I saw on the Gmail blog the other day that Gmail is 5 years old – they launched on April Fool’s Day 2004. Which got me wondering – how long have I been on Gmail? I know I was on pretty early, as my Uncle Michael, an early adopter if ever there was one, sent me an invite back when you could only get a Gmail account if someone invited you. A quick look at my old Gmail account1 shows that I’ve been on Gmail since September 2004. That’s a long freakin’ time.
Anyhoo, what I really wanted to write about are some of my favourite Gmail Labs features. Gmail Labs, for those of you aren’t on Gmail2, is a part of Gmail where they put experimental features – things that someone at Google thought “hey, it would be really cool if my Gmail could do X,” so they designed X and now your everyday average Gmail user can try it out. I gather that once enough people have tried them out and all the bugs have been fixed, they will turn Gmail Labs features into just regular features of Gmail, although I’ve yet to see any Labs features rolled over to regular features.
So, yeah, after all that rambling intro3, here’s what I actually meant to write about: a list of my fav Gmail Labs features (and if you are already a Gmail Labs user, you’ve probably wasted your time reading up until this point as you probably already know all this. Sorry about that):
- Superstars – In regular Gmail, you can put a yellow star next to a message to highlight it – maybe to remind yourself to respond to it later, or perhaps it’s about an event and you want to remember to go to it, or maybe it’s something you want to blog. Superstars allows you add a whole whack of different icons – maybe you use a blue star to remind you to blog about that email, an orange question mark to remind you respond to the email, a green checkmark to remind you to print this email when you get home, etc. I haven’t come up with a totally coherent system for using these yet, but blue star in my world means “blog this.” I have my priorities.
- Sender Time Zone – gives you an indication of the time zone where the sender is from. So you don’t receive an email and decide to call the person, forgetting completely that it’s only 4 a.m. where they are4.
- Send and Archive – one of the great things about Gmail is that all your conversations are threaded. So when you reply to an email, your reply shows up directly under the original email. Back in the old days, you would have to send a reply, then you’d be returned to the inbox and you’d have to select the conversation and archive it. With S&A you can send and archive in one fell swoop click. It sounds like a small thing, but it really, really makes it a lot easier to keep the old inbox down to a reasonable level.
- Forgotten Attachment Detector – so, you know how you write an email that says “hey, here’s that document you wanted,” click send and then go “d’oh! I didn’t attach it!” F.A.D. keeps you from doing that. Basically, if you write into your email something to the effect of “see attached” or “yo, here’s the document you wanted” and then don’t attach anything, when you click send, it gives you a pop up message that says, “hey dumbass, you forgot to attach anything. Dumbass.”5 This feature rocks my world.
- And my favourite of my favourites – although I’ve yet to have occasion to use it – Mail Goggles – you enable this feature before you go out for the evening to prevent you from drunk emailing when you get home. Sure, you can type up that drunk email, but Mail Goggles won’t let you send it until you’ve answered some skill-testing (or should that be sobriety-testing?) mathematical questions.
Also, Gmail Labs wins extra points because you get to the Gmail Labs setting by clicking on a picture of an Erlenmeyer flask.
1As I got my first Gmail account with my then last name and so switched to a new email account when I went back to using Snow. Bah!
2You know who you are!
3Gimme a break. It’s a holiday.
4Everyone in Ontario who might call me should have this feature enabled.
5I may have paraphrased this.