Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Gmail New User Guide And Tips

Congratulations on making the switch to Gmail! If you have come to this post, but do not have Gmail yet, then sign up today.

Now that you visit every day let's go over some basic functionality and usability tips to make your experience even better. The adjustments can be found in your settings menu which is accessed by click on the gear logo at top right.

1) Inbox - There are five inbox types below to choose from to customize how you see unread and important emails. Ensure you leave the importance markers active and train them to improve the feature.
  • Classic - A traditional view of all emails received with the newest on top
  • Important first - Groups all the important emails together first, then everything else
  • Unread first - All the unread emails, regardless of importance, are grouped together before everything else (I use this one)
  • Starred first - All starred emails are shown first with everything after
  • Priority inbox - Combines the unread, starred, and important styles together by having three groupings; important and unread, starred, and everything else.

2) Labs - This is how you get Gmail humming! Google tries out many new things here that you can partake in by enabling them. You can always turn them off or launch Gmail without labs in case something doesn't go well. You are not at risk of losing your data and I have never had to launch without labs to fix anything. Read through the entire list to see what they have to offer. Here is what I have on:
  • Background Send - Gmail will send your email while you do other things
  • Google Calendar gadget - Adds a box to the left which shows your upcoming events
  • Google Maps previews in mail - Preview of all the addresses found in your email
  • Google Voice player in mail - Play voicemails from Google Voice in Gmail
  • Green Robot! - Chat friends with Android show up as robot icons
  • Mark as Read Button - Creates a mark as read button that is front and center
  • Pictures in chat - See your friends' profile pictures when you chat with them
  • Smartlabels - Categorizes incoming Bulk, Notification or Forum messages
  • Undo Send - Gives you a few seconds to stop an email after hitting send
  • Unread message icon - Shoes your unread message count in your browser's tab (works with Chrome, Firefox, and Opera)
  • Preview Pane - Provides a preview pane to read mail right next to your list of conversations

3) Chat - You have probably noticed the chat window to the left; if not, check it out. You can chat with your contacts right in Gmail. If you don't have any contacts yet send me a chat message at dbin78 to try it out. Back to the setting; you will see that you are automatically saving all chat history. I have found this useful on a couple occasions, but some people turn it off because they do not want the chats saved. While you are working with chat go ahead and set it up for making free calls.

4) Themes - With themes you can choose from different colors and layout designs. Some change with the time of day and weather; you can even create your own. My current choice is "Light". Scroll down to the bottom to set/update your location used for a dynamic theme.

5) General - Keyboard shortcuts can help you work faster by letting you complete certain things without your mouse. To receive pop-up notifications for new chats and emails make sure that both Desktop Notifications are on. I recommend uploading a nice headshot for your picture so that your contacts know who you are. Your signature line should be preceded by one blank line so that it is not crowding you when drafting emails. Two graduated labs, default reply and signature tweaks, are now settings on this page. I suggest checking the "Insert this signature before..." box for cleaner sent emails.

6) Labels and Filters are excellent and powerful tools for organizing your email. They can get complex and be a bit advanced; leave them alone for now until you are more comfortable with Gmail. Check out this video tutorial to learn how to use both.

7) Web Clips - You are no longer able to change these (more information).

8) Offline - Offline access is no longer supported from this screen, but you can get it by installing the Gmail Offline Chrome extension.

9) Gmail Search - The box to the right of the Gmail logo (upper left) is for searching your email. This may become your favorite feature!

Enjoy Gmail! If you have any questions please ask them in the comments below.