Blog Post

A Six-Pack of Gmail Hacks

I use a lot of Google’s (s goog) applications to stay organized and productive, but I’m especially fond of Gmail. In its standard form, it’s a fine email client that makes it easy to stay on top of that mountain of email, but with a little customization you can use it to become even more efficient. Here are six super ways to send Gmail into productivity overdrive.

1: Enable super stars.

You know how Gmail has the standard Gmail star, enabling you to highlight certain emails in your mailbox? Now you can make it a super star! Enable Superstars within Labs (found in “Settings”). Once enabled, you can select the super stars you’d like to use by dragging and dropping them within the “General” tab under “Settings.”

Gmail Super Stars

I use the red and yellow exclamation points to mark items that are work-related and require some action on my part (red indicates something more pressing than yellow). I use the purple question mark for pending payments, deposits and other things I’m waiting for.

2. Use advanced search and spend less time keeping things organized with labels.

I don’t really use labels/folders in Gmail, because the search functionality is so easy to use. If I need to find something related to a particular client, I just type the client’s name and find it that way.

The advanced search functionality allows you to search within a date range (say within a month of a particular date), so finding a particular email is generally easy and requires a lot less upkeep than folders, unless you set up filters to maintain this for you).

Search Gmail

The best tip for searching is to use very specific search terms. If you can remember a particular phrase, name, or keyword that was used and the approximate date it was emailed, you’ll reduce your search results tremendously, making it even faster to locate information.

3. Save on typing with canned responses.

Canned Responses is another Lab gadget that’s really handy. If you type a lot of the same messages over and over, you can save them as canned responses so that it saves you on typing. (Celine wrote an excellent post giving some great tips on boosting productivity using Canned Responses.) Just click the canned response, and it automatically appears within the email.

Canned Email Responses

4. Save button clicking with send & archive.

Yet another Labs feature that shaves time off processing email is Send & Archive, which Jenny wrote about previously. With it enabled, you’ll see another button (“Send & Archive”) next to the regular “Send” button. When you compose a message or response, simply click it to automatically archive the entire conversation after sending your message.

Send and Archive

5. Enable in-Gmail Twittering with the TwitterGadget.

The TwitterGadget allows you to see and manage your Twitter account right within Gmail. It even has separate tabs for monitoring different types of activity within your Twitter account, like replies. Plus, you can add updates to your Twitter account right within the gadget.

Twitter Gadget

6. Use the other Google tools available within Gmail.

The best part of using Google Apps to stay organized is that all of the tools are available within one interface. You can access your Calendar, Reader, Docs and Photos right from your Gmail account. Take advantage of them and save time by not having to visit other sites.

Google Tools

Although I use many other online applications to stay organized, Gmail has to top the list, and with all the Firefox extensions and gadgets available to soup it up, managing email is getting easier and easier.

What are your favorite Gmail hacks? If you have a tip for increasing the speed and efficiency of managing email, please share it.

7 Responses to “A Six-Pack of Gmail Hacks”

  1. Amber Riviere

    @ playandbefree – Glad it helps! I know, it’s easy to miss the little tricks of all the tools we use.

    @ Jan – That sounds like a great system! I need to get better about using filters; they’re a real time-saver.

    @ Scott – Thanks! That’s a great idea. I enabled QuickLinks, but never found a good way to use it (’til now!). Great tip.

  2. I have my home email forwarded to me using the “Check mail using POP3” (found in the Accounts and Import tab of Settings) and I have a Read Later Label. Then I enabled Multiple Inboxes and set up 3 boxes for starred items (I use super stars as well), my home email, and the Read Later label. Going through my inbox is very fast using this system. I use labels a lot but also use Search to find what I need.