Gmail Enhancements and Tips

Whether you use Gmail for personal correspondence or work, or you use the G Suite, there are lots of features and functions to enhance your use of email. Some of the features in the Spring 2019 update are subtle and some need to be turned on so you can use them. Some you may want to turn off or eschew because they are intrusive or not useful. The following are new and not so new Gmail/G Suite tips you need to know now!

New (ish)

Right-Click MenuContextual Right Click Menu

Early in the year, Gmail got a new right-click contextual menu. Prior to this change, the right-click menu was so limited (archive, delete, mark as unread) you may not have tried it again. But, try it now! You can add labels and move an email to a label, snooze the message, find similar messages (if you don’t disable Conversation mode), mute the conversation and more with the new right-click contextual options.

Confidential Mode

The new Confidential Mode lets you send emails with an expiration date and add an SMS passcode to protect the email from being opened by anyone other than the intended recipient. To enable SMS passcode protection, you will need to know the recipient’s mobile phone number. The email will not open without a code they receive via text message on their cell phone/smartphone. The SMS code only remains valid for 5 minutes after it is sent. You can also remove access to emails sent in Confidential mode at any time.

Of note, recipients of your confidential email who are not Gmail users will need to open the email in a browser, not their own email application (i.e. Outlook, Yahoo!, etc.). And, while this feature will stop people from forwarding your email it can be easily copied/pasted. Confidential Mode doesn’t work with emails that have attachments. Most important to be aware of is the Confidential Mode is NOT encrypted email and it mostly only useful between Gmail users. Many security experts have been highly critical of Gmail’s confidential mode, pointing out that it is not encrypted, the emails live exposed on Google’s servers and it adds complexity to regulatory compliance.

Nudge

Google is mimicking features from the popular add-on Boomerang by adding a little artificial intelligence to your email. If you miss an important email or don’t respond the email will resurface and remind you to take an action. It will also remind you if you sent an email that was never responded to. You can turn this feature on or off or change specific actions, depending on if you find it useful or not.

Snooze

Another feature that made Boomerang useful has been replicated in Gmail – Snooze. Conveniently found in the new right-click menu, mouse over, or in the email menu, this feature lets you tell Gmail to snooze an email and have it reappear in your inbox when you tell it to.  Emails that have been Snoozed are removed from the inbox until the appointed time when they re-appear and have a notification in the far right of the screen in red. There is a Snooze label in the left navigation column where emails you’ve snoozed live until they wake up and return to your inbox.

Preview Pane

If you like Preview Pane in MS Outlook you can make a small tweak so you can have a preview pane in Gmail. Just go into your settings, go to Advanced, enable “Preview Pane” and then click “Save Changes”. When you go back into your Gmail you can now toggle on or off the preview pane with horizontal or vertical placement.

Smart Compose

The new Smart Compose Gmail feature is both creepy and useful. It starts suggesting text as you type and if you like what it has suggested just click “tab” to apply the text. If you want to disable this feature go to Settings – General – Smart Compose – Writing Suggestions Off and then click to save changes. In the Spring Bob Ambrogi noted that there would be a Smart Compose for Lawyers to make you sound “more like a lawyer”.  He notes “phrases that regularly appeared in my testing of the new product included “notwithstanding anything to the contrary herein” and “including but in no way limited to.” Among the Latin phrases suggested were “non compos mentis,” “in flagrante delicto,” and the frequent “inter alia.” Also, note that Bob loves a good April Fool’s Joke.

Smart replySmart Reply

Google will offer three responses that may be suitable for an email you have received. You can choose which response to send. These kinds of canned responses are everywhere, from SMS to Linkedin to your car app, so it is not surprising to see them available from Google in Gmail. The Smart Reply options are particularly useful in the Gmail app on your smartphone for lightning-fast, but brief responses.

Canned Responses

There are emails you send. And resend. Well, now Gmail has email templates, or what they call “canned responses”. You will need to enable this feature so go into your Settings – Advanced and make sure “Canned Responses (Templates)” is enabled. Then create a template by composing an email and clicking on the vertical ellipses in the lower right corner and saving it as a “canned response”. Then, when you want to use it open a new email, click the vertical ellipses, and choose your template.

Dynamic Email

Now if you get a Doodle poll via Gmail you can respond to it without ever leaving the email. Or you can comment on a Google doc without leaving the notification email. Developers can now add dynamic code to email so that Gmail users can more fully interact from within an email instead of going to a separate website. While this is still in early stages as far as adoption, could your firm make a dynamic response email for clients? With AMP Project web component framework, Gmail users can submit RSVPs to events, fill out questionnaires, browse catalogs, or respond to comments right within the email. Emails can also stay up to date, displaying the freshest content from comment threads or the latest recommendations.

Oldies But Goodies

Schedule Send

If you don’t want to let folks know you are up and responding to email in the middle of the night you can use Gmail’s scheduled send. Once you have composed your email click on the drop-down arrow in the Send button and click “Schedule Send” and choose the day and time you want to send it. You can see your scheduled emails and change the time by clicking on “Scheduled” in the left panel.

Make New Email Appear On Top

Not everyone likes Gmail’s conversation view, especially since the newest emails appear at the bottom of the conversation. There are a number of ways to “fix” this problem, including turning off conversation view, use a browser extension called Gmail Reverse Conversation, or use a desktop client.

save as event or taskSend An Email To Your Calendar Or Turn It Into A Task

It is now very easy to turn an email into a task or event. Open an email and click the vertical ellipses next to the icon options across the top of the email and choose “Add to Tasks” or “Create Event”.  If you turn on Gmail keyboard shortcuts you can simply click the . (period) key and the options will open automatically! Interested in other keyboard shortcuts? Here are some of the best.

Desktop Notifications

While it might be nice to forget about email once in a while to limit distractions and get work done, you can set Gmail/G Suite to send desktop notifications so you don’t have to keep a browser window open to get popup notifications for new email. You can choose whether you want to receive notifications about all new email, or just “important” messages based on your settings and Google’s algorithms. Windows 10 users will need to turn on Chrome notifications in the Windows Action Center.

Undo Send

Undo Send in Gmail is a well-known feature, but you do need to set it up AND know how to use it when the time comes since you have, at best, 30 seconds. The option usually appears in the lower-left of the screen. Run some tests so you know where it is when the time comes!

Add-ons

Like MS Outlook, Gmail/G Suite has a marketplace with all sorts of add-ins and connectors to seamlessly work with the other applications you use, even your practice management application! However, not all add-ons are useful and some contribute to exposure to the contents of your email and contacts, so be judicious and read the reviews and terms of service carefully.

Filters and Labels

You can create labels and apply as many as you want to an email as an organizational tool. Labels are not folders. However, you can create filters to move the email out of your inbox to certain labels. Because this is a Google product you have LOTS of advanced search options.

More Tips

Want more? There are tons of articles, like this and this, that provide Gmail tips. For instance, if you want to opt-out of mailing lists or promotional emails that have legitimate opt-out options simply search Gmail for the word “unsubscribe” to see a list of all the emails with that word since add-ons like Unroll.me force you to grant too many permissions.

Conclusion

Gmail is a powerful email application with a lot of features, functions and a healthy dash of artificial intelligence. Most of the Gmail Support instructions provide help with the browser version, as well as Android and iOS apps. So whether you use Gmail primarily at work, on the go, or both you can optimize the experience to stay on top of your email communications.