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GoogleApps_July02_CGoogle is always innovating and releasing new services or features for their existing platforms. Gmail is no different and it seems like there are always service updates aimed at making the platform bigger and better. Did you know that Google has a number of experimental features that can enable to help you get more out of Gmail?

What exactly is Labs?
Google Labs, and more specifically the version associated with Gmail, is a program where experimental and new features can be activated and tried by users. Many of the innovations found in Labs are useful and bring a lot of extra functionality to the platform.

You can access Labs by:

  1. Logging into Gmail.
  2. Pressing the Cog in the top-right, and selecting Settings.
  3. Clicking on Labs in the window that opens. It will be in the white menu bar that goes across the screen.

You can also access Labs by going to: as long as you are logged in.

All the different features are shown when you scroll down. If you find one you think sounds interesting, or would like to use, tick the Enable button, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on Save Changes. Gmail will then reload and the new feature should be activated.

Four useful Labs features
Here are four features that can be found in Labs that improve Gmail. You can find these by going to Labs, and entering the feature’s name in the search bar beside Search for a lab:.

1. Custom Keyboard Shortcuts
This function, as the name states, gives you the ability to set custom keyboard shortcuts. You can also remap (change the key you hit) existing shortcuts so they better suit your preference. e.g., you can set a shortcut where you press Shift+F to forward a message in a new window. Or you can change the default shortcut for Reply All to any key you want.

When you enable this function, you will be able to access and change shortcuts by:

  1. Clicking on the Cog from any Gmail window.
  2. Selecting Settings.
  3. Clicking on Keyboard Shortcuts and changing the shortcuts as you like.
  4. Pressing Save Changes.

2. Unread message icon
This feature will add a counter to the tab that you have Gmail open in, in your browser. The counter hovers over the Gmail icon, and displays how many new emails you have in your inbox. It works on Chrome (version 6 and later), FireFox (version 2 and later), and Opera.

If you are looking for a way to stay on top of emails in your inbox, while getting other work done, this feature should help.

3. Preview Pane
While Gmail is popular, it isn’t necessarily the best for users receiving a high number of emails each day, especially because you have to click on each email to read the contents. Preview Pane is a feature that makes reading your emails quicker.

When you enable this feature you will see that your inbox has now been divided into three parts, with your emails in the middle. When you click on an email it will open in the new preview pane on the right-hand side of the window, allowing you to read your email without opening it fully.

4. Canned Responses
If you find yourself adding the same response to multiple emails, why not create one response to use for the same question and save yourself a bit of time. This feature allows you to do exactly that. When you enable it, you can develop a response by:

  1. Finding an email with a question, comment, etc. that you find yourself writing the same response to.
  2. Pressing Reply and writing your reply in the email.
  3. Pressing the downward facing black arrow at the bottom-right of the message, and hovering your mouse over Canned responses.
  4. Clicking on New Canned response… under Save.
  5. Adding a name for the response and pressing OK.

This will save the response for future use. The next time you get a similar email, press Reply followed by the downward facing black arrow. Hover your mouse over Canned responses and select your chosen response name under Insert. The message should be automatically placed in the email body. You can then press Send.

There are many useful features of Gmail that are make it increasingly popular. If you are wondering how it can help your business, or how your business can get more out of Gmail, please contact us today.

Published on 2nd July 2013 by Jeanne DeWitt.

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