Written by Samantha Bamaca
VP of Business Development

6 Top Gmail Labs and Features You Should Totally Be Using

Oh, hey there Samantha here. Working project management in an agency like Nice Branding is no joke. Seriously. So being that we use Gmail like nobody’s business, I’ve compiled some little known Gmail features that might be of great value to you!

Can we all agree that popping off an email seems to be second nature these days, and face-to-face convos are becoming a thing of the past? This shift in communication culture means that things are happening twice as fast and all at once, and it requires project managers to have a firm grip on productivity tools.

There are tons of emails flying around here, and it’s my job to pluck them out of the interwebs and organize them into a cohesive workflow for our designers and clients. We are dead-set on ensuring that every email gets answered in a timely and friendly fashion, but we’re also adamant that we don’t let our inboxes rule the roost.

This balancing act is tricky business am I right? Raise your hand if you’ve been in my shoes.

Ok, so now let’s get to the good stuff.

Please note that this is a brief departure from our regularly scheduled branding and marketing content, but we thought a quick post on productivity might be worth the deviation. We’ve rounded up six Gmail labs and features that save our sanity around here, and we thought you might want to check them out.

Gmail features Tip 1: Undo Send

Um, this one is kind of a no-brainer, and I’m not sure why anyone would be sending emails out without this enabled. Ever fired off an email and immediately regretted it? Or have you realized that you had a typo in the subject (or better yet, forgot to include a subject line altogether) as soon as you hit send? There’s really no reason you should be living with this sort of anxiety.

Gmail makes it super simple to undo what you’ve just done. “Undo Send”started as a Gmail Lab, but since every single one of us has wished we could have retracted an email, Gmail officially added the feature to its settings.

Before you send even one more email, click on the “Settings”cog at the top right of your inbox, scroll down about halfway, and enable ‘Undo Send’. You can even choose how long you want to have (5, 10, 20, or 30 seconds) to be able to change your mind about inserting that semi-inappropriate giphy hey, we’ve all been there right? Or is it just me? Just me? Ok.

Gmail features

Gmail features Tip 2: Tweak the Layout

This little feature makes more of a difference than you might imagine. Gmail offers users the opportunity for a user to change the way they view their inbox. Since we spend the majority of our days glued to our screens and buried in emails, it’s helpful to format the layout so it works well for you.

You can choose to view your screen at one of three levels – comfortable, cozy, or compact. Check out the difference below and choose your own adventure here. Amazing how a little bit more breathing room impacts your outlook. To tweak your layout view, click on the cog at the top right and select one of the big C’s.

gmail features

Gmail features Tip 3: Manage Your Inbox

Speaking of layout, there’s another change you can make to the format of your inbox that will allow you to actually reach the holy grail we like to refer to as: #INBOXZERO. This feature is super simple to activate but might take a minute to get used to.

Basically, you can switch the style of your inbox so that you have tabs for Primary, Promotions, Updates, and Social. This allows all promotional emails to filter into the promotions tab, which does not impact your “unread emails” count.

Now, if you’re doing any email marketing, let that sink in for a sec. People with this setting enabled are probably not actually going to get to read your emails. We’ve explained more on our blog post here you miiiight want to check it out. There are some ways around this. If you want the secret sauce, give us a call.

To enable this functionality, click on the cog at the top right. Go to “Settings” then “Inbox” and set your Inbox Type to “Default” and save changes. Then you can click on the cog again and jump to “Configure Inbox” to select which tabs you want to have showing.

Note that if you’re using your unread emails as a to-do list, this will no longer work well for you, since unreads won’t filter to the top any longer.

Gmail features Tip 4: Advanced Searching

There are several search options that are little known by the average Gmail user. I find myself using my Gmail account almost as a vault of info and a record of past conversations, so I end up using the little search bar at the top of my inbox almost every day. There are some useful search operators you can access from the basic dialog box to help sift through your emails, and we’ve included them below.

  • to: – Search for messages sent to a specific address.
  • from: – Search for messages sent from a specific address
  • subject: – Search the subject field.
  • label: – Search within a specific label.
  • has:attachment – Search only for messages that have attachments
  • is:chat – Search only chats.
  • in:anywhere – Also search for messages in the spam and trash. By default, Gmail’s search ignores messages in the spam and trash.

Now that we’ve piqued your interest, let’s keep this tip-train rolling.

Putting brackets around your search terms allows you to group the terms. For example, using brackets along with the subject operator, like this subject:(It’s official. You’re Nice!), will pull up only emails containing those words in the subject line. Go ahead, try it! If you got a goose egg, that means you’re not yet an official Nice Branding client what are you waiting for?!

Don’t forget, you can search for “OR” to search for two different terms at the same time. For example, subject:(nice OR girls) would return messages with the word “nice” or the word “girls” in their titles. You can also combine other terms with the OR. For example, from:nice-branding.com OR has:attachment would search for emails that are either from nice-branding.com or includes attachments.

Gmail features Tip 5: Boomerang

Boomerang is a Google Chrome extension that works in conjunction with Gmail to allow users the option to track whether emails are being read and to send or return emails at a later date or time (even if you’re not online). It’s also the only reminder service that can alert you if you do not get a reply to a message.

Boomerang also allows you to postpone incoming emails by making them disappear from your inbox into a folder or label, then bringing them back to the top of the message list at the specified time. This helps you keep your inbox clean without losing track of important messages.

Gmail features Tip 6: Add-Ons

Maybe you’re hooked on the idea of the Boomerang feature but not so sure about installing Chrome extensions. Lucky for you, a couple of months ago Google announced that it will make “add-ons” native, so that you don’t have to use them via browser extensions.

So, why does this matter? It matters because now you will be able to use these features on any device with just one install.

According to an article from BetaNews, “Say a Gmail user receives an email from a sales lead and wants to add that contact to her CRM solution. With Gmail Add-ons, she can enter the contact’s required info and look up their account in that CRM system without leaving Gmail. No more tabbing, copying and pasting, or sifting between mobile apps in order to get things done.”

We are excited about anything that eliminates an extra click and creates a cohesive user experience.

This list of features is by no means an exhaustive compilation. There are so many more Gmail Labs that aren’t mentioned here, and as Gmail says, “Labs is a testing ground for experimental features that aren’t quite ready for primetime. They may change, break, or disappear at any time.” Some of the current labs not mentioned but worth checking out include Google Calendar Gadget, Custom Keyboard Shortcuts, and Quick Links.

We hope, after reading this, you’re as jazzed up about productivity as we are. Leave your favorite Gmail features and labs in the comments so we can check out what helps you win at email.


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