AUTHOR: VTMiller TITLE: Gmail Tips -Power Users: DATE: 9/30/2005 01:05:00 PM ----- BODY:
Gmail Power Tips

This article is an excerpt from the upcoming ExtremeTech book Hacking Gmail. This Chapter shows you how to accomplish keyboard shortcuts, plus addressing, filtering, and advanced searching in Google's slick email service.

Keyboard Shortcuts
The keyboard shortcuts available within Gmail are, without any doubt, the quickest route to speedy productivity within the application. The time investment in learning the keyboard shortcuts of all of your computer's applications always pays off, as you are able to navigate your system much more quickly than before. Instead of reaching off the keyboard, grasping the mouse, moving it to the right place and clicking, keyboard shortcuts allow you to press just one button. You don't lift your hands off the keyboard, and when you're really good at typing, you don't even need to look at the screen.

Activating the keyboard shortcuts is simple. Go to the Settings page and turn them on there, as shown in Figure 3-1.

Figure 3-1

Save the settings, and you will find that the bottom of your inbox screen has changed to show some of the keyboard shortcut commands, as shown in Figure 3-2.

Figure 3-2

To see what keyboard shortcuts are about, press the C key now. Immediately, the page will change to the Compose Message window, with your cursor in the To: addressing area. Type in an email address, then press Tab. Your cursor will move to the subject line. Type something, and hit tab again, and you're in the message box. So far so good. Now a snag. Hit tab again, and then enter, and in Internet Explorer your message will be sent. In any other browser—Firefox, say—the final tab will put your cursor up into the search box. Hitting Enter will bring up a warning box (shown in Figure 3-3) asking whether you are willing to lose the newly typed, unsaved, message.

Figure 3-3

You most likely don't want to do that.

If you're not using Internet Explorer—and I recommend you do not; employ Firefox (as I am in this chapter's screenshots) instead—then this is a drawback to the keyboard shortcuts. Grasp your mouse, and click on the send button instead. Continued... The keyboard shortcuts come into their own when dealing with spam. Figure 3-4 shows my Inbox full of the stuff.

Figure 3-4

If you wake to find an Inbox full of such nastiness, it's easy to get rid of. Press O to open a message, and when it has opened, press the exclamation point (!) to mark it as spam. By using my left hand to press the Shift-1 to make the exclamation point, and my right hand to press O, I find I can get quite a satisfying rhythm going, and my Inbox clear in little to no time. Making "Pow!" noises is also recommended.

You can, of course, use the mouse to select the ones you want, and then hit an exclamation point. Continued... The keyboard shortcuts are many and various, and are all good to know about. But they're also very simple. By now you should have the hang of their power. Here then, before moving on, in Table 3-1 is a complete run-down of the keyboard shortcuts available at the time of writing.

Table 3-1 Gmail's Keyboard Shortcuts

Key Definition Action
c Compose Allows you to compose a new message. Shift+c allows you to compose a message in a new window.
/ Search Puts your cursor in the search box.
k Move to newer conversation Opens or moves your cursor to a more recent conversation. You can hit Enter to expand a conversation.
j Move to older conversation Opens or moves your cursor to the next oldest conversation. You can hit Enter to expand a conversation.
n Next message Moves your cursor to the next message. You can hit Enter to expand or collapse a message. (Only applicable in Conversation View.)
p Previous message Moves your cursor to the previous message. You can hit Enter to expand or collapse a message. (Only applicable in Conversation View.)
Enter Open Opens your conversation. Also expands or collapses a message if you are in Conversation View.
u Return to conversation list Refreshes your page and returns you to the Inbox, or list of conversations.
y Archive (Remove from current view) Automatically removes the message or conversation from your current view.

