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Table of Contents
An Ideal Mail Solution
Words of the Week
A Note from Philip

An Ideal Mail Solution
Most readers will have seen my mild rant at the monopoly Google is gaining on the web. With outlets in Office, Maps, VoIP, Books, Real Estate and of course search it\'s no wonder that more and more eyebrows are being raised [1]. An amusing (yet vaguely terrifying) vision of a future Built by Google can be read here [2]. A qupte from Google\'s Sam Sebastian: "We're actively looking to acquire one to two companies a month" is not an encouraging idea to many [3]. Anyway, in the spirit of stoppping the monopoly I\'ve been attempting to step away from Google.

The first step - switching to Bing search engine was easy - I actually really like Bing and would likely use it anyway. Following this guide by Gizmodo (How to Escape from Google\'s clutches, once and for all), got me a step further but the one thing I\'ve been completely unable to give up has been Google Mail.

I tried Thunderbird, I tried Outlook, I even tried a solution that isn\'t widely known - GMX webmail. The closest I got to a reasonable GMail replacement was Yahoo mail, but as yet I\'ve been unable to get the pop3 account import working with it - the same thing took a few seconds to set up in google!

So, in a moment of perhaps sheer hypocrisy, I\'m writing an article on the wonders of Google Mail.

Firstly, this article probably isn\'t for novice users who don\'t deal with much email per day. For many people whatever email client they use at the moment is just fine and doesn\'t need changing. However, whilst I\'m not running a business or anything like that I have found that, after using GMail, I can\'t accept the shortfalls of other platforms.

To begin with, if you don\'t use GMail already and are interested in trying it out, you\'ll need to make an account over at Unlike Hotmail and Yahoo, there\'s only one domain - which is quite annoying as the majority of aliases are taken.

The process doesn\'t take too long, and before you know it you\'ll be staring at your lovely new inbox. There will be a couple of emails from Google pointing out some of the finer features of the service. I'm now going to do just that. Notice how wonderfully clean your inbox is! The first thing we\'re going to do is go into the \'Settings\' menu. The first tab that comes up has several useful options which are more or less self-explanatory. I suggest that if you want to always use a secure connection you select \'always use https'. If you have a slow connection you might want to decrease the number of messages shown per page, or alternatively if you like to see all your mail at once increase this value. Here you can also change your signature and add a vacation responder. Scroll to the bottom to save any changes you have made then jump to the 'Web Clips' tab. You may have noticed a small box above your inbox with a link in it to another site. You can subscribe to RSS feeds using the 'web clips' feature and they will appear in this box, for example you could have the BBC front page news feed [4]. However, Google also places sponsored links (adverts!) in this box and the news feeds etc you may choose to include seem to me to update extremely slowly so that whatever you read is out of date. For this reason, and for the sake of the cleanest possible inbox, I choose to untick the box 'show my web clips above the inbox'.

Next we'll jump back to 'accounts and import' ¯ presumably if you've just made a new Gmail account you'll have at least one other email account. On this page you can import contacts and set Gmail up to send and receive mail from other email accounts. The 'send mail as' and 'import mail and contacts' options are quite easy to set up. The 'check mail using POP3' option (which allows you to read mail sent to other addresses in your Gmail inbox) is not quite as simple, so if you get stuck I'd suggest you read one of these guides [5 ¯ General], [6 ¯ Hotmail/Windows Live]. You should also do a search for 'import (AOL) email into Gmail' or '(AOL) pop3 settings' to find the instructions/settings you need. Note that you need a yahoo premium account to import yahoo mail into Gmail.

The next tab along is 'labels' ¯ these are essentially like folders but better! There are the main 'System Labels' which you can choose to show/hide ¯ if you select 'hide' they will appear in a drop down menu underneath your main labels. For now I'd suggest that you hide 'chats' as this is for the google talk service which isn't hugely popular. You may want to come back and hide some of the other labels such as 'Trash' later but it's up to you. The next section is for your own Labels and allows you to create labels by typing the name of the label you want in the box and clicking 'create' ¯ the folks at Google will have made some labels already but you might want to add one or two. For now create a label called 'Promotions' as I'll be using this label in the next part of this tutorial.

