Like it or not, email is still an important part of life for most bloggers. Even though many prefer IM, Twitter, Facebook and other means of contact, email still plays a big role in the lives of most Webmasters. Not only is it still one of the key methods of communication on the Web, but it is also the primary way we get a lot of our alerts and notifications.
One thing that Gmail has done well is innovate and grow its own product. A big part of that has been its “Labs” feature where users can enable experimental features and changes to Gmail for their account. Some of the changes are very powerful and useful, many are gimmicky and useless.
However, there are five Labs features that every blogger should consider activating in their Gmail or Google Apps account. They add features and tools that are just too valuable to pass up.
Most bloggers are following multiple streams of information. Incoming comments, Twitter alerts, regular email, etc. Multiple inboxes helps to sort through that by displaying them independently on one page, preventing you from either having to push these alerts out of your front page and into archived tabs or have them clutter up your regular mail stream.
The only caveat with multiple inboxes is that it requires a large monitor to make it work correctly. Those using netbooks, for example, will want to stay away.
By default, Gmail puts your signature below the message you are replying to and separates it with a “–“. This means few people that receive emails see the signature as it is buried far below the original material and separated fro the rest of the email.
This is a problem since many bloggers use their signature lines to promote themselves by listing their URL, social networking information, etc. Fortunately, Signature Tweaks fixes that by moving the signature above the quoted reply and removing the separator. This makes the signature many times more likely to be seen and a much more powerful promotion tool.
Email efficiency is important for just about anyone and, most likely, bloggers see a lot of the same questions and requests repeatedly. Gmail’s canned response feature makes it possible to save a draft email as a template and import it into any message you want in the future. This is ideal for things such as granting reprint permissions, answering link requests, etc.
The goal, of course is to not overuse the feature and to only use form letters when appropriate. Still, for those that get a lot of the same questions repeatedly, it’s a powerful tool to speed up replying to mail.
Most Gmail users want some kind of alert when they get new mail and, because of this, a slew of Gmail notifiers have been created for every operating system and every browser imaginable. Part of thereason this has been necessary is because, when looking at Gmail while in a different browser tab, it is impossible to tell if you have new mail.
Title Tweaks fixes that by putting the “Inbox (X)” before the other parts of the page title, making it visible even when you’re looking just the tab. This means you’ll always know at a glance how many new emails you have without having to have a separate program or extension running. Great for when you’re hammering out a long blog post and don’t want to be too distracted.
The “Add Gadget” feature enables a new tab in the settings that lets you paste in the URL of a small page or tool you want displayed in the left hand sidebar of Gmail. Though the feature has only been available a few months, there is already a variety of gadgets available, including a Twitter client.
This is great if you have a feed you really want to monitor, if you want to manager your Twitter without a separate client or just want a simple sticky note function in Gmail. This feature can be turned into just about anything you need it to be so let your imagination roam.
If you want to add any of these features, just log into your Gmail or Google Apps Web interface and then click the green icon at the top. While you’re there look through the other labs features and see if any others might be useful.
In the end, it seems like email is going to be a part of blogging for quite some time. So it makes sense to find ways to make the experience both more usable and more efficient.
Though few people like doing their email, most admit that it is important to their lives. As long as that’s the case, there’s no reason to suffer more than absolutely necessary.