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Enhancing Gmail (Tips + Tricks)

Below is a list of common tips and tricks you can use with Gmail that we think, based on feedback, may be relevant to the Ross community.  This list is not comprehensive and may evolve and change to include new things or remove items that may no longer be relevant.  While they can enhance your Gmail experience, some of them may alter the appearance and behavior of other Gmail features, so use them at your discretion and only when you think they will meet a certain need.


A lot of the workarounds listed below may involve the use of what Google calls "Labs."  Labs are simply features that Google has not yet incorporated as part of the full Gmail product, but will allow you to turn on to experiment with.  You can find a list of Labs by clicking the Labs tab in the Settings pane.  

Putting the Ross logo in your default signature

If you'd like to include a small Ross UM logo in your outgoing communications as part of your signature, simply go into your Gmail settings, and under the Signature section, click "Insert Image," as shown below.  Paste the following web address into the Image URL field.  Click OK, and you'll see the Ross logo appear as part of your signature!


Using more than one signature

Gmail allows you to have only one signature, which may not work for everyone. You might want two signatures... one for outside contacts that contains your full name, title, email address, phone number, and perhaps the Ross logo found above; the second for internal messages with just your first name and your local phone extension.  It would be nice, too, if you could simply insert whichever you need with only a few mouse clicks.

You can do this by using a Lab called "Canned Responses."  In the Settings pane, click on the Labs tab, search for "Canned Responses." Click Enable, then Save Changes.

Next, open up a new mail message.  Compose your signature as you want it to look, and underneath the subject line should now appear a button labeled "Canned responses."  Click that, and choose New canned response...  Enter a name for it, and click OK.  Repeat this process for as many signatures as you want.  Then, whenever you want to insert one of your signatures, click "Canned responses," and click Insert next to the one you want to use.

Mail merge

Mail merge likely needs no introduction... if you know enough to know that you need it, you likely know exactly what it does.  But just in case, a mail merge refers to the automated sending of a "batch" of emails to a list of different people, with custom fields inside the body of the message, making the message appear to be customized to that individual.  

Unfortunately, Gmail does not have this functionality built in.  However, there are two user-created templates that run in Google Docs that allow you to do something similar.  A walkthrough for the first method can be found here, and the second can be opened in your Google Docs at this link. (Once it opens, create a copy in your own Google Docs folder by going to File, Make a Copy...) If you decide to use these, we recommending testing both, just so you can see which one is better for your needs.

A third solution would be configuring Microsoft Outlook to use your Gmail account, and performing the merge within the Office suite of programs.  You can easily configure Outlook to work with your Gmail by using the Google Apps Sync tool.

Delay the sending of a message

An add-on called "Boomerang for Gmail" will allow you to specify when you want a particular message delivered.  This way, you can compose and send a message on Friday, but not have it actually show up in the recipients mailbox until, say, Monday morning.

Boomerang for Gmail is free for 10 uses per month. It can be downloaded here.

Change mail links to open in Gmail

Often, Outlook will be configured as your primary email program, even if you never use it.  This can cause problems when you go to click a link on a web page in order to send someone a message.  If your computer is configured to use Outlook, it may try to open it, and generate a strange error message.

You can change this behavior by downloading and installing the Chrome web browser. The first time you access your UM Mailbox, it will ask if you'd like to use "University of Michigan mail for all email links?"  Click Yes.  If you mistakenly clicked No, or think you never got that message, follow these instructions to turn it back on.

Forwarding your mail

Your email address is simply an alias that people can address a message to.  You can point that alias to any "mailbox."  By default, your Google mailbox is specified as the delivery location, however, you can change it to whatever you wish by editing the setting in your M-Community profile.  Detailed information about forwarding or redirecting your email by editing your M-Community settings can be accessed at this link.