I’ve talked about using Gmail for more than just plain email a number times. but most of the time, I’ve mainly talked about using external tools to make Gmail do things that aren’t related to it’s functionality as a mail client (such as using it as a feed reader or as online storage space). But Gmail is an outstanding e-mail tool, and so today I’m going to focus on Gmail’s email functionality to do a number of useful things.
Many of the tips that I’m going to give you will make use of plus addressing and labelling. Plus addressing gives you multiple email addresses for the price of one. Any mail sent to an address of the form firstname.lastname@example.org will go to email@example.com. You can replace the “something” part with anything that you like as long as it does not contain a space or @ symbol. Instead of a + you can also use a dot.Gmail also allows you to assign labels to emails, and you can set up filters to automatically assign labels to certain label based on numerous criteria.
Now that we have the basics covered, here goes:
1. Separate email from Mailing lists, newsletters etc.
This is perhaps the most obvious use of plus addressing. Give each of your newsletters, mail lists or other services a different plus address (or give different groups different addresses). Then set up a filter based on the To: field to give incoming mail a label, star them or archive them directly.
Strictly speaking, you don’t need plus addressing, you could apply a label based on Subject or From, but if whoever is mailing you changes either of these, your filters won’t work anymore.
2. Maintain a journal or diary
Create a contact with +journal or +diary as part of your email ID. Then set up a filter for all mail sent to this address to skip the inbox and to labelled as Journal or Diary. Then just email your daily entries to this address. All your entries are in one place, sorted by date, searchable and as secure as the rest of your important email. The only downside of a diary like this is that you can’t edit previous entries, though you can add to them (by keeping the same Subject) and Gmail’s thread view lets you see all additions together.
3. Create a personal database
Get the Gmail toolbar and whenever you find something on the net that you would like to keep for future reference, use the send to Gmail function to email it off to a personal plus addressing and use filters to keep these little pieces of data from cluttering your inbox. All your saved information is easily searchable and you can easily forward it to anyone else who might be interested.
4. Manage your time and keep a to-do list
Once again send yourself email to a personal plus address. The subject line contains brief info on whatever it is that you want to get done and the message body can be packed with details. Labels can be used for projects and for contexts (where something is done) and since a message can have multiple labels, you can find your tasks whether you’re looking for all tasks related to a project or to a context. You can star tasks that require immediate attention or are very important and Gmail’s starred view will give you a neat list of things to do next.
Gmail can be used very effectively as part of a Getting Things Done system and if you are a GTD user, the GTD Inbox firefox extensions might come in handy.
5. Post to your blog
A number of blog services (including Blogger) allow you to send email to a specific email address and the content of the email gets posted as a blog post. How much success you have with this will depend on how good your service’s implementation of this feature is. Blogger works pretty well. I am unsure as to how WordPress performs, but the hosted version at WordPress.com does not support this feature.
If you can think of any other new ways to use email, let me know and I’ll add them to this post.