June 13, 2013, 8:00 am
GMail has received more than a few mentions in this space since ProfHacker first launched in 2009. Google has made a number of changes to the service since then, including the introduction of a new inbox that began rolling out to users at the end of May.
The primary feature of the new inbox is the automatic filtering of messages into tabs: primary, social (for notifications from your social networks), promotions (ads), and updates (for mailing lists). The updated apps for iOS and Android function similarly.
I’ve been using the new features for several days now, and I’ve been reasonably impressed so far. The categorization has been accurate, and the labels and filters I’d set up previously have continued to work well.
Though I still prefer to use Postbox when working at my own computer, I’ve appreciated using the web interface when using someone else’s, and I’ve definitely found the…
April 15, 2013, 8:00 am
When Brian wrote about the new Gmail Compose back in November, it was an optional interface. At the end of March, it became the new default compose behavior for Gmail users.
The new interface is deliberately minimal, according to Jason Cornwell, a lead designer at Google. By making the window smaller and hiding the text formatting options that used to make your email compose screen resemble word processing software, Cornwell suggests that the new interface will “give you permission to write shorter messages.” (To access the text formatting options in the new interface, click on the underlined capital A next to the Send button.)
Many productivity experts like Leo Baubauta of Zen Habits and the crew at five.sentenc.es have been arguing that overly long emails larded with quoted replies deter good communication and often languish unread.
But even for writers of pithy emails,…
April 4, 2013, 11:00 am
We all know that e-mail is one of the great distractions of our profession, a never-ending source of things to do other than the thing you really should be doing. We’ve certainly written a lot about e-mail a lot here at ProfHacker. A lot of the advice people give about e-mail boils down to, check it less frequently, and process it sensibly. But if you want to send off an e-mail, say to a class list or to a collaborator, you have to open your e-mail program and check your mail. What happens next? You’re doing whatever is in your inbox because you can’t help yourself.
But if you’re a user of Gmail, there’s a simple solution. Open this URL, then bookmark it. Now you can open a compose e-mail window and hit send, all without having to see anything in your inbox.
To give credit where credit is due, I got this idea from
March 25, 2013, 11:00 am
It can happen to anyone. You’ve been extra busy, or a family member was sick, or you just had your mind on other things. You thought you were dealing with your email, but you were just reading the urgent items.
Suddenly, your email inbox is filling up: the count of unread messages (or, perhaps even worse, messages that have been read but not actually dealt with) has crept into the triple digits. (Maybe even the quadruple digits.)
You vow to sit down and clean it out. But you only get through a screenful or two at a time and you can’t imagine how you will ever handle this backlog.
Here’s a simple tip that really helps. Sort your inbox by the name of the sender. This will allow you to quickly see groups of messages that you can delete without reading. Some of these include:
- outdated announcements of events
- old newsletters or bulletins
- notifications from online services
February 22, 2013, 11:00 am
One of the most frustrating things about sending documents by email is processing signatures. For many of us, this often means printing out documents, signing them and then scanning them–a painfully slow process. Some of us may use applications such as GoodReader and iAnnotate to sign documents directly from mobile devices, but they can often be overkill for a simple signature.
I’ve been really impressed so far by a new app called HelloSign, which allows you to sign documents directly from your Gmail account.
March 30, 2012, 11:00 am
Email. It often seems we’re inundated with it, like it or not. We’ve written a lot here at ProfHacker about managing it, including scheduling it with Boomerang, which works with both Outlook (free for the first 30 days, $29.95 to keep) and GMail (available in free, $4.99/month, and $14.99/month plans).
For me, the ability to schedule email is important. Sometimes I need or want to write an email while I’m thinking about it, but for whatever reason I don’t want to send it right away—and I simply don’t trust myself to remember to go back to my drafts folder and find it to send later. My mind is much more at ease when I’m able to just write the email, schedule it, and forget about it.
Though being able to schedule email is important for me, I don’t need to do it terribly often, so Boomerang’s free plan is usually sufficient for my purposes. Still, I was glad to have two…
December 16, 2011, 8:00 am
There is a principle in writing software, which also applies to hacking your life: “profile, then optimize.” The idea is that you should gather data first, which will then let you know where the biggest gains are to be found by making optimizations. That’s why the data junkies at ProfHacker are big on gathering information about yourself with tools like Ask My Every and 750 Words.
One area where it’s fairly easy to gather data is your e-mail inbox. Here are two ways to gather statistics about how you use e-mail. (Sorry, but these two only work for users of Gmail or Google Apps e-mail. With a little looking, you can probably find other ways of doing the same thing with different e-mail programs.) (more…)
September 8, 2011, 8:00 am
Longtime readers of this blog may recall that we’ve written about the Boomerang service for GMail before.
Essentially, Boomerang is a browser plugin that allows you to compose an email right now but schedule it to automatically be sent later, at a date and time of your choosing. In certain situations, this can be a very convenient feature to have (and it’s one that’s missing from the native Gmail tools).
After updating the main service in June, the folks at Baydin released a mobile version in mid-August.
July 14, 2011, 8:00 am
Back in November, I wrote about Boomerang, a GMail add-on that makes it possible to schedule emails, and to follow up on them if needed (by, e.g., having the message returned to the inbox if no response is received in a user-determined period of time). It’s an incredibly useful tool, and it’s one of the reasons I keep coming back to GMail’s web interface, despite my appeciation for Sparrow’s elegance.
In the months since I wrote that review, the folks at Boomerang have been working on some tweaks that make the service a bit more usable. The changes focus on making Boomerang faster and easier to use. The changes that I find most useful are the integration of “at a specific time” into the Send Later menu and the addition of the Boomerang menu at the top of the GMail screen; both make it quicker and easier to access the functions I use most often. Those who use multiple GMail accounts…
June 27, 2011, 8:00 am
Last month I covered an easy way to create keyboard shortcuts for anything. Using the built-in tools of Mac OS X or AutoHotkey in Windows, you can customize keystrokes for any program to help you get your work done faster. Of course, many of us do our work in browsers these days. You can use shortcuts to control the browser itself—using Ctrl-T / Cmd-T to open a new tab, for example—but that will almost never help you control the specifics of a site.