[techtalk] Tech-Talk: EMAIL -- 3 Features in Gmail You May be Overlooking

Darci Hanning darci.hanning at state.or.us
Wed Oct 18 13:50:01 PDT 2017


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 This Week's Tech-Talk: EMAIL

1. VIDEO ...  3 Features in Gmail You May be Overlooking
2. ARTICLE ... 3 Features in Gmail You May be Overlooking
3. COMMUNICATING ... Involve Me and I'll Understand

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EMAIL - 3 Features in Gmail You May be Overlooking


The other day I spent some time cleaning up my Inbox… deleting messages, creating a few new folders (or categories), etc.. My email is open all day as I do my work, and I get frustrated when it becomes overwhelming and messy. I needed to create some order for incoming and archived messages.

At Tech-Talk, we use Google’s "paid" email (was called Google Apps; now G-Suite) which personalizes addresses with our specific domain (support at tech-talk.com<mailto:support at tech-talk.com>). While we've had this for several years, there are many features we hadn't taken time to explore. This is probably not unlike the 1.2 Billion monthly active users that use either the free, or paid public version. (Most of the functionality is the same.)

So we took a look!

Here are three ideas that can make your viewing experience better.

NOTE: The features and changes listed below are for the desktop / laptop version of Gmail. App functionality may vary on smart phones and tablets.

1. Change How Your Email Looks To You

It's a small thing, but if you're in your Gmail account often, you may want to personalize it to make you feel up-beat, serene or "at home". Adding a background to your email world is like putting up new curtains or wallpaper. Little touches to individualize your work space can be fun and helpful.

Display Density

[display density]

One quick change that you can do to your layout is adjust the space between messages in your inbox. Click the Gear (Settings) icon to see choices at the top under Display density:

·     Comfortable
·     Cozy
·     Compact

The "Display Density" setting adjusts how much space you will see between individual messages in your inbox. You could choose the Compact view -- to see as many messages on your screen as possible. Or for a bit more space between messages, choose the Comfortable option.

Theme (Inbox Background)


Your email box doesn't have to be "plain Jane" or boring. You can jazz it up and brighten your day in little ways, (especially if you are in it a LOT).

Wouldn't it be nice if it made you smile, or gave you a warm feeling? For example, changing the background to a picture of the Grand Canyon's Colorado River, reminds me of growing up in Arizona. It makes my work day just a little brighter every time I open email.

By the way, changing the Background (the theme) in email only shows in your display. It does NOT affect the look of any notes you send. That email remains crisp and clean.

To add a Theme to your Gmail account:

·     Go to the Settings (gear) icon and choose Themes.
·     Pick from one of Google's images or a color.
·     Or click the My Photos button and choose one of your own.
·     Click Select and Save.

[change theme]

If you don't like the look, you can always change the image, or remove it. To go from an image to the original layout, pick the theme that looks like the Google Inbox.

[change theme]

[Google chat]

2. Get More Viewing Area by Closing the Chat Section

If you don't ever use the Google Hangout (Chat) feature in your Gmail account (shown in the lower left of the screen) you may get annoyed that it takes up a good chunk of the column for your folders (categories).

You can get rid of it and gain more space in the folder pane by turning the Chat feature off.

·     Go to the Settings (gear) icon and choose Settings.
·     Choose the Chat tab and change it to Off.
·     Gmail may log you out and back it again to make this feature change.

[Turn off chat]


3. Keep More Than One Email Note Open

If you've come from the Outlook world to Gmail, you may have become used to being able to work with (and view) more than one message at a time. Individual messages are in their own window so you can see more than one at a time. At first glance, Gmail appears to only let you work with one message at a time in the Inbox window.

Not so!

If you want to "pop out" a message to view in its own window, you can! This comes in handy when:

·     You need to refer to the contents of one message, while working in another in your Inbox.

·     When you work on dual monitors and want to view a single message in one monitor, while your Inbox is in another.

So when you're viewing a message in your Inbox and you want to view it in a new window:

·     Open the message
·     Click the In new window button in the upper right of the message (to the right of the print button). It's very tiny and inconspicuous.

The message will open in a new window so that you can now move it to another place on your screen, or another monitor.

[open in new window]


Communicating: Engaging
Involve me and I'll understand.

I'm sure you've heard the saying, often attributed as coming from the American Indian culture, "Tell me and I'll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I'll understand."

We all would probably agree that involving people makes a lasting difference. But how we go about it and how we remember to do it, is another question. It's so much easier to just tell or show someone.


Here's a story that shows how involving can make a difference.

My little friend (2nd grade) was struggling with reading. She's as bright as can be, but she didn't remember the sounds of the long and short vowels. That made it difficult to sound out words.

Finally, I thought of a "vowel game" to involve her. We created a physical spot somewhere in the house for each sound: long A, short A, and so one ... each displaying a big sign of the letter. Then we went hunting for physical things with that sound. Her goal was to find five for every type of vowel.

For long A, she found such things as a plate, tape dispenser, and a vase. In the bathroom, with the short U, she had tub, cup and buggy (for her doll ... which was in the short O section.)

Not only was she thoroughly involved, but having to move things to their vowel spot left a lasting impression. A month later, window shopping in a mall, she was put to the test. "What's that word?" I'd ask over and over ... picking stand-alone text that she had to sound out to get right. She did! Every time. Words she didn't even know had the right vowel and came out perfectly.

The experience reminded me that we need to go the extra mile to find ways to involve people as a pathway to understanding.

Whether you're in a training situation ... promoting a program ... trying to convince someone of a problem or new approach, get imaginative. Think of a way to involve your students' parents, patrons, audiences. Let them feel the situation.


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Darci Hanning, MLIS
Technology Development Consultant
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