Techlicious: 10 Tips to Get the Most from Gmail

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By Steve Morgenstern for Techlicious

Gmail is certainly one of the most appealing freebies on the Internet – a no-cost web-based email account with over 7 gigabytes of online storage. New users grasp the basics of sending and receiving mail in the time it takes to look over the on-screen display, scan the inbox and locate the "Compose mail" button on the lefthand side. Invest a few minutes learning about some of Gmail’s advanced features, though, and you’ll go a long way to taming the overwhelming email assault most of us face every day. Here are ten of my favorite Gmail power tools and timesavers.

1. Labels and Stars

For at-a-glance highlighting of important messages, click the little star icons immediately to the left of an incoming message and a gold star will appear. To see only the messages with a star, click "Starred" in the leftmost column.

For finer sorting options, Gmail has a sophisticated labelling system. There are a few preset labels (including Notes, Personal and Travel), but you can easily create as many as you like (and eliminate the defaults if you prefer). You can also assign colors to the label names, which makes them easy to spot in the inbox display.

Click on the name of a label in the left column and only messages that fit the category are displayed. A message can have several labels applied at the same time, which makes this sorting capability very flexible. And you can use Gmail’s filter capabilities (described next) to automatically star or label messages as they arrive, which is more powerful still.

Gmail Labels and Stars

2. Create Filters

Gmail lets you create filters based on words that appear in the sender or recipient name, the message subject, and the body of the text (you can look for messages that have a particular word, or messages that don’t). The system can then perform many different actions on that message, including archiving it, marking it as read, applying a label or star, forwarding it, deleting it without reading, or protecting it from the spam filter. For example, I have all my incoming Facebook activity notifications labeled automatically, so I can spot them, read them and delete them easily. For persistent spammers, I simply enter their email address and Gmail auto-trashes anything they send. The step-by-step process is easy to follow: click the Create a filter link to the right of the search bar.

Gmail Filters

3. Conversation View

By default, Gmail displays all back-and-forth replies along with the original message, with their subject lines stacked to create what they call a conversation view. It can be an efficient way to see related emails all in one place, or it can make for a confusing on-screen display. If you’re not a fan, simply turn it off under Settings, in the General tab.

Gmail conversation view

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This post is excerpted with permission from Techlicious.

PC Pitstop is proud to welcome our friends at Techlicious as guest contributors. Founded by consumer tech guru, Suzanne Kantra, Techlicious is your daily scoop on everything from the best new mobile phones and apps to holiday shopping guides to step-by-step instructions for protecting your privacy on the Internet.

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4 thoughts on “Techlicious: 10 Tips to Get the Most from Gmail

  1. Agreed. Gmail is great – if for nothing else the fact that it uses google to search your email for you instantaneously. This has become invaluable to me. The long and confusing post above about someone essentially forgetting their password and then not having the common sense to change it when they got back in is amusing. A computer, an email service, a job, or really anything in life operates under the same rule: you have to take responsibility for your own actions. Don’t blame it on an email provider if you forget your password. It’s embarassing that you even posted that — and even worse that you tried to blame gmail for it.

  2. My Wife has/had a Gmail account. She took a computer course at the local library and they assigned her a GMail account. All was fine until we took a trip and the only access she had was through my Laptop. The GMail system never ask her for her password after once entering such on her own home computer. As a result she forgot her password. While on our trip we tried to gain access to her mail with no luck. It would ask her Father’s middle name. Well,he doesn’t have a freakin middle name!! When we returned home she once again was able to access her gmail in spite of not having any idea as to her password. That was all well and good until her confuser got hit by a virus and needs to be formatted. At this time I got her an address with my ISP and if she should ever forget her password she can now relate to a human. The security on gmail is great as long as you don’t need help.I could suggest the government use it for their top secret email. For the rest of us that don’t need that level of security, I might suggest your local phone company. I would never ever deal with any service bee what it may, where you were limited to conversing with a stupid computer – no matter what the service may be. My suggestion is if you are serious about your email and not such a dang cheapskate, get a real account and pay the few bucks for access to a live human.In my humble opinion, gmail sucks. Luther Quick

    • Gmail is great. I have used it for years and have had no problems that were unsolvable. I have all my ISP accounts and other accounts forwarded to Gmail and I use Gmail’s offline capability. When your wife got home, all she had to do was go into account settings and change her password. It is important to always remember or record your passwords. It is not the fault of gmail if people forget their passwords.

      • Thanks for the reply Mary. Actually, things were made most difficult as my Wife obtained this gmail address while taking a “how to” course at the local library. Complicated no doubt,by gmail only requesting her password once, during setup. A lot of time went by and eventually we arrive at computer failure where all that sort of thing, gets lost. Trying once more gmail insists on her father’s middle name. This is not do-able talking to a computer as her father never had a middle name. So entering that factor, even in her class, likly never happened. At any rate,aye pretty much shy away from anything where there is no possibility of human introvention as a matter of principal. Oh yes,as you say “all she had to do was to go to account setting and change her password” There comes the rub. What is her Fathers middle name? As to gmail fault or her being a newbi to confusers is not relevent. Now, if she forgets her password or any other problem she only needs to call tech support and speak to a person. Seems like a win-win to me. She nor I ever had a need for such high secutity anyway.

        Someday you too,will experience a problem that cant be solved in talking to a mindless computer, then,you will truly understand!
        Aye guess,you get what you pay for.
        Regards, LQ

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