If you spend a lot of time in e-mail (and hate that you do), try using Gmail, which is continually adding new features to make your digital life more manageable.

The following is a list of my favorite features, most of which are enabled from "Settings" or "Labs."

1. Import e-mail (Mail Fetcher). You can import e-mail from up to five other e-mail accounts into your Gmail. They will be labeled in your Inbox and you can send a reply from those accounts directly from Gmail. Since you can leave a copy at the source, you can access e-mail from the other account as well and have a backup.

2. Custom Signature. Your custom signature will be appended to the end of all outgoing messages. Create it at the "General" tab under "Settings." You can add links and images simply by inserting the HTML code. (Tip: Blogsigs.com will automatically add your latest blog post title (with link) after your Gmail signature)

3. Filter mail. A great organization tool. You can select incoming mail by person, subject, keywords, etc., and direct Gmail to label, star or forward it as you like. You can also color-code labels by enabling "Custom Label Colors" in Labs. Filters are also used to create auto-responders, which are pre-written e-mails that are sent automatically.

The following features are enabled in the "Labs" tab:

4. Canned Responses. A real timesaver for repetitive e-mails. Create and save as many "canned" (pre-prepared) e-mail messages as you like and send one out manually with a single click or automatically (as an auto-response) based on a filter you have set up. I discovered a way to send an attachment with an auto-response, and I use this technique to automatically send a brochure from a designated Gmail account.

A vacation auto-responder is enabled in Labs and easily created in the "General" tab of Gmail Settings.

5. Forgotten Attachment detector. A great "oopsie" feature that prevents a common e-mail mistake — forgetting to include your attachment. With this detector, you will get a prompt if you mentioned an attachment in your e-mail but did not include it. Brilliant. …CONTINUED

6. Undo Send. An e-mail take-back. Gmail gives you up to 10 seconds to cancel an e-mail after you clicked "send" (I wish it could be longer). While this feature is enabled in Labs, you set the time delay in general settings. (TIP: Do not send an e-mail created under anger or stress. Ten seconds is not enough time to rethink it.)

7. Inserting images. This feature lets you easily upload an image from your computer or a URL and display in the body of your e-mail. It makes your e-mail stand out from the crowd. (While an image can be added as an attachment, it must be clicked to be opened and some readers have trouble opening attachments.)

8. Google Search and Search Autocomplete. Search the Web from your e-mail so you can save time finding information to use in an e-mail. Also enable "Search Autocomplete" to save typing. You can also use search to find e-mails.

9. Google Calendar Gadget. Your calendar sits in your e-mail sidebar. Add events to it as you go through your e-mail. Alerts can be set up to prompt you before the event.

10. Add any Gadget by URL. Enable this feature in Labs, then add the widget URL via the "Widgets" tab. I added a Twitter widget to access my Twitter account from Gmail. I can see tweets, replies and direct messages and easily respond — all from my Gmail account. It’s a real timesaver. You can add other widgets as well, such as a mortgage calculator.

11. Bonus feature: Play Google voicemail from Gmail. Yes, you can play your voice messages without leaving Gmail. Enable this function in Labs. It works only if you use Google Voice, a voicemail system that lets you send calls to multiple phones and converts all voice messages to text, among other things (you can even personalize greetings for different callers). You’ll love it.

There are many other Gmail features, such as automatic translation of e-mails, incoming mail time stamps, e-mail forwarding, showing snippets of e-mail, preview of images, Google chat (which I love), and much more — but this was a top 10 list. You can even create your own custom Gmail themes (I like the Summer Ocean).

Gmail also has a Labs group that lets you exchange information about Gmail and suggest improvements/new features.

Please share any Gmail features you use and why.

Joseph Ferrara is publisher of the Sellsius Real Estate Blog and a partner in TheClozing.com, a real estate news aggregator site. He is an attorney with 25 years of experience in New York, and he also coaches agents on the use of blogging and social networking.


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