October 20th, 2010

Gmail Labs: In-Depth

Gmail Labs is a gift from Google to all Gmail and Google Apps users that allows you to try out some nifty new features in Gmail that aren’t quite ready for prime time.

Not that they’re those weird shows that you find on public access or day time TV. Most of them are actually pretty nifty and reliable.

Gmail Lab’s

gmail labs Gmail Labs: In DepthHere’s a list of Labs that are offered in Gmail in alphabetical order. After the list, I cover some of the labs a bit more in-depth. Ed. Note: This is a COMPLETE list of all the Google Lab options. Meaning it’s long. Feel free to skip ahead to the bottom if you’d rather just see the more in-depth coverage.

Add Any Gadget By URL:

Ever wish you could take advantage of iGoogle Gadgets in your Email Inbox? Maybe put your to-do manager or the Dropbox gadget in there for easy access? This gadget lets you do that!

Advanced IMAP Controls:

Using IMAP? This is an awesome lab feature for you. It allows you to:

  • Choose what labels show up in IMAP
  • Disable auto-message expunging
  • Track messages when their deleted from IMAP

Apps Search:

This is simply amazing if you’re a Google Apps user. Turning on this lab allows you to search not just your Gmail inbox, but also your Google Docs and Google Sites on your domain.

Authentication Icon for Verified Senders:

Ever wish there was a way to tell which eBay and PayPal emails were really from eBay and PayPal. Enter this lab: it displays a key icon from verified senders allowing you to quickly identify valid emails.

Back to BETA:

Alright, I have NO idea why anyone would need this, but if for some reason you are holding a grudge about Gmail leaving Beta and would like to pretend it’s still there, then I guess it’s the lab feature for you.

Canned Responses:

Save common responses and easily send them. You can even automate canned responses for certain filters. We’ll talk about this lab a little more in depth later.

Create a Document

Ever want to create a document once you receive an email? Maybe you were sent meeting notes in an email that you want to turn into a document so you can upload it elsewhere and not have it get lost in Inbox Purgatory. Or you received an assignment and like to immediately create a text document for it. Either way, the Create a Document Lab makes it easy by hitting “g then w.”

Custom Date Formats

This is a simple lab that will appeal to quite a few people. Want to make your time read in military time? Want to set your dates European style? Custom Date Formats has you covered.

Custom Keyboard Shortcuts

This lab adds a setting feature that lets you create custom-mapped keyboard shortcuts! Sooo nifty!

Default “Reply to All”

This lab is pretty self-explanatory-it makes “Reply to All” your default. That can be handy, but make sure that you remember it’s your default!

Default Text Styling

Another pretty self-explanatory lab. This one allows you to easy change and style your default text.

Don’t Forget Bob

Enabling this labs enables Gmail to do a cool thing-you type in some recipents you’re sending the email too and Gmail will generate a list of people who you might want to include based on your emailing habits. Never leave someone out of a group email again!

Extra Emoji

This lab is pretty simple and a bit silly-it creates a larger selection of emoticon options.

Filter Import/Export

This allows for 2 different options:

  • Export: Export your filters as a file, save them for backup or share them to help a friend out.
  • Import: Import the file of filters, and activate them in Gmail.

We’ll talk more about this lab later on.

Flickr Previews in Gmail

Pretty self-explantory-See a preview of any Flickr pictures sent to you, right in Gmail. This is quite a time saver-especially if you have friends who like to frequently send you photos.

Google Calendar Gadget

Remember how I mentioned being able to add iGoogle Gadgets by URL earlier in the post? Same deal, but it’s automatic and specifically for Google Calendar! This is a super nifty feature for quick reference when you need to quickly get back to someone on a meeting time or project deadline/estimate.

Google Docs Gadget

Just like how you can easily add a Goog,le Calendar Gadget in Gmail, you can also add a Google Docs Gadget that can let you view recent and starred documents, and also includes a quick search bar.

Google Docs Preview

This is quite possibly my favorite Gmail Lab. No, I take that back. It is my favorite Gmail Lab. It allows you to quickly preview documents, spreadsheets, and presentations right in your inbox. It also gives you the option to quickly open the attachment in Google Docs. So handy!

Google Maps Preview in Mail

Another nifty lab-this one scans the email for any addresses listed in the email and shows a Google Map of the location.

Google Search

Ever been writing an email and need to quickly reference something? Yea, me too. Thankfully, the Google Search Lab makes it easy! It displays the Google Search bar right in your email enabling you to find things easily-fast.

Google Voice Player in Mail

If you’re a heavy Google Voice user, this lab is going to be your new best friend. It allows you to play Google Voice voicemails right from the notification email.

Got the Wrong Bob?

