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.
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
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
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.
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
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"
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.
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
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 "username+Notes@gmail.com"
Next, create a new Label called "Notes"
Finally, create a Filter to add the "Notes" Label
any email addressed to "username+Notes@gmail.com".
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 "username+Notes@gmail.com".
When the message arrives in your Gmail account, it will automatically
be archived into your "Notes" Label view, bypassing
the Inbox. Nice and organized.
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
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 "email@example.com",
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 "firstname.lastname@example.org". 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 "email@example.com" when sending
you a responseif they don't want to come, and reply to "firstname.lastname@example.org".
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 "email@example.com".
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!
Tip #4: What Happens To Sent Messages?
When you "send" a message, two things happen to
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.
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
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
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:
To see all messages with either 'Label1' or 'Label2', you
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
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
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
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:
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
(You may need to be logged into your Gmail account to access
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!
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
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
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.
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.
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:
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.
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
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:
Tip #14: Improved and New Contacts Features!
The "Contacts" function has been enhanced to provide
some additional functionality, and now adopts the familiar
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.
ADD MORE CONTACT INFO
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
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
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"
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.
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.
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
Tip #17: Google Gmail Minibrowser
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: http://gmail.google.com/gmail.
For the shortcut I used Ctrl M. So if I press Ctrl alt G,
then Ctrl M, instant GMail window in the Google Minibrowser!
(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!)
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.