Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Why I love Gmail and you should too.

By Jenny Allsop

Emails. love them or loath them, I’m willing to bet you spend most of your working day sending and receiving them! Since it is such a significant proportion of my work day I firmly believe in making dealing with emails as painless as possible....which is why I use Gmail. I find it so easy, intuitive and reliable I thought I should share the love, so below are my top five Gmail features that help me get through the day.

1. Showing unread or important mail first.
We’ve all been there, ‘I’ll mark this email as unread and come back to it soon’, next thing you know it’s 4 pages back in an overflowing inbox never to see the light of day again. By organising your inbox display it's easier to find the ones that got away and make sure nothing is slipping through the net.

Having organised my inbox to show unread mail first, I can basically use it as a ‘to-do’ list. Marking mail as unread reminds me of what needs to be done and is much easier to work through.

If you would prefer, you are also able to organise your inbox to show important or starred emails first. There is even an option to to show important unread emails first, followed by starred, followed by everything else!

2. Undo
Ever had that moment when you press send, and at that very second realise you’ve addressed the email to the wrong person / not attached the document / sent your boss a picture of your dog wearing glasses (that one might just be me) and wished you could turn back time? Well, now you can. Granted you only get a relatively small window to do so (5, 10, 20, or 30 seconds configurable in Gmail's settings), but it can still be a lifesaver from time to time.

3. Conversation View.
Gmail’s default Conversation View tends to have the marmite effect, you love it or you hate it. Personally, I love it (unlike Marmite!). The good news is, if you don’t like it, it’s just a click of the mouse to turn it off.

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The reason I use conversation view is that Gmail then displays replies to emails (and replies to those emails) in one place, which makes it easier to follow conversations and provide more context. It also means a tidier inbox as all relevant emails are shown as just one conversation. I am also able to reply to specific parts of a conversation, rather than having to send the full conversation with my response, which in turn makes other people’s lives easier.  So everyone’s a winner.

4. integration with Google Apps.
As staff across the University become more reliant on a range of Google apps, particularly Calendar, Docs and Sheets, integration with Gmail could not be smoother. It's easy to manage, link and share files through Gmail, which makes life quicker and easier when both sending and receiving mail.

Being able to insert files through Google Drive also means that there is (theoretically, at least) no limit to the amount or size of files you can attach to an email.

5. Customisable
I appreciate that everyone works differently, and although the points I’ve covered so far are what help me on a daily basis, the fact that much of Gmail’s layout and functionality is customisable may be what helps you.

Here are a few examples that you could try:
Tabs - When using the Tabs option incoming mail is automatically categorised into several optional categories. This allows you to prioritise which type of emails to concentrate on at any given time, meaning that the email thread about who drank all of the office milk isn’t clogging up your priority inbox, but will still be there for you to read later.

Labels. Rather than the traditional ‘folder’ system of storing emails, Gmail allows you to use labels. The key difference being that one email can have several labels, allowing more flexibility in how you store old mail.

Labs. The Labs tab can be found within settings, and has a range of ‘experimental features’ that you can try out , such as the Google Calendar gadget and Custom Keyboard shortcuts. The labs are often changing with new options regularly being added so it is worth checking back every couple of months for any exciting new developments.

It’s important to remember you can always switch back to the original layout, so go ahead and experiment and find out what works for you. 

Above and beyond the highlights I have already mentioned, there are plenty of other features that I use, love and have grown to rely on, including a comprehensive search function, Chat (instant messaging), an excellent SPAM filter and much more. Not to mention that the single sign in through MUSE means that accessing your emails from any desktop computer is a doddle. In addition to this the Gmail app for mobile devices also allows access wherever you are via your mobile or tablet, enabling you to quickly and easily stay up to date when you are on the go.

I’ve told you my top five reasons to use Gmail, now I’d love to hear yours. So,  what’s your favourite Gmail feature? Please let me know in the comments below.