From Inbox, y means Archive

From Starred, y means Unstar

From Spam, y means Unmark as spam and move to Inbox

From Trash, y means move to Inbox

From any label, y means Remove the label

Pressing y has no effect if you're in Sent or All Mail.

x Select conversation Automatically checks and selects a conversation so you can archive, apply a label, or choose an action from the drop-down menu to apply to that conversation.
s Star a message or conversation Adds a star to or removes a star from a message or conversation. Stars allow you to give a message or conversation a special status.
! Report spam Marks a message as spam and removes it from your conversation list.
r Reply Reply to the message sender. Shift+r allows you to reply to a message in a new window. (Only applicable in Conversation View.)
a Reply all Reply to all message recipients. Shift+a allows you to reply to all message recipients in a new window. (Only applicable in Conversation View.)
f Forward Forward a message. Shift+f allows you to forward a message in a new window. (Only applicable in Conversation View.)
esc Escape from input field Removes the cursor from your current input field.
Continued... Now that you're familiar with Gmail's keyboard shortcuts, Table 3-2 outlines the combo-key shortcuts:

Table 3-2 Combo-Keys Shortcuts

Shortcut Key Definition Action
Tab then Enter Send message After composing your message, use this combination to automatically send it. (Only supported in Internet Explorer)
y then o Archive and next Archive your conversation and move to the next one.
g then a Go to All Mail Takes you to All Mail, the storage place for all the mail you've ever sent or received, but haven't deleted.
g then s Go to Starred Takes you to all of the conversations that you've starred.
g then c Go to Contacts Takes you to your Contacts list.
g then d Go to Drafts Takes you to all the drafts that you've saved.
g then i Go to Inbox Takes you back to the Inbox.

Moving on from the keyboard shortcuts, the next section shows you how you can avoid them altogether by using filters. Continued... One little known feature of the more old-school email systems is the one called plus addressing. It can be exceptionally useful both in Gmail and in your other email systems, and I use it extensively for things like mailing lists and weblog commenting.

In a nutshell, Gmail will ignore anything in the first half of an email address after a plus sign. So is treated in exactly the same way as It is not, as you might expect, a different address. You can put anything after the plus sign except for a space or an at (@) sign, and it will always get delivered to your real Inbox. Figure 3-5 should prove that it works.

Figure 3-5

Plus Addressing is remarkably useful, as it enables you to set up filters for your incoming mail. In order to set up filters, click the "Create a filter" link to the right of the search bar. You will be presented with a screen containing something very much like Figure 3-6.

Figure 3-6

Copy, as shown, the address into the To: box, and click on the Next Step button. Of course, this is how you create filters for any other part of the message, too. I'll leave it to the reader's intelligence to see how this works. Figure 3-7 shows the next stage.

Figure 3-7

A filter can move, star, directly archive, label, forward, and trash any message that triggers it. Select the actions you want, and click on the Create Filter button. Figure 3-8 shows the final result.

Figure 3-8

Because Plus Addressing effectively gives you an unlimited number of email addresses to the same Gmail inbox, it allows you to assign one to each mailing list, website, and so on that you subscribe to. You can also use it to track which email addresses have been sold to spammers, and send those to Trash automatically. Continued... Gmail has a few other features to its addressing. Firstly, the dot in the middle of most people's Gmail addresses is entirely optional. As Figure 3-9 shows, is exactly the same as

Figure 3-9

Indeed, as Figure 3-10 shows, the dot is basically ignored. Put it anywhere you like or leave it out entirely—yet another way to produce filterable email addresses inside Gmail.

Figure 3-10

One final thing about addressing: If you are sending a mail to someone else's Gmail account, you needn't add the section of the address. Just type the first half and it will be delivered perfectly well. Continued... Like most desktop applications, Gmail actually allows you to mark a group of items without having to select each one individually (by mark, I mean to put a check in the checkbox next to an e-mail when you are presented with a list of e-mails).

With Gmail, if you'd like to select a group of consecutive messages without marking each one separately, you simply need to check the first one in the list, then, hold down the Shift key and check the last one you want to include in the group of marked messages—the two e-mails you checked and the all of the e-mails between them will now be marked.

You can use the same method to un-mark e-mails and to star or unstar them. Note, however, that this might not work in all browsers. Continued... When you receive an e-mail from an address that doesn't end in, Gmail looks at attachments for file extensions known to be executable (such as .dll, .exe, .vbs, and so forth), so if someone sends you one of these file types, their message will bounce back. This goes for files within ZIP archives as well—Gmail looks inside these for executable extensions and the e-mail will bounce back to the sender if it contains any. Gmail doesn't look inside other archive formats, such as RAR or ACE, so you might want to use one of these formats instead of going through the hassle of the following workaround.