Now move on to the 'Filters' tab ¯ this is one of the great features in Gmail. It allows you to automatically sort mail before it comes into your inbox using a range of criteria. For now we're going to set up a filter to automatically sort amazon promotion emails into your 'promotions' label. If this is a new account then you may not be receiving any emails from amazon but they're a common annoyance which a large number of internet users will have to deal with. Note that this will only filter their promotional emails, not your purchase receipts, confirmations etc. So, scroll to the bottom and select 'Create a new Filter'. A box will open at the top of your page. Here you can choose the criteria by which you want to filter messages ¯ it's all pretty self-explanatory. To set up the amazon filter type "" into the 'from' box and click 'Next step'. On the next page you can choose what you want to do with these emails. The first option 'Skip the Inbox (Archive it)' may baffle some users. What this means is that the email will be automatically stored outside of the inbox. It will still be saved in your account and can be located either by using the super-fast Gmail search bar at the top or by locating it with a label you may have assigned to it. Since you have a whopping 7.5Gigabytes of storage you can archive pretty much every message you receive once you have dealt with it just in case you need it later. The idea is that you never have to delete an email due to space restrictions only to discover that you could do with information from it at a later date. So, to set up the filter for amazon tick the box for 'Skip the Inbox' and the box for 'apply the label: (Select 'promotions' from the drop down list).' You may want to choose some of the other actions but for the purposes of this tutorial we'll leave it at that. Click 'create filter' and you're all set up! Now every promotional email from amazon will be automatically sorted into your 'promotions' label. You can access this label by selecting it from the left hand side or by typing 'Label:promotions' into the search box. Another way to create a filter is to select a message in your inbox (tick the box next to it) and go to 'More Actions' (top bar) then 'Filter Messages like these' ¯ this is often the best way to do things. Remember you can always delete and edit filters from the filters tab.

The next set of settings 'Forwarding and POP/IMAP' is to do with setting Gmail up so that you can receive mail sent to your email address in Outlook Express, Outlook, Thunderbird etc ¯ this is somewhat irrelevant for the purposes of this tutorial so we'll skip this section. The 'Chat' section is quite self-explanatory and we're not interested in chat at the moment so we'll skip this.

We'll now move onto the 'Labs' section. This is another great feature in Gmail ¯ basically they have all these ideas for how to make the platform better but they don't want to force them on people. There's now a huge number of labs features, some of them very useful. You can browse the list yourself and see what interests you. The ones I recommend you enable are:

- Mark as Read Button (guess what this one does…)
- Inbox Preview (extremely useful ¯ you cans see if you've got any mail worth reading whilst you wait for your inbox to load and if not there's no point in waiting!)
- Authentication For verified senders ¯ so you can tell if that's really PayPal emailing you!
- Undo Send ¯ this gives you a few seconds to change your mind after hitting the 'send button'
- Title Tweaks ¯ brings the information you really want to the start of the title
- Google Calendar Gadget ¯ obviously only useful if you use google calendar!
- Add any Gadget via URL (explained later, quite useful but if you don't use twitter/facebook then perhaps leave this one out)
- Inserting images (lets you insert images!)
Honorary mentions which you may like:
- Flickr previews ¯ useful if people send you links to flickr photos
- Custom keyboard shortcuts (adds a tab that lets you change keyboard shortcuts…)
- Right side chat (if you use chat regularly this is a useful feature, particularly if you have a widescreen)
- Text messaging (SMS) in chat and SMS in chat gadget ¯ if you're in the USA this is essentially a free SMS service from google, not to be sniffed at! I'm in the UK so I don't use this feature….
- If you've enabled lots of gadgets etc, you might want 'Navbar Drag and Drop'

You may want to enable other features; it's entirely up to you. Click 'Save Changes' and we'll move on to the next section ¯ 'Offline'. Here you can set Gmail up to work offline. To do this you'll need to install Google Gears. This is a really useful feature so I suggest you click 'Enable Offline Mail access for this computer' and click 'Save Changes'. A popup will appear asking you to install Google gears. Follow everything through and it should set up nicely. If you go back to the 'offline' tab once the process is complete you can change various settings and create a desktop shortcut which can be useful. If you don't create the shortcut then when you're next offline you'll have to load up your browser (internet explorer/firefox) then, ignoring any messages about working offline type '' into the address bar.