Let’s face it, having multiple contacts with the same name is super-common. Ever auto-fill your contact by first name and realize it’s the wrong one? That can be a minor inconvience…or  a big problem. This lab helps to prevent that by asking if you meant to email someone else instead based on frequently used groups of contacts. [Note: Only works if you’re sending the email to 2 or more people]

Green Robot

Not sure whether someone is at the computer or using their phone? The Green Robot lab lets you know! [Note: Only works if the person is using an Android phone.]

Hide Labels From Subjects

Perfect for if you’re working on a netbook with a small screen, the Hide Labels from Subject lab, well, it hides the labels from the subjects.

Hide Read Labels

Love your labels and filters, but hate them cluttering up your email sidebar? Me too! Which is why this is my second favorite lab-it hides any unread labels from view, showing only the labels with unread messages in them.

Hide Unread Counts

I think that heading covered it pretty well.

Inbox Preview

This is a nifty lab that shows you a static preview of your inbox while you’re waiting for Gmail to load.

Inseting Images

This lab allows you to insert images directly into an email either by uploading a file or using a direct URL.

Mail Goggles

Ok, at first glance this email seems really silly, but I’ve actually found it to be useful. The labs actual purpose is to help prevent you from sending drunk emails by making you answer a few math problems in a specified amount of time-you can pick which level of math problems you want to be quizzed on. The default is for Friday and Saturday nights. HOWEVER, I find it helpful to me as a check as to when my designated work hours are over and my personal life hours have begun. I set-up the lab to pop-up during “off-hours” to remind me that I should no longer be working for the day. It’s a helpful work-life balance reminder.

Mark As Read From Here Button

This lab enables you to save a few mouse scrolls (or clicks?) by creating a Mark As Read Button that sits right next to the delete button. Nifty!

Message Sneak Peek

Ever get an email when you’re on your way out somewhere or in the middle of something? You know you won’t have time to respond, but you’ve been waiting on an answer? Message Sneak Peek to the rescue! It allows you to right click on a message and get a “sneak peek” of the email without marking it as read.

Message Translation

This lab is pretty straightforward. Using Google Translate, it allows you to translate emails from one language to another. Pretty nifty for those of you who work with international clients.

Mouse Gestures

Personally, I’m much more of a keyboard navigation person myself, but if you find yourself unable to ditch the mouse, this lab is definitely for you-it allows you to use gestures as control instead of clicking. Unfotunately for Mac users, it works best on Windows.

Multiple Inboxes

Gmail filters are an absolute god-send, but wouldn’t it be awesome if you could view the filters as an inbox in itself? That’s exactly what the person who created Multiple Inboxes was thinking! I’ll go over it a bit more later in the post.

Navbar Drag and Drop

Another self-explanatory-but useful! lab-this one allows you to easy re-order the items in your Gmail Navigation Bar by using Drag-and-Drop.

Nested Labels

Gmail Labels-some people love them, some people miss their folders and folder heirarchy. If you’re the later, you NEED to try Nested Labels.

“Manage your email by sorting it into a hierarchy of labels. Add slashes (/) to label names to express inheritance. For example, if you want a Home label with two child labels named Kids and Shopping, create the three following labels: Home, Home/Kids and Home/Shopping.”

Old Snakey

This is probably the only lab that will DECREASE your productivity instead of increasing it, but if you’re into old school games and have some self-discipline, you might want to check it out. Turn on Gmail keyboard shortcuts, hit the & key, and play an old-school game of Snake right in Gmail.

Picasa Previews in Mail

This is just like the aforementioned Flickr Previews in Gmail, except with PIcasa.

Pictures in Chat

Personally, I think this is pretty useless, but the lab enables you to see people’s picture when you use Google Talk in Gmail.

Quick Links

 Gmail Labs: In DepthQuick Links is  a nifty lab that creates a little box in the upper left-hand corner that allows you to bookmark any Gmail URL-such as frequently used searches or important individual messages. Huge time saver.

Quote Selected Text

Another pretty self-explanatory lab-this one allows you to easily quote selected text when replying to an email. Perfect for when you’re answering a long list of questions.

Refresh POP Accounts

Gmail has a tendency to not like to update POP accounts. Enabling this lab solves this problem by allowing you to refresh your POP accounts at will.

Right-Side Chat

Conveniently allows you to…move Google Talk to the right-side of your email inbox!

Send and Archive

Gmail doesn’t automatically archive sent emails-and doesn’t have a built-in easy way to do it. You have to do it manually, which is a pain. Thankfully, this lab exists. It creates a nifty button right next to the send button called “Send and Archive” allowing you to automatically archive sent emails that you want to save. Genius!

