Friday, May 15, 2015

Four Essential Gmail Add-Ons and a Gmail Tip

Since I work at a practically all-Google district, Gmail has become my most-often-used application all day long. But I find that it is missing some essential features that I used to have in Novell GroupWise and also some features I have at home with Microsoft Outlook. Today, I hope to introduce you to some add-ons that make it much more powerful than it would be otherwise.

1)  Boomerang: Have you ever wanted to schedule an e-mail to be sent at a later time? Maybe you subscribe to some e-mail newsletters, but you just don't have the time right to read them right away. With Boomerang, you can schedule e-mails to be sent later, or to arrive in your Inbox at a scheduled time (when you might not be as busy). Both of these features are very useful. For instance, as I'm composing a new e-mail, at the bottom, underneath the blue Send button, I see a red "Send Later" button, where I can "Boomerang" this message to be sent at just about any day and time that I want.



At the top of any e-mail message, you will also see a Boomerang button with these options:
 
This allows you to Boomerang the message back to your Inbox when ever you're ready to look at it. Very useful and free!

2)  Checker Plus for Gmail: This is another must-have, and another add-on where it's hard to believe how much you get for free. With Checker Plus, you get the ability to read e-mails from one Google Chrome drop-down icon up on the toolbar. You also get pop-up messages in the bottom right corner of your screen that let you delete, read or mark the message as read, all with the click of a button. These notifications will even pop up when Chrome is closed (if you choose to enable that feature in the Options). Do you like audio notifications? Checker Plus gives you an audio chime sound effect (if you enable it) when ever a new e-mail arrives, and you can customize these audio cues by clicking its Gear/Options button on the Chrome toolbar. Sound notifications can include a chime, a ding, even "You've Got Mail." Remember that? See below for a look at the options you get just in the Notifications tab alone.
 
To learn more about what Checker Plus can do for you, take a look at this article from Maketecheasier.com which goes into depth about its many features. 

3)  Rapportive: When you get an e-mail from someone, it's nice to see a photo of that person and have the ability to go back and look at previous e-mails from him or her. With social networking being as important as it is today, wouldn't it also be nice to immediately have a link to that person's social media pages? Rapportive gives you all of this. Check out the information for Mary Davis below. All of this shows up in an e-mail from her. 

This is only the beginning. Just click on the little "More Actions" arrow under the person's name at the right (or next to his/her face) to reveal "Recent Mail From." I love this. I often find myself wanting to see previous e-mail conversations I've had with a particular co-worker, for instance. Rapportive allows me to see all of these recent e-mail conversations (and some that are not so recent). From one teacher I work with, it brought up the past 100 e-mails I received from her. Nice. If this person is active on the social media channels, it will bring up a recent post from his or her YouTube, Facebook or Twitter accounts, as well. If you know the same people, it can also show your shared connections.Great stuff!


 4)  Movenote: For a teacher, trainer, or any presenter who is often showing how to do something visually, this is essential. It allows you to create voice-over presentations at any time, even from within an e-mail message. At the bottom of your e-mail Compose window, you will see a blue "Create video presentation" button.

  Assuming you have already logged in to Movenote at least once (I recommend using your Google account to log in), it will need permission to use your camera. This can be your webcam or a document camera. The idea is that you will be creating a visual presentation with your face included as the narrator. However, one new feature announced recently is that Movenote no longer requires you to use a camera, so just turn if off at the right if you want to avoid being seen. Students do tend to like to have a face included with most tutorials or video assignments though, and it does help to personalize it. 

Once Movenote gets access to your camera, you will click "Continue" and you can then "Add Slides" from your Computer or Google Drive. Slides will come from PowerPoint, Google Slides, photos from your computer or a PDF document, so you will need to have something prepared beforehand. Keep that in mind. You can also get into Movenote by going to their website (www.movenote.com) and signing in. Again, I use my Google/Gmail account to sign in.
 

Another new feature is that Movenote now allows you to draw on your slides as you narrate your presentation. When you're done with your "slidecast," just click the Done button at the right, and then you can share your presentation online and provide the link by e-mail. There are two different Movenote buttons found inside your Gmail (within a new message you compose, or at the top of your Inbox).

While it isn't really a Gmail add-on, you can quickly get to it from within Gmail and access it from within your Chrome browser at any time. Slidecasts can be shared through Google Drive or online. Click on the video link below for a video tutorial on how to use Movenote. And it is one of the few options for Chromebooks that allow for any type of narrated slidecasting at all.
 
Gmail Tip: How to Star your Important Messages
with Multiple-Colored Stars


You probably wish you could flag your most important e-mails with something other than a single yellow star or the little yellow tag that Google gives you by default for important messages. I found that if you dig into your Gmail settings, you can add many different colors of stars. Here's how:
  1. Click on the Gear/Settings button in the top right of Gmail.
  2. Scroll down until you see the Stars section.
  3. Notice which stars are In use. There will only be a single yellow star. That's not good enough. You might want a red, blue, purple and green star, and/or an exclamation mark for really important messages, or a check-mark for items you have completed, etc. What ever works best for you to stay organized. 
  4. Drag the stars from the Not in use section up to the In use section, and drag them into the order that you find most useful.
  5. Now, as you click next to an important e-mail message, use the order you have In use. In my example below, I would click once for a red star, twice for a blue star, three times for a purple star, etc. When you have completed the cycle of stars and exclamation marks, etc., it starts over with the red star again. I for one use every colored star except the yellow one, and I particularly like the green check-mark.

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