Five great Gmail timesavers

Kristin Burnham, CIO
27 January, 2011
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If you’re one of Gmail’s 193 million users worldwide, you probably rely on the service—and its add-ons—every day. Popular among users for its customisation features, Google constantly adds to its arsenal of Labs and brings new features mainstream to simplify processes and save users time.

Here are five useful Gmail tips, including how to access multiple accounts in one browser, schedule time zone changes and how to opt out of annoying conversation threads.

1. Grant access to your Gmail account

If you own two Gmail accounts, say one for your personal correspondences and one for work, signing in and out between the accounts can get tedious. A new feature, called “e-mail delegation,” has been available to Google Apps accounts for a while, but just recently become available to everyone else using Gmail.

This feature lets you grant access to someone—a personal assistant, for example—allowing them to read and respond to your e-mail on your behalf.

To do this, click on your Settings link in the top right corner of Gmail. On the Accounts And Import tab is a new section about halfway down where you can grant access to your account. Note that you can only add an e-mail address if the person is also a Gmail user.

After you click the link and add an e-mail address, Gmail will send a confirmation e-mail to the other user. Once he or she accepts, your helper can access your account, read and reply to e-mails on your behalf. Visit the same Settings page if you want to revoke this privilege.

2. Opt-out of conversation threads

You’ve probably been involved in a conversation thread with 10 other people who reply all, filling your inbox with messages. An easy way to leave this conversation is via Gmail’s new feature, Smart Mute.

Tired of annoying message threads where everyone is hitting Reply All? When you use Smart Mute, messages from an e-mail conversation will only appear in your inbox if a new message in is addressed to you and no one else.

Once you enable Smart Mute, it’ll be active across all versions of Gmail—Web, mobile, and so on.

To enable Smart Mute, visit the Settings link in Gmail, click the Labs tab, scroll until you see the feature, then click Enable. Be sure to click Save at the bottom of the page. When you receive an e-mail that you’d like to mute, choose More Actions from the Gmail toolbar and click Mute. Visit the same place if you’d like to unmute a conversation, and receive messages from the thread once again.

3. Easily schedule events in different time zones

If you travel frequently, keeping track of appointments in different time zones can be a headache. With Google Calendar’s event time zones, you can specify the time zone for a given event, instead of guessing the difference in time. Events will appear on your calendar according to the current time zone you’re in.

From Gmail, click the Calendar link and choose Create Event on the left side of the page. Click the Time Zone link, and choose the location of the event—no need to determine which time zone they’re in; that field will update automatically. You can also choose separate start and end time zones for blocking out time when flying, for example.

4. Auto-advance to the next conversation

Traditionally, when you open an e-mail in your inbox then archive or delete it, Gmail sends you back to your inbox, where all your other e-mails are visible. A feature in Gmail Labs, called Auto-Advance instead automatically opens the next conversation, eliminating the need to return to the home screen.

Gmail's Auto-advance feature lets you move more rapidly through your messages.

To enable Auto-Advance, visit the Labs tab under Settings. You’ll have the option to go to the next conversation, go to the previous conversation, or go back to the thread list. Click Enable, then Save.

5. Toggle between two Gmail accounts in one browser

If you own or manage multiple Gmail accounts, usually you’d either have to log out of your current one in order to log into the other, or use multiple browsers to simultaneously access them. But Gmail’s new Multiple Account Sign-in feature ends that inconvenience.

Multiple account sign-in lets you sign in with up to two additional accounts, and toggle back and forth between them (or have a browser tab open for each of them simultaneously). Note that multiple account sign-in only works on desktop browsers right now.

To enable this feature, visit and choose Edit next to Multiple Sign-in. You’ll be required to check a few boxes denoting that you understand how to use the feature. When you’re finished, visit your account page and click Edit next to e-mail addresses to add another account.

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