Five Friday FavesTechnology

My five favorite features of Gmail (that you may or may not even know about)

By August 21, 2015 No Comments


I am a Google fan, it’s true.  And this fandom all started back in 2006 when I converted my email over to Gmail. During those early years (cue background monologue music), I mostly used it as a tool for emailing.  Surprising, right? (cue sarcastic tone)  You know the saying, “I don’t know what I don’t know,”?  Well, that’s where I was when I first started using Gmail.  But, now, my friends, my daily life, both personal and professional is made easier by some pretty cool features, all accessible from my Gmail screen.  I have often shared these five with teachers as they can be such time savers in the classroom, but this week, I also shared them with a financial adviser.  These features are equal opportunity workflow solutions.

Here are my Five Friday Faves: Gmail edition:


1. Filters – For #1 and #2 on my list, go to your little gear icon in the upper right portion of your gmail screen.  Select “Settings” and you’ll see a window with these tabs:

Screenshot 2015-08-21 at 9.48.45 AM

Click on the “Filters” tab to create filters.  You will see a link at the bottom of this screen that looks like this: Screenshot 2015-08-21 at 9.49.41 AM

Simply click “Create a new filter”, then fill in only the boxes you want applied.  I use this for “From” and input email addresses.  For example, I have a filter for my husband’s email address.  So, when I created that filter, I typed in his address and simply clicked “Create filter with this search” in the lower right-hand corner.  Then, I named the filter “Ben” (super complicated formula to decide on the name – ha).  Now, any email he sends me automatically gets the label “Ben” applied to it (which will be explained in #2 of my list, so hang in there).  I have a filter set for my boss, and for another guy I do copy editing work for.  Now on to why these filters are handy…

2. Labels – Labels are an organizers dream.  I have, maybe, been accused of being a bit neurotic when it comes to folders (in Drive) and labels (in gmail), ahem.  But I pay those disorganized fools no mind.  You can manage your labels through the tab in settings, shown above, but creating them couldn’t be easier.  You can create them in this tab, but I always just create them from my gmail home screen (because who wants to open multiple boxes if you don’t have to, right?).  In the name of (almost) full-disclosure, here is a partial screenshot of some of my labels: Screenshot 2015-08-21 at 10.02.28 AMAnd that is just through the “b’s”, people.  Here is how it’s handy.  I bank online, and receive my bills online.  So, this morning I got my cell phone bill and a credit card bill.  I simply checked the boxes beside the messages, clicked on the label button at the top of my gmail screen  Screenshot 2015-08-21 at 10.04.28 AM and start typing “bills”.  That label comes up, I click it, which applies the label to the two messages, and then I hit the archive button to “file” them away for future reference. If I want to create a new label, I go through the same process, but when one already created doesn’t appear, it will give me the option to create a new one.  Done.  Simple.  And I can even nest labels under umbrella labels, and so on.

3. Boomerang Screenshot 2015-08-21 at 9.46.28 AM  Boomerang for Gmail, and Boomerang Calendar are both extensions that you can find on the Chrome Web Store.  Boomerang for Gmail lets you write emails, but schedule them to be sent at a later time.  It also lets you mark emails, and send them to a Boomerang folder (see my label above), and then tell it when to move it back into your inbox.  These features are awesome for keeping your priorities organized without forgetting to take care of something else.  Boomerang Calendar allows you to click some open time slots on your calendar, it sends a email to your recipients showing them the open times.  This makes scheduling appointments so much simpler without having to give calendar access to the individuals.  They do not have to have an account to use that feature, either.
4. Stars – The star feature in Gmail is also for organizational ease (noticing a trend here?).  Screenshot 2015-08-21 at 10.16.10 AM This article by Ian Paul easily explains how he uses the Star feature, and how to set it up.  Admittedly, this is the least used (by me) of my Five Friday Faves, as I prefer the filter/label system.  But if that seems like too much for you, check out Ian’s post.
5. Calendar – If you have a Gmail account, and don’t use your Google Calendar then…well, I want to help you with that.  🙂  I have six different calendars within my one calendar.  I have my personal, daily calendar, a calendar that is shared between my husband and I (this one has all of our kids’ activities, and those of our own which will require the other person to be responsible for the kids during that time), a work calendar, birthday calendars, and so on. They each have a different color so I can look at one page and see each different color-coded activity/reminder.  I can also click out of any I choose to not see at the moment to focus in on just one.  As a teacher, you could share a “period 1” calendar with the students in that class, and post assignments, embed links, etc. and it would go to just those students.  You can share a calendar with other teachers or administrators on your team to schedule meetings, and collaborate on projects.  These uses are only the tip of the iceberg, but useful in getting started with your calendar.


I’m hoping some or all of these features help your daily life go a bit smoother, making more time for you to sit, sip some coffee, and smile at the day ahead.  Happy Friday, Everyone!