Gmail for Work

Using Google's email program, Gmail, as your work email

Gmail is a powerful email program from Google. The tools included with Gmail make it a serious alternative to other email options available in the office, and unlike the office, you can check your email on your Gmail account with any computer that has internet access.

What you need to know about Gmail for work:

1) In most cases, your work email address can be forwarded to your Gmail account. This means Gmail can integrate multiple email addresses including your work and personal addresses.

2) Gmail organizes emails in 'conversations' that keep emails with one person together so you can see how the conversation has developed over time.

3) Finding old emails with Google is easier than just about any other email program. Gmail includes enough space to keep nearly all emails you ever receive, and uses the Google search engine to help find old emails. Gmail also supports labeling, making it even easier to locate old emails.

Sign up for a Gmail account

Signing up for Gmail gives you access to Google's email program as well as other tools like Google Docs.

This account gives you access to Gmail, Google Docs (including a word processor, spreadsheet program, and presentation program), Google Base (Google's online database program), Google Calendar, and lots more. Here's the full list.

Have emails from other email accounts sent to your Gmail account

In most cases, you can consolidate your email addresses so that all of the messages can be accessed with Gmail. This includes email addresses on your own domain, your work email, and even emails from other free email services like Yahoo! email. This allows you to read and respond to all of your email in one place.

In addition to the Mail Fetcher, many email accounts can be forwarded so that they appear in Gmail. I actually have eight different email accounts, which I have accumulated over the years, now being sent to Gmail automatically. If you would like to forward your email from a web-based email account, check the help files to find out how to do this.

If Mail Fetcher isn't working for your Outlook mail, try this short article on how to forward email from Outlook.

It is possible that your company does not allow POP access or email forwarding for security reasons. In that case, you are stuck with your office's email program.

Get super-fast using Gmail keyboard shortcuts

Now that you have all your email addresses going to one place, you can focus on the shortcuts for that one email program to maximize productivity.

In your Gmail account, click on 'Settings' on the top right of your screen. Keyboard shortcuts are found in the 'General' tab.

Once the shortcuts are turned on, it's time to learn them. I have taken Gmail's help page on shortcuts and made them printer-friendly. My favorite shortcut is sending a message. Just hit the Tab key followed by the Enter key and the message is sent.

Organize your Gmail

Gmail doesn't use a folder system, as I'm sure Outlook users will be shocked to know. Don't worry. I was a long time Outlook folder user and I transitioned to Gmail's use of conversations and labels easily and will never go back. Also, Gmail uses a filter system similar to Outlook's 'rules.' When you receive an email from your work email address, you can have Gmail automatically label it 'work' when it arrives.

To sum up, you rarely delete a message. Gmail's ample storage space allows you to simply archive nearly everything. Gmail's search and label system makes finding old messages easier than just about any other email program.

Instead of folders, Gmail uses labels which work almost the same way, except they are more flexible.

Gmail allows you to use filters so that emails from your boss can be starred, or emails from your sister can be labeled 'family' automatically.

Use additional tools with Gmail

Gmail add-ons enhance Gmail's functionality with fast notifications, additional organization, and mobile services.

Gmail Notifier gives you a pop-up on your computer as soon as a new message is received.

Gmail Chat allows you to IM (instant message) any of your contacts who are also logged into their Gmail account.

GTDGmail, a Firefox extension that incorporates David Allen's Getting Things Done philosophies into Gmail. This only works if you are using Firefox as your browser.

Google Apps is Google's attempt at creating an office suite (as in sweet!) that is entirely web-based, highly user-friendly, and free. Gmail is an integral part in the suite, but as a bonus, you can set up "real" email addresses with your company's domain name instead of @gmail.com. Definitely worth a look, especially for companies that haven't yet spent thousands of dollars on MS Office.

43Folders.com has an excellent series called "Inbox Zero" with tips on how to stay on top of emails and keep your inbox empty.

Protect your Gmail Account

Take a few steps to secure your account from hackers or other mischief makers.

How did this happen? I typed in my user name and password while using an unsecured wireless network at a book store. It took a few days, but I got my account back with minor damages.

My advice:
Print out your welcome/invitation email and keep it in a safe place. Make sure it has the date and time on it. Don't log into your Gmail unless you are on a secure network. If you do by accident, change your password as soon as you can from a computer on a secured network.