Android tablets can do a lot of things. You can browse, write, read, create, play, and email. But unlike your desktop, the ways and means with which you can organize things are not nearly as plentiful and easily accessed. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t make the tablet email experience a pleasant one. With just a few tweaks, you’ll have your Android email as efficient as possible.

First, I want to focus on using the built-in email client. I’ll cover working with Gmail in upcoming articles, as well as other third-party clients.

Email folders

The built-in Android email client is actually quite good. It may seem somewhat inflexible, but it’s really only as inflexible as your email host. Let me explain. Take a look around the Android email client options. You will NOT find the ability to create folders anywhere. The Android email client can work with folders, but you must create those folders through your hosting provider. For example: I use Vervehosting for most of my personal/professional and client-based email. I can log onto the webmail client and create folders through a groupware tool (I primarily use Squirrelmail).

Theoretically, the folders created through Squirrelmail should show up when the Android email client syncs, but here’s the thing — if you’ve set that account up within Email as a POP account, those folders will not show up. In order to get those folders to appear, that account must be set up as either an IMAP or Exchange account.

Once the folders appear, you can move email around on the device to keep yourself organized. To move an email from the Inbox folder to another folder, simply select the email (or multiple emails), tap the folder icon (upper right, immediately left of the Trash icon — see Figure A), and then select the target folder from the resulting pop up.
Figure A

The built-in email client won’t auto-filter messages, so you’ll have to move them around yourself.

Combined Inbox

Many users aren’t quite sold on the Combined (or Universal) Inbox. If you’re unfamiliar with this, it’s a single inbox that collects all incoming email into a single folder. In order to switch from the Combined Inbox to a particular account, tap on the Account icon on the top left, and then select which account you want to view (see Figure B).
Figure B

Naturally, you can have as many accounts as you need, and they will all show up listed here.

Default Account

Unless you remember to set a particular email as the default account, the Android Email client will set the most recently added account as the default. What this means is that all email going out from the tablet will come from that account. If you have one email account, it’s no big deal — but when you have multiple accounts, this can be a problem. Here’s how to configure the default account (after you’ve added new accounts):

  1. Open up the Settings tool
  2. Tap Accounts and Sync
  3. Tap the account you want to use as the default
  4. Tap Settings
  5. Make sure Default Account is enabled

That does not mean you can ONLY send email from the default account. In fact, you can send from any account you’ve set up on the Email client. To change the “From” address, do the following:

  1. Begin composing the email
  2. Tap on the From entry (there should be a right-facing arrow)
  3. Select the account you want to send from (see Figure C)

Figure C

This allows your email client to be quite a bit more efficient than you thought. No need to open up different clients or switch back and forth between accounts.

View email from the home screen

You don’t have to go to the trouble of opening up the Email client to see what email has come through. Not only can you see what’s come in from the notification system, but you can also add a widget to the home screen to view your email. You can even switch accounts within the same widget. Adding the email widget is simple:

  1. Change to the screen where you want the Email Widget to live
  2. Long press the home screen
  3. Tap on the Widgets tab
  4. Scroll until you find the Email Widget (see Figure D)
  5. Tap the Email Widget to add it to the screen

Figure D

You can add as many email widgets as you need, as well as a Gmail widget.

Now, let’s make it a bit more efficient to use. By default, the widget will only display as many email as it has room to show. Thanks to the later Android upgrades, it’s possible to resize those widgets. Just long press the widget and, once the dots appear on the borders (see Figure E), drag one of the dots to resize.
Figure E

You can not resize the widget any wider than the default – only taller.

Because we’re dealing with a tablet, we can get a bit more size from our widgets. Resize the widget so that it spans the entire length of the screen (top to bottom). By default, you’ll see the sender and the first line of the email. Although you can change that setting for the Email client, that setting cannot be changed for the widget. You can, however, cycle through the different accounts on one widget (so no need to add more than one email widget on the home screen). To cycle through the accounts, simply tap the title bar on the widget (displaying the account name). You can also have the widget display the Combined Inbox to view all accounts at once.

From this same widget, you can, with the tap of a single button, begin composing an email. To do this, simply tap the upper right corner of the widget to open up the composer window. This does not open up the full Email client, but just the composer window. Remember, this will compose an email from the default email account. You can, of course, switch that account once the composer window is open.

There are so many ways to make the Android tablet platform a much more efficient work environment. Have you come up with a more efficient way to work with email on your Android tablet? If so, share it with your fellow TechRepublic readers in the discussion thread below.