- Posted by Nigel Edelshain
- On July 1, 2015
When you buy a new car, you can customize it with different options to give yourself the best driving experience. Considering how much time the average American office worker spends reading and dealing with email, why shouldn’t your inbox be the same way?
Every email client offers some degree of customization, but some offer more than others. One setting that got a lot of attention last week is “undo send” in Gmail, which, when enabled, adds the option to call back a message for a set period of time (up to thirty seconds) after you click send. (Technically, undo send just puts outgoing messages in an outbox-like limbo until the set time passes or you’ve changed your mind and clicked undo.)
What many of the 900 million Gmail users out there don’t know is that undo send has actually been available for more than six years as one of Gmail’s “Labs” features. Gmail Labs is a so-called “testing ground” for new and experimental features—19 of them following the official rollout of undo send—some of which could be just what you’re looking for to simply or automate routine tasks. They’re even available for Google Apps accounts if your account administrator has enabled them. Here are some of the best Labs features you may not know about.
1. Canned responses
Have you ever wished that you could automate responses to standard requests that you receive all the time? That’s exactly what this Labs features does. Once it’s enabled, you can queue up directions for accessing your hospital’s style guide or the link to your digital newsletter, then send any of your canned responses with the click of a button.
2. Right side chat
Gchat, or Hangouts as it’s known these days, is a great way to keep in touch with friends and coworkers without leaving your inbox, but the location underneath your label list may not be the most convenient. This simple setting takes advantage of your screen’s horizontal real estate and moves the Hangouts widget to a column on the right side. If you’re a regular Hangouts user, it won’t be long before you’ve forgotten it was ever located anywhere else.
3. Custom keyboard shortcuts
There are two types of people in this world: those who use keyboard shortcuts and those who don’t. If you’re in the former group, Gmail has an extensive list of shortcuts (just press ? to see them all) so you never have to touch your mouse while you’re in your inbox. If you don’t like any of the shortcuts set up by the developers at Google, the custom keyboard shortcuts setting lets you reassign them to anything you like. This is particularly useful if you’re switching from another email client and you’re already used to different keyboard shortcuts.
4. Preview pane
This is another Labs feature that’s useful if you’re switching from another client like Outlook. Instead of switching screens when you click on a message, it’ll instead open up next to the message list, letting you easily switch back and forth between different messages. For longer messages, you won’t have to scroll up to see header info like the sender’s name, subject line, and date.
5. Unread messages icon
Stop clicking on the Gmail tab in your browser to see if you’ve received any unread messages with this handy setting. It’ll add a number to the favicon (the Gmail icon next to the name on the tab bar) showing the number of unread messages in your inbox. Fair warning: This is only useful if you don’t have a ton of unread messages in your inbox, as the icon always shows “99+” when it reaches 100 or more.
6. Mark as read button
Marking more than a few messages as read before you archive them can be a real hassle. This Labs feature adds a button next to the trio of archive, spam, and delete buttons that marks all selected messages in your inbox or chosen label as read. This is particularly helpful if you’re trying to reach Inbox Zero!
7. Quick links
Did you know that every label or search in Gmail has a unique URL? With the quick links feature, you can save frequent searches for easy access with just a click. Considering how quick and powerful the Gmail search box is, this one could save you more time than all the others combined.
8. Quote selected text
This setting replaces another feature you may miss if you’ve switched from Outlook or another email client. When you need to highlight only a portion of a message you’re replying to, the quote selected text feature will, well, quote the selected text. You can select text with the keyboard or the mouse, so this one’s handy no matter which group from #3 you fall in.