Google continues to make its
case as the only Web destination you ever need—much to the delight of its
investors. One of the more useful Google offerings is the Gmail Web-based e-mailing
application. Although technically still in beta, Gmail is in
fact a very useful and feature-rich mostly-complete application. (See Figure A to see what a typical inbox
looks like.)However, not all of the features that can be found in Gmail are
readily apparent. The 10 things listed in this document will draw out some of the
hidden features and make this Web-based e-mail client event more appealing.

Figure A

Gmail inbox

1. Labels

When it
comes to organizing your Gmail inbox, there is perhaps no better mechanism than
the label feature. You can label any e-mail with a keyword or keywords of your
own choosing. From that point on, that e-mail will be identified by its
label(s) and, most importantly, can be searched and listed according to that
label. Using this feature, you can basically index or tag your e-mail for later
retrieval; only you get to decide what that system for retrieval looks like.

and assigning labels can be accomplished under the More Actions dropdown box.

2. Conversations

A set of
e-mails associated by a common label is known as a conversation. Certain
actions, such as moving to a different folder, can be accomplished in a single
pass on the entire conversation. This can save a tremendous amount of time if
your conversation is a lengthy one. One caveat, don’t add an e-mail to a
conversation unless it is really an integral part of that thread, because any
changes made to a conversation will be made across the board.

3. Searching multiple labels

The feature
that separates Google’s Gmail Web-based e-mail service from everyone else’s is
the searching capability—something that Google does very well obviously.
Besides the typical keyword search, where you type in a word or phrase, click
the search button, and wade through the corresponding results, you can perform
more advanced searches.

searches rely heavily on the labeling system outlined in #1 above. Using the label: designation, you can perform Boolean searches on the
contents of your Gmail account. Here are some examples:

  • To
    search for more than one label (siegfried and roy):
    label:siegfried AND label:roy
  • To
    search for one label or another:
    label:siegfried OR label:roy
  • To
    search for one label but not another:
    label:siegried AND NOT label:roy

4. Searching query words

If you
click the “Show search options” link of the main Gmail page, you get
to a Search Options dialogue page, similar to the one shown in Figure B.

Figure B

Search Options

In the
Search Options dialogue you can specify the usual search parameters like From or To a certain address, e-mail with a particular
subject line, and even designate whether the e-mail is read or unread. If you
are looking for that one incriminating photo attachment of your spouse, you can
set parameters like “must have an attachment and have been received within
these dates.”

While this
GUI interface has many options, there are even more available to those who want
to master the query operators that govern the Google search box. For example,
you could type this search:

label:siegfried AND NOT label:royhas:attachment before:2005/11/17

That search
would find e-mails labeled Siegfried and not Roy, with attachments, and dated
before November 17, 2005.

Table A shows you a complete list of query
operators that you can use in advanced searching.

Table A





Used to specify the

Example – from:amy
Meaning – Messages from Amy


Used to specify a

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


Search for words in
the subject line

Example – subject:dinner
Meaning – Messages that have the word “dinner” in the subject


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”


Search for messages by
isn’t a search operator for unlabeled messages

Example –from:amylabel:friends
Meaning – Messages from Amy that have the label “friends”

Example –from:davidlabel:my-family
Meaning – Messages from David that have the label “My Family”


Search for messages
with an attachment

Example – from:davidhas:attachment
Meaning – Messages from David that have an attachment


Search for an
attachment by name or type

Example – filename:physicshomework.txt
Meaning – Messages with an attachment named “physicshomework.txt”

Example – label:workfilename:pdf
Meaning – Messages labeled “work” that also have a PDF file as an

” “

Used to search for an
exact phrase*
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”


Search for messages
anywhere in your account*
in ‘Spam’ and ‘Trash’ are excluded from searches by default

Example – in:anywheresubject:movie
Meaning – Messages in ‘All Mail’, ‘Spam’, and ‘Trash’ that contain the word


Search for messages in
‘Inbox’, ‘Trash’, or ‘Spam’

Example – in:trashfrom:amy
Meaning – Messages from Amy that are in the trash


Search for messages
that are starred, unread or read

Example – is:readis:starredfrom:David
Meaning – Messages 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
sent during a certain period of time*
must be in yyyy/mm/dd format.

Example – after:2004/04/16

Meaning – Messages sent after April 16, 2004, but before April 18, 2004.*
precisely: Messages sent on April 17, 2004.

5. Import contacts

getting a Gmail account, one of the first things you are probably going to do
is port over your contacts from your other e-mail clients like Outlook or
Eudora. The Gmail contacts upload wizard will accept contact lists in comma
separated values (CSV) format, which means just about any other client, if it
can generate a CSV list, is fair game for importing into Gmail. The only caveat
to remember is that Gmail contacts use a limited number of fields: name, e-mail
address, and notes. All the fields beyond name and e-mail address will be
transferred into the notes field.

Figure C


6. Rich formatting

composed in the Gmail service is defaulted to be saved and sent in the Rich
Text Format (RTF). This means that most of the e-mail clients receiving your
sent e-mail will be able to see formatting without having to render and display
HTML. Many security conscious recipients refuse HTML encoded e-mail out of
hand, without even looking at it because of the inherent security risks
associated with worms and viruses.

To help you
create your fancy formatted e-mail documents, Gmail includes several common
word processing features on the composition toolbar (see Figure D) including bold, italic, text color, bullet points, and
hyper linking. If you prefer, you can remove the formatting and send your
message in plain text.

Figure D

Compose an e-mail

7. Built-in security

offers an SSL-encrypted login by default, which means entering your
password for access to Gmail is a protected transfer of information. Encrypted
login is probably something you would expect, but you can add another layer of
protection by adding an “S” to your URL request. Using this link to
get to your Gmail account will activate secure HTTPS access:

8. View attachments

When you
receive an attached image in your Gmail account, you are presented with a
thumbnail copy of the image and given two choices for viewing it. You can
choose to view the image and Gmail will show it to you there in your browser or
you can choose to download it to your personal PC for viewing later in an
application designed for image and photo manipulation.

9. Spelling

For those
of us who are correct spelling challenged the invention of the spellchecker
inside word processors ranks as one of the greatest feature enhancements of all
time. The lack of a spell checker in most Web-based e-mail services is probably
the one feature that made the prospect of using those services daunting and
kept us away in droves. Google has addressed that concern by adding a very good
spell checker to the e-mail composition interface. Click the spell check button
and the system will scan your e-mail, mark what it perceives to be misspellings
and then suggest possible changes.

10. Forwarding and POP access

In this
always on, always connected technology-driven world which we live in being away
from your e-mail is just not acceptable anymore. To help you keep in touch with
your Gmail account you can forward whatever e-mail you receive to another
e-mail client and you can use the POP3 protocol to retrieve the e-mail sitting
in your inbox from another client. Both of these functions can be accessed from
the Mail Settings dialogue page (see Figure

Figure E

Mail Settings

More tips

This is
just a short list of Gmail’s many features. The power
and sophisticated feature set of the Gmail service is remarkable, especially
when you consider this is all processed from your browser. Now you can truly
get e-mail from just about anywhere—all you need is a PC and an Internet
connection. Is it any wonder that the Internet Café has become a so popular around
the world.