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To get around this annoyance, you can use the same trick that has been used for years. Simply tell the sender to rename the extension of the file to something Gmail will allow (such as .jpg), and when you receive the file, rename it back to the type it really is (for example, change file.jpg to file.exe).

It seems that Gmail will allow you to send and receive executable attachments between Gmail accounts and from Gmail to outside accounts. Continued... Gmail is run by Google, so it's obvious that its built-in search engine is going to be extremely powerful. Everyone is used to the ordinary search technique of putting keywords into the box and pressing enter, but not everyone is aware of the additional operators you can use. Table 3-3 gives a rundown:

Table 3-3: Gmail's Search Operators

Operator Definition Example(s)
from: Used to specify the sender Example: from:amy

Meaning: Messages from Amy.
to: Used to specify a recipient Example: to:david

Meaning: All messages that were sent to David (by you or someone else).

subject: Search for words in the subject line Example: subject:dinner

Meaning: Messages that have the word dinner in the subject.

OR Search for messages matching term A or term B

OR must be in all caps

Example: from:amy OR from:david

Meaning: Messages from Amy or from David.



Used to exclude messages from your search Example: dinner-movie

Meaning: Messages that contain the word dinner but do not contain the word movie.

label: Search for messages by label

There isn't a search operator for unlabeled messages

Example: from:amy label:friends

Meaning: Messages from Amy that have the label friends.

Example: from:david label:my-family

Meaning: Messages from David that have the label My Family.

has:attachment Search for messages with an attachment Example: from:david has:attachment

Meaning: Messages from David that have an attachment.

filename: Search for an attachment by name or type Example: filename:physicshomework.txt

Meaning: Messages with an attachment named physicshomework.txt.

Example: label:work filename:pdf

Meaning: Messages labeled work that also have a PDF file as an attachment.

" "(quotes) Used to search for an exact phrase

Capitalization isn't taken into consideration

Example: "i'm feeling lucky"

Meaning: Messages containing the phrase i'm feeling lucky or I'm feeling lucky.

Example: subject:"dinner and a movie"

Meaning: Messages containing the phrase "dinner and a movie" in the subject.

( ) Used to group words

Used to specify terms that shouldn't be excluded.

Example: from:amy(dinner OR movie)

Meaning: Messages from Amy that contain either the word dinner or the word movie.

Example: subject:(dinner movie)

Meaning: Messages in which the subject contains both the word dinner and the word movie.

in:anywhere Search for messages anywhere in your account

Messages in Spam and Trash are excluded from searches by default.

Example: in:anywhere subject:movie

Meaning: Messages in All Mail, Spam, and Trash that contain the word movie.




Search for messages in Inbox, Trash, or Spam Example: in:trash from:amy

Meaning: Messages from Amy that are in the trash.




Search for messages that are starred, unread, or read Example: is:read is:starred from:David

Meaning: Message from David that have been read and are marked with a star.



Used to specify recipients in the cc: or bcc: fields

Search on bcc: cannot retrieve messages on which you were blind carbon copied

Example: cc:david

Meaning: Messages that were cc-ed to David.



Search for messages after or before a certain date

Date must be in yyyy/mm/dd format.

Example: after:2004/04/17 before:2004/04/18

Meaning: Messages sent on April 17, 2004.

More precisely: Messages sent on or after April 17, 2004, but before April 18, 2004.

The operators detailed in Table 3-3 are all self explanatory, and can be combined. For example, consider the following search parameters:

in:inbox from:BenHammersley "fancy a pint?"

This search would result in any message from my Gmail account, in your Inbox, suggesting a visit to the pub. In order to bring any unread mail sent before New Year's Eve 2004, with an attachment, and the subject line New Year's Eve Invitation, you would conduct the following search:

is:unread before:2004/12/31has:attachment subject:"New Years Eve Invitation"

Very simple indeed.

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Copyright (c) 2005 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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