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Smarten up your Gmail

Virtually unlimited storage space, exclusive invitations to sign up, the power of Google search... But are you making optimum use of your Gmail account? Here’s a look at some of the more interesting options. Scan the Gmail page carefully and you’ll find many more...

Print Edition: August 7, 2008

Virtually unlimited storage space, exclusive invitations to sign up, the power of Google search... Gmail virtually killed other Web-based e-mail offerings soon after its launch. Of course, everyone and his dog simply had to have a Gmail address. But are you making optimum use of your Gmail account? Or are you merely using it to send, receive and never delete the mail? Over the years, Gmail has been refining itself with value additions. How many of these do you know about? Here’s a look at some of the more interesting options. Scan the Gmail page carefully and you’ll find many more...

Rich archive

Gmail’s Archive option allows you to move the messages from your Inbox to the All Mail category. This means you can tidy up your Inbox without deleting any message. What you can also do is create a new label (Gmail’s version of a folder) that will let you move the mails from a particular sender to this folder. So the messages that you archive will be available in the All Mail according to the label you have used, or in the new folder that you have created or by searching Gmail.When someone responds to a message that you’ve archived, the conversation containing that message will reappear in your Inbox.

Get all mails

Gmail has recently slipped in a feature called Mail Fetcher, which allows you to retrieve mails from your other accounts. The feature is currently available to a limited number of users, but will soon be open to all. You can retrieve mail (new and old) from up to five other e-mail accounts and have them in Gmail. You can even create a customised ‘From:’ address, which lets you send messages from Gmail, but makes it seem as if they were sent from another e-mail account.

New address

This one’s brilliant. Assume your address is yourname@-gmail.com. When you sign up for a newsletter from, say Money Today, sign up as your.name+MT@gmail.com and the mail will still reach your Inbox. All you have to do is create a filter with a “Money Today” label, that will receive all your.name+MT@-gmail.com mails and archive them, making a subsequent search easy. Even if you want to conduct this exercise for an existing address, you can do so by creating a filter with the desired label, and all your subsequent mails will go to the label (folder) you created.

Sign out

Windows has this extremely annoying but useful feature of offering to remember your user name and password. While Gmail signs you out automatically, the next time you aren’t sure if you have signed out of an earlier session, just scroll down to the end of the Gmail page. Below the standard “You are using XX MB…” is a line that reads,“Last account activity”. Click on the “Details” link and a window pops up, from where you can sign out of the previous sessions.

Smart links

It’s a feature most of us tend to ignore, but is actually very useful: the advertisments on the right of the message pane. If, for instance, someone sends you an address by e-mail, chances are that one of the links on the right will point you to the address on Google Maps. If the mail refers to an appointment, Gmail will ask if you want to add the event to your calendar (if you use that application, of course). In the US, it even picks up on package tracking numbers from the UPS and links you directly to the tracking page.

Icon change

Imagine transforming those boring paperclip attachment icons into little self-explanatory ones, so you know whether you’ve been sent an official Word document or a frivolous PowerPoint attachment. If you’re among the several million who have Firefox 3, download the Better Gmail 2 plug-in and see your Gmail screen transformed.

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