive, search, and report spam mail. Some of these may be straight forward, like c for compose, but through the shortcut menu you can learn how to navigate and organize your mailbox entirely with your keyboard.
In the same vein, Gmail users eager to simplify their experience with single keystrokes can check out Launchy: a free, open source keyword launcher that runs in your system tray and opens apps with designated keystrokes. Launchy is still “a far cry from Quicksilver for Mac” according to Gina Trapani at Lifehacker, but Adam Pash of Lifehacker says, “I can't recommend it highly enough.” Here is a quick tutorial for one-key Gmail composing through Launchy.
3. Bookmark Searches and EmailsWith the newest version of Gmail, searches are granted their own URLs which can be bookmarked; however, those still operating under the old version, on the fence about the changes, can still generate these “baby” bookmarks for searches through this form, created by Steve Rubel. Meanwhile, all messages in Gmail have URLs, too. While the message is open, simply type CTRL-D to bookmark it.
4. Resize Composition BoxThe aptly-named Resizeable Textarea Firefox extension allows you to click and drag the bottom right corner of the text box you’re typing in without resizing your browser window. This add-on will operate not only in Gmail, but also in any forum or discussion board where the textbox is too small for an appropriate response – especially one that you may want to read over before sending. Note that any browser built with the newest Opensource.org web kit will already have this capability. For more browser info, check out the Internet software category.
5. Change Your Inbox FocusEveryone knows that you can enter tasks, set appointments, and manage your calendar through your Gmail account. Now Chrome and Firefox users alike can install the ActiveInbox plugin in order to optimize Gmail for productivity. Building upon Gmail’s priority inbox feature, this plugin allows you to sort emails according to tasks, set reminders that can be snoozed or dismissed, and create project folders and sub-folders. It also enables a note section on emails for important personal reminders. Additionally, it implements the Previous Conversation Viewer, pulling up a history of emails between you and the sender (or recipient), allowing you to reflect on past comments and respond faster.
6. Streamline Adding AttachmentsIf you’ve ever sent an important attachment, chances are that you’ve also experienced the embarrassing reply message stating you’ve neglected to attach the aforementioned file. This Greasemonkey script scans all messages for references to attachments including variations such as “attached” or “attachment.” When you click send on a message with such references that is missing an attachment, a prompt will pop up asking you to confirm whether your email is ready to send.
To make matters even simpler, wouldn’t it be great if you could drag files directly into your email? Check out the Firefox extension dragdropupload which allows you to do exactly that if you are running Firefox 3.0 or newer. Once installed, you can simply click and drag the file – or multiple files at once – from a folder or the desktop and drop them onto the “Browse” button to attach.
7. Secure Gmail & Avoid SpamThe Firefox add-on OptimizeGoogle (which is based on an abandoned add-on called CustomizeGoogle) enhances both Google searches and your Gmail experience. Specifically in terms of Gmail, it enables secure browsing in emails and the calendar, hides the counter on your Spam folder, and uses a fixed font for the body of emails. Ultimately, while securing your experience, it provides a cleaner look to your inbox. Meanwhile, when using the search engine, this add-on enables URL previews on sponsored links, removes ads, removes click tracking, and adds a counter to search results among other features. If your primary concern is that irritating and eternally growing Spam counter, however, you may be better off just trying out this Greasemonkey + Firefox script to keep it out of sight.
8. Automate Frequently Repeated TextSignature functionality is built into Gmail, but frequently typed phrases can be automated with Firefox extension Signature, which allows you to insert designated text with a keystroke. Note that, as of right now, Signature is not yet compliant with Firefox 9.0.1. Also try the Windows app, AutoHotKey, or the Mac app: TypeIt4Me. Both allow you to create keystrokes to automate text in virtually any application.
9. POP3 & IMAP Forwarding“I recommend using IMAP (where the mail is both on the server and on your local machine(s)/device(s)) and uploading all your email onto Gmail,” writes Mark Wheeler, a Gmail power user. “You can keep copies on the Google servers and your desktop/laptop/phone so that they are all efficiently accessible and available anytime anywhere. Don't have to worry about backups, or disk space...I have 25,000 emails and have only used 9% of my space!”
To upload old email like Mr. Wheeler did, set up a Gmail IMAP account in your desktop email client. In the client, establish folders that correspond to your Gmail labels, and drag and drop your non-Gmail into the folders. If you're using Outlook with .PST format or Outlook Express, you will have to convert or export the emails to mBox data file format before the messages will translate. The process may take some time. Also, the original dates and times attached to the messages will appear in Gmail as the dates and times that the messages were imported into Gmail. Click here for a tutorial from My Digital Life.
10. Mute ConversationsEver found yourself subscribed to a mailing list and the current conversation has nothing to do with you? If you don’t want to unsubscribe, you can easily stop the friendly spam with the Gmail mute function. Select a message in the thread and hit the m key to auto-archive all incoming messages in the conversation. The thread will stay muted until you un-mute it; it will also un-mute itself if your address appears in the To or CC box.
11. Keep it All in One PlaceThe Mail Fetcher allows you to add up to five different accounts and then both receive and send via POP3 without logging out of Gmail. Unlike a simple forwarding feature, Mail Fetcher allows synchronization of Gmail actions with the home server. Go to your Gmail Settings and open the Accounts tab, then click Add another mail account. One caveat of sending from non-Gmail accounts: the recipients may see, “FROM you@Gmail.com on behalf of firstname.lastname@example.org,” especially if the recipients are using a client like Outlook.
Additionally, users can use Google Toolbar and Gmail together to transform a Gmail account into a massive archive of interests. To do this, simply add the Google toolbar to your browser. When you happen across text or images you want to save, highlight them and click the Send To Gmail link.
12. Gmail/Google Notifier and Desktop PluginTired of constantly refreshing your browser for new notifications, install the Notifier widget to check your email (and Google Calendar, if you're a Mac user). As with almost everything else under the sun, there's also a Firefox extension that will serve the same function (it's not released by Google).
Some users have reported compatibility issues between Google Toolbar, Google Apps and Google Desktop. Everyone's configuration is different, so it's impossible to know, but Maxim Alexeyev created this Google Desktop Plug-In that efficiently replaces Google Notifier for users. The plug-in also offers multi-username functions as well as Google Apps support.
For those trying to force Gmail Notifier to use SSL, this wikihow tutorial involves hex editing. Advanced Mac users with Google Notifier may find this comment on the O’Reilly Mac DevCenter helpful as well.
13. RSS feeds & Podcasts in GmailThis Greasemonkey + Firefox script will allow your Google Reader RSS feed to appear directly in your mailbox. Google Reader and Gmail seem to be moving closer together in functionality and interface and it's likely that they'll soon be officially integrated.
In the meantime, Gmail users can also turn emails and conversations into a comprehensive RSS feed using this syntax: https://username:email@example.com/gmail/feed/atom. Then sign up for a FeedBurner account to host and distribute it. With an RSS-to-podcast site like AudioDizer.com or one of the many options at NextUp to create text-to-speech files, users can now listen to their Gmail through an iPod or similar device. This hack is based on a tip from Mike Donaghy. For more information, check out these podcast resources.