If you enabled the keyboard shortcuts lab feature there will be a tab for that. It's all self-explanatory so we'll ignore that for now. Next is the 'themes' tab where you can change the look and feel of your inbox. There are some simple colours as well as some more interesting (perhaps distracting) ones. These themes are great! Have a play and see what you like best. They're also location aware (if you choose to type in your post code/zip code at the bottom) so it will change based on the time of day and weather where you are. Currently I have a cloudy inbox… To be honest I'd rather be cheered up by a sunny inbox but hey! You can just click on a theme to try it out, your changes are automatically saved. You can also choose your own colours.

If you enabled the 'add gadget via URL' feature there will now be a 'gadgets' tab. You could try searching for Gmail gadgets but to start you off here's a Twitter gadget [7], a Facebook gadget [8] and a site where you can find several more [9] ¯ simply paste the URLs into the box at the bottom and click 'add'.

Last but not least there's the 'Buzz' tab ¯ this is a new service by Google to compete and work with Twitter and Facebook. There have been loads of complaints and privacy issues with this feature and, though they may be a bit mislead, there's certainly some confusion. Furthermore, Buzz is quite buggy and as a result can be slow and clunky. Try it out if you want, you might love it, otherwise I'd suggest you use the Buzz tab to 'Do not show' the two options available. Or you could just Disable Buzz completely with the big red link at the bottom.
So that's Gmail (and the longest article I've ever written?!) There's lots of other great features. For example type 'g l' whilst looking at your messages to jump to a label. For more information on becoming a Gmail master try these great Lifehacker links [10][11][12 ¯ fantastic Gmail add-on for firefox that adds great features including sub-labels and message highlighting]. Hope you enjoyed!


Words of the Week
Browser ¯ I've mentioned this before. As far as most users are concerned a browser is Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari (Mostly mac users) or Opera. It's what turns your internet connection from streams of code into text, images and videos. It also helps explain to you what the information that is coming through is, and help you avoid many of the security threats that are out there. European Windows 7 users will, within the next few months, receive an update from Microsoft asking them which browser they'd like to use. This is because of protests against the monopoly Internet Explorer had in the browser market. For those of you who don't do much heavy internet browsing you might as well stick with internet explorer if you haven't changed already. However, it might be a good time to change your browser ¯ in my opinion (and many other peoples) Internet Explorer is not by any means the best browser available. My personal favourite is Mozilla Firefox ¯ not only is it fast at loading pages, it also has a tonne of add-ons available that make 'browsing' (see where the name comes from now?!) so much more enjoyable.

Tab ¯ you'll see this used quite frequently these days. All the major browsers now have tabs ¯ they allow you to have several pages running at once. At first thought this seems a bit pointless ¯ after all you can only read one thing at any one time but it's actually incredibly useful. For example, you could have Gmail open all the time in a tab so you can see straight away when you receive an email. Alternatively you could keep a news website open so you remain up to date (this and Gmail can also be EXTREMELY distracting so use with caution when you're supposed to be working!). To open a new tab quickly, use the shortcut "Ctrl+T". Tabs aren't only used in browsers though ¯ you frequently get them in settings pages as well ¯ usually just below the "File…View etc" toolbar. They basically make an easy way to navigate your computer.

Task Manager ¯ You'll associate this with Ctrl+ Alt+ Delete. Essentially it shows you everything that you have running on your computer. This too has tabs! Many people may only use the first 'Applications' tab of this tool but the next one along 'Processes' is also useful. If, for example, your computer has frozen big time you can use this tab to find which program is using the most memory ¯ simply click the heading of that column and the programs will sort themselves according to memory usage. This is also useful if something won't delete due to being used by another person or program ¯ search for it in this list (click at the top of the 'Image Name' column to sort alphabetically…), select it and click 'end process.' Ending the process is more brutal and direct than clicking 'end task' in the applications tab so if the former fails try this. Note you will lose all unsaved work with that program. Also some things shouldn't be terminated. 'explorer.exe', for example, is your taskbar, any folders you have open and your desktop ¯ probably best not to end this process unless absolutely necessary. It can be restarted by going to File>>>New Task and typing "explorer.exe" (this can be useful if your taskbar randomly disappears!).

A Note from Philip
This edition originally contained an article on the Apple iPad. Given the length of the Gmail article, I've rolled that one forward to March (all of 2 days ago now!). The device isn't to be released for another couple of months so there's still plenty of time there. Again, any feedback you have is greatly appreciated - it's not always easy thinking of topics to cover so if you have any suggestions fire away!

Newsletter Administrator - Ross Connor (
Newsletter Writer/Editor: Philip McMahon (


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