Back in March, I posted an article entitled 5 GMail Labs Features for Bloggers. It focused on five of the “beta” features of Gmail that can be very helpful to those of us who run their own sites.
However, today Google announced that they were pulling the “beta” label off of Gmail and, honor of that occasion, I’m going to take another look at how Gmail can help bloggers and other power users, this time by listing 5 features of the service itself that everyone should know about.
To be clear, all of these features are built directly into Gmail (and/or Google Apps) and you should be able to take advantage of instantly, without enabling any beta features. In short, they are ready to go right now.
5. AIMing Inside Gmail
Most people have seen the chat feature built into Gmail’s interface and is aware that they can use Google Talk directly in their browser. But Gmail also supports conversations on AOL Instant Messenger as well.
Once you sign into chat, open up your settings and click on the “Chat” tab. Once you’ve done that, the last option should be to enable AIM for that account. Clicking that link will open up a pop up window where you input your AIM username and password and are then good to go.
Bear in mind that AIM is currently the only service that you can do this with and that, unlike Google Talk, AIM is very particular about you only be signed on to one place at a time.
Still, for those who prefer chatting in a browser and have an AIM account, it may be a very promising feature, especially since AIM chats are saved into your Gmail account just like your Google Talk ones are (provided you have that option enabled).
4. Use And/Or to Make Filters More Efficient
If you get a lot of email, you probably need to use filters to make sense of it all. However, having too many filters can be unwieldy and Gmail has a limit on the number of filters that can forward to another address.
Fortunately, you can combine filters very easily using Gmail. For example, if you have five people you want to send their mail to the trash, there is no need to create five separate filters.
Instead, go to your settings and to the “filters” tab. There, create a new filter and, in the “From” box type “email@example.com OR firstname.lastname@example.org OR email@example.com” etc. This works as long as you want to take the same action on all of the email addresses.
Then, when you need to add another address to that list, simply edit the existing filter rather than creating a new one. This keeps your filter list clean and easy to edit.
Also, if you need some suggestions for common filters, Lifehacker has a list of 10 Must-Have Filters for Gmail. However, importing them will require you to enable a Labs feature.
3. Send/Receive Email From Other Accounts
If you’d like to use your Gmail account to centralize all of your mail, you’re in luck. It is possible to have Gmail receive mail from other services (provided they have POP access available) and to even send email from Gmail as those accounts.
To receive email from other accounts, open up your settings and click on “Accounts”. From there, click the link that says “Add a mail account you own” under “Get mail from other accounts” and add that site’s POP information. This also works with other Gmail accounts, provided you have POP turned on, which can be found under the “Forwarding and POP/IMAP” tab.
Once you do that, you can choose to have your Gmail put these messages under new labels or even have them skip the inbox altogether.
If you want to send email from another email address, on the same tab, click the “Add another email address you own” under “Send mail as” and fill in the information. You will receive a test email that you have to confirm to show the account is yours. When that’s done, you can choose the account under the “From” heading in the compose page. You’ll also be able to tell Gmail to either make the new address your default or tell it to, when replying, automatiacally send email from the address the original message was sent to.
This is a great way to consolidate all of your email into one account, making Gmail all you need when it comes to your mail.
2. Use Gmail on Your Domain
If you have your own domain and want to use Gmail, there are two options.
- Forward Your Mail: Set up your server to forward all of your mail to your Gmail account and, using the steps above, instruct Gmail to send mail from that account.
- Use Google Apps: Create a free Google Apps account and have Google actually host your email for you.
Google Apps, for their Standard Edition, is a free service that lets you host all of your domain’s email services on Google. It requires some very basic DNS tweaking, which Google walks you through, and will require some time for the setup to be complete, usually just a day, but once it is ready, you don’t have to worry about your mail servers again.
The advantage of this is that, should something go wrong with your mail server (IE: server outage) your email will continue to work.
This is much more reliable and much more professional as it Google Apps doesn’t reveal your Gmail account in the message header, as it does with Gmail accounts sending mail under another address.
1. Advanced Search
Imagine you quickly need to find that email from your friend that has your travel itinerary for a trip you’re taking. How do you find it fast, especially if it was sent months ago and you’ve had dozens of emails since.
Easy. Gmail’s advanced search features can help you out. These search tools make it trivial to parse your way through countless thousands of messages quickly.
Some of the highlights include:
- has:attachment – Looks only for emails with attachments.
- filename: – Looks only for messages with that specific filename as an attachment.
- after: and before: – Narrows your search’s date range.
- subject: – Searches only the subject of the email.
- is:read/unread/starred – Can be used to search only messages that are starred, read or unread.
Be sure to check out the full list for even more suggestions.
As Gmail removes its “beta” tag, it does so as a powerhouse mail service and email client.
The real beauty in Gmail, especially those for large mail volumes, is in how deep it is. There are so many features and tools below the service, many of which are in beta, that it seems like it can do everything but answer your mail for you.
If you’ve been using Gmail for a while, now is a time to give it another look and see if there are any features you’ve missed. After all, there may be even more ways Gmail can help save you time and energy when it comes to your communications.