For quite a while, Google has been releasing add-on features for a good number of their web applications. Gmail, Calendar and Reader all have several user selectable features. Links to these experimental add-ons can be found on the Google Labs page. Not all of the add-ons are perfect, but they are kid tested and mother approved.
Here is a quote about the Labs add-ons from the top of the Gmail Labs page:
“Gmail Labs is a testing ground for experimental features that aren’t quite ready for primetime. They may change,break or disappear at any time.
If (when) a Labs feature breaks, and you’re having trouble loading your inbox, there’s an escape hatch. Use http://mail.google.com/mail/?labs=0.”
I apparently have nothing better to do with my time than add fancy features to my Gmail. I’ll go ahead and save you the time of figuring out which of the Gmail Labs add-ons you should head for and give you the top 10 to get you started.
1. Send and Archive
This add on is great if, for example, you send a group email. Even if you have the original message in a folder and labeled, replies will often show up in your inbox. Instead of clicking on the send button when you send a follow up reply, click the Send and Archive button. Doing this will remove the message thread from your inbox making it viewable in the labeled folder.
2. Mark as Read Button
You would think this is a feature that was built in from the start, but it wasn’t. Having this button will let you batch mark all of the selected emails as read. Big time saver if you don’t want to open them all individually.
3. Hide Unread Counts
I don’t use this one anymore because I worked out a good system for automating most of my incoming emails. This feature, however, is a good one for people who leave everything in their inbox, yet hate knowing how many unread messages you are ignoring.
4. Canned Responses
Think of canned responses like a vacation or out of office reply. You can have this pre-thought out reply sent to anyone with selected keyword, email address, in response to an ad you posted or in reply to the contact form on your site. When setting up your filter(s), one of the actions you can select is to send a canned response.
5. Mail Goggles
If you are have poor math skills when you are not tired or haven’t been drinking, this add-on should probably be avoided. Here is how Mail Goggles works. If you try to send an email during a user specified time period, say 10 PM to 4 AM, you will be asked to do a 3 simple math problems. This may seem simple enough. If you get the problems wrong, the email is saved to your Drafts folder instead.
When basic addition and subtraction seem like quantum physics, it may be a good indicator you need to catch a couple hours sleep. Odds are your seemingly well crafted email, is probably not quite ready to be sent.
6. Text Messaging (SMS) in Chat
Sending a quick SMS is a nice little addition to the mini chat gadget in your Gmail navigation bar. When you hover over the contact you wish to SMS, a pop up box appears. In the “More” drop down is an option to send an SMS. If the person signs into to Gtalk, you have an option to toggle to chat. This keeps the previous conversation in the same window.
The SMS feature is currently for USA phones only.
7. Navbar Drag and Drop
Drag all of the widgets in the left sidebar to the order that makes sense to you.
8. Undo Send
How many times have you wanted to unsend an email because you forgot to add a file. Maybe you said something you instantly regret saying. This little gem gives you the chance you to unsend the email for up to 10 seconds after you sent it. You CAN actually take your words back.
If you activate this add-on, Gmail will place an optional shortcut icon on your Desktop. Each time you open up Gmail while you have an active internet connection, Offline will sync your email to your computer. You will have access to the majority of the features you need like composing, reading, searching, moving things into folder, etc. You obviously can’t send or receive new emails if you do not have a network connection. When you reconnect, all of your changes are synced and composed emails are sent.
10. Filter Import/Export
Exporting all of the filters you have worked hard to create is just plain smart. Imagine having to redo all of them over again, one by one. I have about 40 filters so this is a huge time saver if anything were to happen. After you export the XML file, you can email it to yourself for safe keeping.
For those of you who aren’t using any of the additional 50+ add-on features Gmail has to offer… shame on you! Don’t you know there are needy people using Hotmail that would love to have what you have?
How have you personalized your Gmail inbox?