TechSutra

For A Better GMail Experience

GMail is without doubt the best web mail interface out there. But that does not mean that it is not perfect or we cannot do more to make it better. Here are some ways to get the most out of your GMail and enhance the experience. Most of the tips here, require the use of Firefox browser.

  1. Greasemonkey Scripts: There are several greasemonkey scripts available on userscripts.org. The ones I use are
    • Modified GMail Macros: Adds more keyboard shortcuts on top of the built in shortcuts. The killer feature: a keyboard shortcut to jump to any label.
    • GMail Unread Labels: Show only the labels which have unread messages in them. If you have tons of labels this script is a godsend.
    • Hide Spam & Dafts Count: Honestly, does the spam and draft counts matter ? It is more a distraction than anything else. This script (written by me) will hide the spam and draft counts to make GMail a little less cluttered. Script is configurable to show either or both the counts through Tools->Greasemonkey->User Script Commands. You need to be on the gmail page for the user script commands to get activated.
    • Unread Count First: By default the title of the GMail page if you have unread mails is Gmail - Inbox(5) where 5 is the no of unread messages. Now if you have multuple tabs open, the unread count gets truncated. So, to know the unread count you will have to actually switch to the Gmail tab. The script moves the unread count to the beginning, saving the unread count from being truncated.
    You can also install the Better GMail 2 extension maintained by lifehacker which is a compilation of several greasemonkey scripts into one firefox extension.
  2. Enable Labs: Gmail Labs allows you to try out experimental new features in GMail. Some features I  recommend are
    • Quick Links: Provides a 1 click to access to saved searches or emails
    • Signature tweaks: Places your signature before the quoted text in a reply, and removes the "--" line that appears before signatures.
    • Navbar drag and drop: Allows you to reorder the items in your navbar using drag and drop.
    • Forgotten Attachment Detector: It does what it says though it is not perfect.
    • Mark as Read Button
    I would have also recommended the Google Docs and Google Calendar gadgets but they used to frequently stop working. Also you can add any gadget you like to the navbar if you enable "Add any gadget by URL" labs feature. There are a lot of gadgets which are made for iGoogle. But most of them may not work as of now or may have problems.You can read my previous post on how to enable iGoogle gadgets in GMail for detailed instruction.
  3. GMail Manager: If you have multiple GMail accounts (including through google apps) this firefox extension is a godsend. It puts a small icon on the browser status bar and you can right click on the icon to check all your GMail accounts once the accounts are added. Status of ne of the  accounts will be shown right on the status bar. Clicking on that will open a new tab with that account logged into GMail.
  4. Enable Keyboard shortcuts: Go to "Settings -> General -> Keyboard Shortcuts". After enabling them you can press ? at any time for a help window listing out the various shortcuts.
  5. Enable audio and video chat:  It requires a proprietary plugin which is available for Mac and PC which works on all the major browsers. After installing the plugin, open GMail and just click on the "Video & more" menu at the bottom of your Gmail chat window, and choose "Start video chat." GTalk
  6. Access GMail in Outlook/Thunderbird/Apple Mail  etc: You need to enable POP or IMAP. "Settings -> Forwarding and POP/IMAP".
  7. Access GMail in your phone:  You can access Gmail through your phone's web browser or from a downloadable application (on supported mobile devices)
    • Application: To download a version for your phone, point your phone's browser to http://m.google.com/mail. If the phone is supported you will be prompted to download the GMail application.  Some phones like blackberry have customised applications. (the blackberry application can run in the background and check mails)
    • Browser: Gmail for mobile phones can be accessed by simply pointing your phone's web browser to http://gmail.com. Use a good browser like Opera for optimum performance.
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