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Double Stamp is an easy-to-understand guide to useful computer and internet technology. It's written to be readable by everyday computer users.

Gmail Features Everyone Should Know

Google's Gmail is by far the best web-based email system to date. In fact, I prefer it to any other email client that is on the market, including programs such as Microsoft's Outlook or Mozilla's Thunderbird. It's quiet design is refreshing, and the threaded conversations keep your inbox nice and tidy. On top of the great design, there are some powerful tools that allow Gmail users to organize and track their email very efficiently. Let's face it, most of you use your email multiple times every day. Isn't it worth a little time learning how to get your Gmail running like a well oiled machine? If you don't have Gmail, you can sign up for a free account if you'd like to try it.

Trick #1: Tracking Your Email with a "+"

When you add a "+sometexthere" to your email address in Gmail, it will still arrive in your inbox. For example, let's say that your email address is bob@gmail.com. Sending an email to bob+doublestamp@gmail.com, or bob+anything@gmail.com will still send the email to bob@gmail.com. Why is this useful? Because you can track where people are getting your email address from.

Next time you go to sign up for something on the internet, add a "+website" to your email address. For example, if you are signing up for ebay, you could sign up using the email bob+ebay@gmail.com. Now, if you start receiving tons of spam, all of which are addressed to "bob+ebay@gmail.com," you will know that ebay shared your information with other companies!

Note: Sometimes websites won't allow you to place a "+" character in your email. If this is the case, use trick #2.

Trick #2: Dots don't matter

Dots in Gmail addresses are ignored. That means that if you send an email to double.stamp@gmail.com, it's the same as sending it to doublestamp@gmail.com or d.oubl.e.st.am.p@gmail.com. This can be handy if the "+" is not allowed by a website to which you are signing up. Instead, you can add dots in certain places, then write down where you put them for a given website. For example, if you sign up for ebay, you could use b.o.b@gmail.com instead of bob@gmail.com. If you start getting spam addressed to b.o.b, then you know that ebay spilled the beans on you.

This trick can be useful to sign up for multiple accounts on the same website, since most will not allow you to use an email address that is already registered in their system.

Trick #3 (not really a trick): Using filters and labels

One of the best things about gmail is the ability to easily create custom filters to organize your incoming email. You can filter your email in almost any way that you can think of. For example, let's say that you would like to redirect any email that has the word "AOL" directly to your trash folder (I hate AOL). You would just go to Settings->Filters->Create New Filter and fill out the form appropriately. On the next page, you just check the box that says "delete it," and your done.

A "label" is exactly that, a label or tag on your emails. You can set up a "label" based on your filter criteria. For example, you could apply the label "family" to any email that arrives from someone in your family. Labels can help you quickly find past emails, and they keep your inbox tidy.

An example: Slammin' that Spam

Time for a real world example of how to use all these gmail features. These instructions will help you set up a spam bustin' system.

  1. Set up a "junk email" gmail account. Something like yourname.junk@gmail.com.
  2. Set the new junk account to forward all your email to your real account. To do this, go to Settings -> Forwarding and Pop and fill out the box.
  3. Set up a FILTER in your real gmail account. In the filter criteria, place your junk email address in the "FROM:" box so that the filter will be applied to any emails forwarded from your junk mail account.
  4. Next, choose to "Apply a label" and select "New label..."
  5. Name the label something like "Junk account" or "Bulk mail"
  6. Click "Create filter."
Da-duh! You're done. Now, when you sign up for that next website, put in your JUNK email address, and use the "+" or "." trick (as discussed above) to tag the site. If that website sends you an email, you will still receive it in your real email because it will automatically forward. You will see who is responsible for the email by looking at the "+tag" part of the email. If you start getting too much spam in your real email address, all you have to do is either stop the forwarding, or create a filter in the junk mail account! Spaminora!

3 comments:

JorgenMan said...

Excellent tips! For everyone who whines that Google is taking over the internet, I just have to say that it's because their products kick everyone else's butt. Yet another reason to use Gmail (as if IMAP weren't reason enough).

Jason said...

Great tips, I use many of them regularly now.

I do have a question though.

Is it possible to send one email to everyone within a particular label? I have been searching religiously for an answer to this seemingly simple problem with no luck at all.

Doughy said...

Jason,

Can you clarify your question a little more? Are you simply trying to create a contact group so that you can organize groups of recipients, or are you trying to have gmail scan all emails within a label, and have it gather those email addresses?