Gmail Hacks_cropped

Gmail is a great platform all around, but it can be used for handling more than just personal and business related emails. For example, you can use it as a file storage medium by emailing attachments, content and links to yourself. You can also use it as a personal memo platform by sending reminders to your inbox. And then, you can take it to the next level with some awesome tools, settings tweaks, and productivity hacks.

Some of those hacks improve the general user experience, while others introduce new functionality to the platform. A lot of them also streamline and speed up your emailing time, which is something everyone can use in this day and age. Let’s get started!

Boomerang

Gmail Boomerang

Boomerang comes in the form of a web extension for the Chrome browser, and a mobile app for Android. If you don’t use Chrome, it also works with Firefox 3.6 and up, as well as Safari 5.1 and up.

What does it do exactly, and how can it help you be more productive? You can “boomerang” emails so that they are sent out of your inbox, but arrive at a later time. This allows you to receive messages exactly when you need or want them.

In addition, you can also schedule outgoing emails to be mailed pertaining to a particular schedule. Need to send out fifty personalized emails all at 8am Tuesday morning? Set them up a day before (or a week before!) with Boomerang. Then, check off a box and the tool will remind you to follow up if you never hear back.

Emails that have undergone the “boomerang” treatment do not disappear, but are instead sent to the service’s remote servers for temporary storage until they are lobbed back into your inbox. This helps you keep your inbox clean of any serious clutter, but more importantly it allows your most critical emails to remain relevant and at the forefront.

You can even use Boomerang to send personal reminders to yourself when you need them, by scheduling an email to be sent to your inbox at a later time or date. The possibilities are pretty much endless, especially when you consider the multiple ways in which Boomerang can be utilized.

Ultimately, it will help you increase your productivity by allowing you access to your most important emails exactly when you need to. There’s no longer a need to archive messages and desperately locate them later. You can just Boomerang any new emails that you receive, and get them again when you’re back in your office after the weekend.

Rapportive

Gmail Rapportive

Do you ever have a hard time keeping track of your contacts? Rapportive aims to make the process easier by offering up a contact card with comprehensive information in a sidebar next to your conversation.

Displayed via the card is the contact’s name, location, profile picture, and linked social accounts. This allows you to see quite a bit of related information like latest tweets, social account links and more. Probably the most useful feature is that you can add personal notes to any profile for viewing later. This allows you to keep track of contacts you don’t know very well and record any key points about them. Obviously this feature is private – they can’t read your notes about them.

Rapportive is compatible with Firefox, Safari, Opera and Mailplane, in addition to Chrome through a browser extension.

Canned Responses

Gmail Canned Responses

Believe it or not this is actually a setting that can be enabled natively in Gmail through the Labs settings. In case you’re not familiar with Gmail Labs, they’re basically just beta configuration settings which add features that have yet to be perfected. You can activate this feature by navigating to the Gmail Labs Settings and enabling the Canned Responses option.

Canned Responses allows you to record commonly used phrases and sentences to speed up the process of composing emails. When enabled, you just have to select the Canned Responses option from the bottom menu to insert pre-configured content.

You can easily create new canned responses as necessary, depending on what you would like to include in the related email. It’s fast, and definitely effective. It goes without saying, this Gmail hack improves productivity by speeding up the time you spend typing out emails and responses.

You can also configure the mini extensions to send out auto responses based on Gmail labels. This is quite useful if you have incoming emails filtered to arrive under different labels.

Customizable Addresses and Gmail Filters

Gmail Filter

These next two hacks work great when used hand-in-hand, which is why I’ve meshed the two.

You signed up for Gmail with a particular username – it’s everything to the left of the @gmail.com part of your address. Obviously you’re already aware of this. What you may not realize, however, is that you have complete control over any periods you place within your username – johndoe@gmail.com , john.doe@gmail.com, and even j.o.h.n.d.o.e@gmail.com all will land in the same inbox.

Even better, you can add one more degree of control: categorize your incoming mail, right in your email address. If you are signing up for something that could potentially spam you to insanity, give them the email johndoe+spam@gmail.com. If you put your email out somewhere public, like a blog, and want to categorize all those emails together, use the email johndoe+blog@gmail.com. Want to group all of the emails about your website redesign together? Give them the email johndoe+redesign@gmail.com. Append anything you want after your email address using a plus sign.

So what? Why on earth would this be useful? That’s where filters come in.

Gmail’s powerful filters allow you to filter emails based on certain criteria and send them to a particular label, Gmail’s alternative to folders. You could tell Gmail to intercept messages for a specific email address and then store them under a label, instead of dropping them straight into your inbox. In addition, you can archive various messages automatically and mark them as read. Want your +spam emails out of sight, out of mind? Filter them to a “promotional” label (or straight to spam) and auto-archive them. Want to answer all your communication for your blog in one fell swoop? Filter your +blog emails to a “blog” label and set specific times to sort through it.

You can even separate your personal and professional emails – if you always give friends your johndoe@gmail.com address but business contacts your john.doe@gmail.com address, you’ve got a great way to separate work and play right in your inbox.

Filters are great for your productivity, and I encourage you to set up one or two (or a dozen, or a hundred…) today! They can be setup natively within Gmail by navigating to the standard settings menu.

Mail Timer for Gmail

Gmail Timer

Do you ever find yourself spending way too much time reading or responding to emails? How much time do you spend reading each email? If you have no idea, use Toggl to track yourself writing an email. If you think it took you too long (hint: you probably think it did), this next hack will turn you into a time management guru.

With Mail Timer, you choose an acceptable length of time to respond to each email (say, 2 minutes), and from the moment you open an email it starts counting down. After the countdown has completed, a popup will notify you that it’s time to move on. This allows you to restrict the time you spend answering emails, so that you may invest it in other, more important things.

Mail Timer is available for Chrome through a browser extension.

KeyRocket

Gmail KeyRocket

This last hack speeds up productivity by shortening the time it takes to perform various tasks. Gmail is programmed to work with a lot of keyboard shortcuts and hotkeys, many of which you probably have no clue how to use. KeyRocket works as a simple reminder, displaying a popup every time you complete an action that could have been activated using a keyboard shortcut.

The popup reminds you every time you do something with the cursor that you could have done with a keystroke, informing you what the associated shortcut is and serving as a kind of tutorial. The notification does tend to get in the way sometimes, but that’s the point. Eventually, you find yourself following the tips and hotkey recommendations just to get the popup out of the way. Get through it, and you’ll be keying your way to sweet, speedy productivity.

This lovely little hack is compatible with Chrome through a browser extension.