One of the reasons that I decided on a new gmail account was because my perfectionist side was always a little annoyed at how messy I let things get with my dillydante account. Now that I’m on tomkim77 with oodles of perceived free time on my hands, I want to make sure that I pimp out everything just like I want it.
One of the things I did not do was import my old contacts into my new account, even though I could have. I know I’m making this more inconvenient than it has to be, but I’m in a real fastidious mood about this, and I’ve decided to basically check my old account once a day, and if anything comes up that I want to transfer over, I’ll transfer it over. I’m starting from scratch on this one, babe.
Automatically Label E-mail Subscriptions
So I’m changing e-mail subscriptions one-by-one, but I’m subscribing to them in such a way that I can take ultimate advantage of gmail’s filter features. When I change my e-mail address at meetup.com, for example, I change it to tomkim77+meetup at gmail dot com, not just the plain jane tomkim77. (Gmail accepts e-mail address names that have a plus sign, but knows to only recognize the address to the left of the “+”. You can add whatever descriptors to the right of the “+” without worrying about a screwy delivery). That way, I can set up a filter that automatically labels “meetup” every e-mail sent to tomkim77+meetup.
This approach is also useful to, say, send notes or bookmarks to yourself.
Better Searching with Labels
Because you can assign multiple labels to any message, labels in gmail function more like tags than traditional categories. This allows for a much more flexible sorting and search system. Messages from the Philadelphia WordPress Meetup group, for example, are relevant to both the wordpress and the meetup labels (for me, at least).
You could actually search for multiple labels. If I wanted to search for WordPress Meetups, I could do a search like this:
Boolean searches are also possible:
label:temple OR label:johns hopkins -label:fundraising
…if I wanted to look at messages from either of the two colleges I went to, but none that had to do with fundraising.
Make Stars Mean Something
Stars are just a unique kind of label (as are the Archives, Sent Messages, and Trash). I tend to star messages that I need to follow-up with action steps on. You can probably use stars in a completely different way, which is fine, as long as you stick to your protocol.
Better Searching. Period.
Back to searches — gmail, being a part of google, ought to have some advanced search functions, and it does. It’s all a bit much to go into here — suffice it to say that the potential is pretty astounding — so here’s a link to an official reference page in case you ever really, really have a hard time finding some old e-mail. (Those advanced search options also work in setting up filters.)
Make Gmail the Default
Gmail by itself is sufficient as my default e-mail client, so I download Gmail Notifier to make it so. (Install, then select gmail as default in the preferences).
Forward Multiple Addresses Into Gmail
Now, as I mentioned, I’m a bit leery about having everything from my old gmail account forwarded into my new gmail account, so I’m vetting stuff as they come around. But I do know that I want to receive everything that’s getting sent to my school e-mail account. That’s a simple matter of going into my school e-mail account, clicking on the Preferences, and specifying that I want my e-mail forwarded to my new gmail account.
I go back to my gmail account, set up a filter (this time based on messages sent to my school e-mail address), and voila.
What’s nice about this setup is that Gmail has smart replying capabilities — meaning that if I receive e-mail forwarded from my school account, and I reply to that e-mail from gmail, it will look to the correspondent that I actually replied using my school account (not gmail)
In order to send e-mail from my other accounts from within gmail, I’m going to go to Settings (link on the upper-right hand corner), click on the tab for Accounts, and click “Add another e-mail address.” Once I specify a new e-mail address, Google is going to send a code to that address so that I can verify that I do indeed have access to that account. I enter in the code to verify, and I’m good to go.
Customize the Settings
While I’m changing settings, I might as well tweak some more. I’m going to now go to the General Settings tab.
I want to use Google’s keyboard shortcuts (which are specified here), so I turn those on.
I upload a picture or icon so that people have some sort of visual reminder of who I am when I show up on gmail Contacts or Google Talk.
I like to see what pictures or icons other people have chosen for themselves, so I leave the setting on “Show all pictures” for Contacts’ pictures.
A signature is a text message that gets appended at the end of all your outgoing email. Some people like to include their contact info, others like to put in a favorite quote or even a picture made with ascii characters. I haven’t thought of anything that clever, so I just leave this field blank.
You can set Personal Level Indicators and Snippets as you prefer. Note the Vacation Responder option, which is useful to keep in mind when you’re going to drop off the face of the virtual world for an extended period of time.
Note also that there are tabs for Labels and Filters here in Settings. You’re free to edit, add, or delete those any time.
There’s also a tab for “Forwarding and POP” which is for when you want to download your gmail messages into a client on your computer. Since I’m using gmail as my default client, I just ignore this. Some people set this up anyways because they like having a backup of all their email on their computer.
Feel free to play around with the settings on Chat. I don’t use Google Talk within gmail all that much, so…
And then there’s the tab for web clips. Web clips is basically a basic feed reader, which shows the headlines from those feeds at the top of your gmail page. I think it’s a cool idea, but I want to customize which feeds web clips draws its content from. (Oh, if you don’t know what rss or feeds are, this past post might help).
Gmail already has a long list of feeds it draws from. I don’t know if yours is the same as mine. I just go down the list and remove those that don’t interest me. If you want to add feeds, you could browse through the categories or do a search on the left. You could also place the url of a particular feed in the search box, and gmail will automatically subscribe to it for its Web Clips.
A caveat: Web Clips is not a full-featured feed reader, nor is it meant to be. It’s just meant to show the occasional random thing of interest while you’re checking out your e-mail. If you’re looking for a comprehensive web-based feed aggregator, check out Google Reader.
Here’s some steroid additions to gmail that I haven’t tried yet:
- Export Mac OS X address book to Gmail
- Encrypt your gmail using Greasemonkey
- Color code labels using Greasemonkey
- Cooler keyboard shortcuts using Greasemonkey