One of the great features of Google’s Gmail is the ability it gives you to customize your Gmail experience using Google Labs. Labs features can be accessed by clicking on the green beaker symbol at the top right of the Gmail screen. Some Google Labs features fall into the "cute" category, but several of them are useful, and can make you more efficient. Here are the top 5 Labs features that can make you life easier.
Image by RDECOM.
1. Nested Labels
If you come from an email system that uses folders, then labels will transform the way that you archive and organize your messages. Think of labels like tags, since a message can have multiple labels. But what if you want to nest your labels? For example, under your "Tech" label, you may want to have "Gadgets," "Websites," and "Software." With the Nested Labels feature, this is possible. Enable the gadget, rename your labels to use a "/" symbol between a label name and nested label name, and then your nested labels will appear indented in the left sidebar. For example, to set up "Gadgets" as a nested label of "Tech," you would create both a "Tech" label and a "Tech/Gadgets" label.
2. Google Voice Player in Mail
For you U.S. readers, Google Voice is a great way to get free calling, have one call ring multiple phone, have your voicemail messages transcribed, and more. Check out our primer for the basics. The Google Voice Player In Mail feature in Labs embeds a player directly within an email message, along with a transcription of the voicemail message. This will save you time, as you will no longer have to jump over to the Voice website to play your messages.
3. Add Any Gadget by URL
This is really a catch-all feature, allowing third parties to hook into Gmail. Most gadgets used in this manner seem to add a feature to the Gmail sidebar, such as viewing your Twitter feed, managing your Toodledo tasks, or managing your Remember the Milk tasks. These are just a few of the available gadgets. Perform a Google search for "Gmail gadgets," and you’ll find a slew of other gadgets.
4. Advanced IMAP Controls
If you use a smartphone, and want some (but not all) of your messages with a certain label to be available on the phone, then this lab feature is essential. Assuming you’ve enabled IMAP on your Gmail account, then this feature will place a checkbox next to each one of your labels on the label settings page. Check the box, and that label will show up as an IMAP folder on your smartphone or IMAP compatible device.
5. Create a Document
This lab feature will save you a few keystrokes. It is quite simple, and will insert a "create a document" link within each email conversation. When the link is clicked, Google Docs will open a new document, using the text of that conversation as the content of the document. If you have keyboard shortcuts enabled within Gmail, then you can also hit ‘g’ then ‘w’ to quickly create a new blank document.
There you have 5 Gmail Labs features that can save you time. What labs features or gadgets do you use to save time and improve your efficiency?