Google's Gmail is one of the most popular webmail services worldwide, recently edging out Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail in ComScore data of unique visitors. Really, it's no wonder that so many are using it, given the service's utility, openness to add-ons, and all around reliability. A simple, user-friendly front end hides numerous configurable options, and many add-ons can be bolted on to the default experience to provide loads of extra utilities. Read on for some neat Gmail tips, as well as some of our favorite extensions, and feel free to share some of your own favorites in the comments section below!
Gmail includes a nifty Priority Inbox feature that attempts to automatically sort your inbox into Important and Unread, Starred messages, and Everything Else, based on who you have emailed and chatted with, and how you reply to emails sent to you. If the algorithms mistakenly mark a message as important (or unimportant), then you can train it further by manually flagging or unmarking messages one way or another.
To activate Priority Inbox, click on the gear icon, and then go to Settings, look for the Inbox tab, and change the Inbox type from Classic to Priority Inbox. You can also revert to the Classic mode here if you find Priority Inbox isn't to your liking. Note that Priority Inbox has yet to be implemented in mobile versions of Gmail.
You can already mark your messages with a gold star in order to brand them as important, but you're also free to use additional stars and markers, which you can activate through the Settings Menu. Drag down until you find the Stars selection, choose the symbols you want to use for sorting your mail, and then activate them. Save changes, and then return to your inbox, where you can use the new symbols by clicking repeatedly on the star button until it cycles to the one you want. Stars can also be used as part of a search query or filter (mouse over the stars in settings to find the term), eg "has:red-star".
The Settings menu also includes loads of other helpful features, such as the Vacation Responder. The Vacation Responder allows you to define a period of time when you're away from your computer, out of office, or may be unable to respond to messages. Gmail lets you define a canned message that it will automatically send out to anyone who emails you during that period.
Google automatically collapses multiple replies and related emails into a single entry, rather than listing individual emails in your inbox, something called Conversation View. While this can be handy for tracking a long conversation (as if the reply text were not enough), people used to viewing individual messages can disable Conversation View from within Settings, letting you view your emails in a more classic, expanded, single email format.
Settings also lets you define a signature automatically included at the bottom of your messages. Drag down to the Signature menu to input your own signature text, with the ability to attach pictures, hyperlinks, colored text, and whatever other extras you wish to tack on to your Gmail signature.
It's always good practice to log out of your Gmail session after checking or sending email, especially on a public machine, but even the best of us can occasionally forget. Luckily, there is a way to log out of your sessions remotely. Login to Gmail, and then drag the screen all the way to the bottom and look for small grey text on the bottom right saying "Last Account Activity: [x] minutes ago." Click on the Details button underneath to display a list of recorded activity from your account, as well as IP addresses associated with it. From here, you can remotely log out all other sessions with the press of a button.
Gmail is constantly in development and users can opt-in to Gmail Labs, a series of experimental tools that can add loads of new features to Gmail, such as a preview pane, message authentication, a panic "Undo send" button, and more. Accessible through the Settings>Labs tab, you can select from a menu of these experimental features. Of course being experimental, they can occasionally fritz out, so fair warning. Gmail Labs does provide an address that you can log into in case one of the extensionsinterferes with functionality: https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?labs=0
Next up are a series of extensions that you can use to further personalize and tweak your Gmail experience.