Sender Time Zone

If you work with multiple people across multiple time-zones it can be tricky to remember what time it is where you’re sending the email. The Sender Time Zone Lab creates an easy way for you to check.

Signature Tweaks

This is a simple, yet useful lab. It puts your email signature above the quotes reply and removes that weird — bar that tends to show up.

Super Stars

If you’re  a big fan of Gmail’s Star Feature, but wish you had more variety this is your lab! Simply put, it gives you waaay, waaay more start options. You can easily color code or use punctuation marks to help categorize and organize emails.
“Adds additional star icons. After enabling this feature:
(1) Go to the “General” Settings page to choose which superstars you wish to use.
(2) Use either the keyboard shortcut (’s’) or click to rotate through your selected superstars.
(3) Use the search operator “has:” to find all messages with your superstar (e.g. “has:red-bang”, “has:blue-star”). Learn the name of a superstar by hovering over its image in the “General” Settings page.”

Text Messaging in Chat and SMS in Chat Gadget

Text Messaging in Chat allows you to, well, send text messages using Google Talk. The SMS in Chat Gadget creates an additional box to make sending text messages in Google Talk even easier.

Title Tweaks

Title Tweaks changes the order of the words in your browser bar, enabling you to see how many messages you have-even when the window is minimized.

For example instead of the browser bar showing “SUBERAPPS Mail – Inbox (5) – hello@suberapps.com” this lab would change it to “Inbox (5) – hello@suberapps.com – SUBERAPPS Mail” Pretty nifty if you need to keep your eye on an important message, but want your inbox to remain out of the way.

Undo Send

Another pretty self-explanatory one, but that doesn’t make it any less awesome. Undo Send lets you undo send if you sent an email and immediately realized that you made a mistake. So handy!

Video Chat Enhancements

Currently, this lab enhances video chat in Google Talk by adding higher resolution and bigger windows. The lab developers mention that there are more features to come!

Yelp Previews in Gmail

Another nifty preview lab-this one allows you to quickly view Yelp listings, including rating, location, and phone number whenever someone emails you a Yelp link.

Feel that Gmail is Missing a Labs Feature?

Google allows you to make Labs Feature Requests here: http://groups.google.com/group/gmail-labs-suggest-a-labs-feature/topics

And Now-A Closer Look at Some of the Gmail Labs

Canned Responses

While Canned Responses might sound like a lazy way out of responding to email, it actually can be quite productive and with the way the lab works, doesn’t have to be a generic automated response.

Instead you can use the poorly-named Canned Responses to create templates for emails.

Once you enable the lab, a clickable link next to “Insert Invitation” is created. You can then click on Canned Responses, click on a template, open it up and edit it. Definitely a time saver.

To create  a Canned Response:
  • Click on “Canned Response”
  • Click on “New Canned Response”
  • Name your Canned Response
  • Type what you want your template to be.
  • Click on “Canned Response”
  • Hit “Save”

And voila! You now have a nice email template that you can easily modify and use without having to retype the same things over and over.

AND…yes, I’m going Billy Mays style…THERE’S MORE:

You can set up Canned Responses to respond to certain Gmail Filters. Amazing.

For More on “Canned Response:”

Import/Export Filters

Gmail filters are hands down one of Google’s best features. I swear by them.

What if you have a new Gmail account and want to migrate over some common filters? Or want to show a less-tech savvy friend how awesome filters are by a demonstration? Well, you COULD individually add each one yourself. OR you could skip the headache and enable the Gmail Import/Export Filters lab.

Once you turn on the lab, there will be a new “Import Filter” button next to “Create Filter” in the filters section of Settings.

Next to the delete button, you’ll have an export button. Simple and awesome.

More Information on Gmail Filters:
Multiple Inboxes

Multiple inboxes is a really awesome feature. The problem with quickly clearing out your inbox is, well, things got set aside to be looked at or taken care of later…then later never comes. Out of site-out of mind.

Multiple inboxes easily solves that problem by allowing you to create different inbox panes and letting you get creative with the types of panes.

For example?

  • A big fan of starring emails that require a later action? Set up a pane is:starred
  • Have a tendency to forget about those emails that you’re waiting for a response on? Set up a pane label:waiting
  • Those nifty newsletters that you plan on reading later? Set up a pane label:toread
  • Want all your client emails in one place? Set up a pane label:clients

The possibilities are just about endless!

Do you have multiple email accounts all going to one central account? A great idea is to enable the Multiple Inboxes lab and then make individual panes for each account. It keeps things tidy and is a great way to manage multiple accounts.

More on Multiple Inboxes

Looking for More Information on Gmail Labs?

Check out these helpful posts:

Have a favorite Gmail Lab tip? Want to gush about how a particular Gmail Lab changed your work-life? Let us know in the comments!

Tips n Tricks