Lesotho-born and raised, Nancy Messieh, The Next Web's Middle East Editor, is an Egyptian writer and photographer based in Cairo, Egypt. Fol Lesotho-born and raised, Nancy Messieh, The Next Web's Middle East Editor, is an Egyptian writer and photographer based in Cairo, Egypt. Follow her on Twitter, her site or Google+ or get in touch at [email protected]
There is no denying the power of Gmail. And armed with a handful of extensions and add-on services, you can really turn Gmail into the ultimate emailing powerhouse. From enhancing and tidying your contacts list, to implementing an elaborate productivity system in your inbox, almost anything’s possible. You just need to know how.
And because of Gmail’s popularity, the list continues to grow, diversify, giving users countless new ways to make the service even more useful. Here’s a look at some of the tools you can use to enhance your Gmail experience.
While Boomerang is a great plugin for reminding yourself about emails you need to reply to, FollowUp CC takes it one step further, and can send your recipient a gentle reminder that you still haven’t heard from them. By simply adding a specific email address to the CC field, you can determine how long to wait before a follow up email is sent to anyone who is copied on the email.
There are a variety of ways you can formulate the address, from specifying the length of time to wait or specifying the actual date and time. For example, if you want the follow up email sent on July 20, you would add the address [email protected] If you want the follow up email sent in one week, you’d add [email protected] If you want it sent in one week at 2pm, you’d add [email protected] FollowUp CC provides a complete list of examples of how to formulate the address here.
What’s really cool about the service is the different ways in which it can be used. You can even bookmark websites with the handy bookmarklet, setting the exact time and date you want to be reminded of the site, making it an interesting alternative to Instapaper.
FollowUp CC comes with a series of plans. If you want to try it out for free, you get 25 reminders per month. The paid packages range from $5 a month for 100 reminders, to $15 a month for 1,000 reminders.
Gmail’s search feature is unparalleled, but if you want to make it even more useful the extension CloudMagic adds a few interesting options. Not only does it give you offline search capability, it also lets you simultaneously search several Google services including Gmail, Google Docs, Calendar and your contacts.
Because the extension sits in your browser rather than in Gmail itself, you can search your email account without having to log in at all, and preview messages to boot.
Xobni for Gmail is still in private beta, but you can use it now on your Blackberry or through Outlook. The extension will automatically create your address book based on emails you receive, and on your phone you can add received phone calls and text messages to that list. The contact information will include a photo, any contact information provided and, like Rapportive, will also include links and updates from social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn. The extension also enhances the search function, making it easier than ever to find the exact contact you’re looking for.
Find Big Mail
Gmail is pretty generous when it comes to space, but if you’ve been using the service for a while, and are a bit of a hoarder, you could find yourself reaching full capacity. If you want an easy way to find and get rid of the emails hogging space, Find Big Mail couldn’t make it any easier. Simply plug in your email address to the service, and it will create a series of labels and apply them to messages over 100KB and up.
If your Gmail contact list is a little bit unruly, Scrubly can help you get rid of duplicate entries. Compatible both with Gmail and Google Apps accounts, after connecting your accounts, Scrubly will then scan your contact list for exact duplicates, junk contacts (or contacts lacking any significant information), or loosely matching contacts. Once you’re done, Scrubly will generate a report of how many changes it made to your address book.
If you don’t like the changes that Scrubly has made, you can always restore your contacts using the automatically generated backup.
The free version of the service will scan up to 250 contacts, but if your contact list is any bigger than that you’ll have to upgrade to a premium account.
Send Using Gmail
If you’re using Gmail in a web browser, it can get pretty annoying when you click on a contact link only to find Outlook, Mac Mail, or whatever program is set as the default on your computer. With the Chrome extension, Send Using Gmail you can make sure that next time you click such a link, a Compose mail window in Gmail will open up. There’s no set-up process – install the extension and it will set Gmail as your default email client.
You can also right-click selected text or links in Chrome to automatically populate your new email window.
Taskforce is a Gmail add-on that literally turns your emails into tasks. It’s the ultimate productivity tool because not only does it let you get everything done in one window, it’s also collaborative and syncs with Google Tasks and Calendar.
When converting emails into tasks, the subject line becomes the task, which you can edit, add a due date and enable collaboration, or in other words, keep the other party updated of your progress.
Taskforce is not only a fabulous app for keeping you on top of your to-do list, it’s also an easy way to de-clutter your inbox. Rather than keep the email in your inbox until the task is done, simply convert, archive, and get on with your work.
Sanebox is the perfect service for anyone who’s Gmail inbox has gotten out of hand. After installing the extension, you’ll only have to wait a few minutes while Sanebox does its magic. Sanebox works a little like Gmail’s own Priority Inbox, but in a more distraction free method. Using an algorithm, it sorts through your emails, archiving those that are considered unimportant, adding the label @SaneLater. Anything considered important stays in your inbox.
While Priority Inbox does have a few extra options, there is something to be said for Sanebox’s completely distraction free method of getting all of the unimportant emails out of sight.
After letting Sanebox have at it with my Gmail inbox, my 1000+ unread messages were down to 21, and the filtering was pretty accurate. The @SaneLater label was filled with Twitter notices, newsletters that I had unwittingly signed up for, and a bunch of automated messages. Sanebox is free to try for 30 days, after which it’ll cost you at $4.95 a month.
Active Inbox turns your Gmail inbox into the ultimate ‘Get Things Done’ (GTD) tool. After installing the extension, you can choose which email accounts you want to use it with. This is a useful feature if you have more than one email account and don’t want to apply the system to all of them.
Active Inbox works on a very simple principle but it can be a lifesaver in terms of keeping you organized. It depends entirely on Gmail’s labels, giving you both the system and some handy buttons to get started. Once you’ve installed the extension, Active Inbox will create a series of labels – ‘Action’, ‘Waiting’ and ‘Some Day’ – which you can apply to emails using the specially created menu. It also gives you an easy way to create projects, and assign emails to that project, using nothing more than labels.
To keep you organized, all of the emails with labels can be accessed from a menu on the left hand side of the screen.
The paid version of Active Inbox adds more features, including ‘deadlines’, ‘categories’, and a ‘reply to self’ link, making it easy to save notes and thoughts in your email account.
Active Inbox is compatible with Gmail and Google Apps accounts and can be installed in Firefox and Chrome.
Achieving Inbox Zero is a great feeling, especially if you’re a productivity buff. Nothing feels better than knowing that you’ve archived, answered, deleted, and sorted through all of your emails. 0Boxer is a service which aims to bring a little fun into the mix, making a game out of it.
After authorizing your Gmail account and installing the extension, a new toolbar will be visible at the top of the page. Each time you delete or archive an email, you earn a point, and as you pass certain milestones you’ll earn badges as well. Of course 0Boxer is more fun if your friends are on there as well, and you can keep track of who’s in the lead.
0Boxer is compatible with Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Mailplane.
Do you find yourself having to write the same email over and over again? While Gmail’s own Canned Responses can be useful, The Firefox and Chrome add-on, ToutApp, is like Canned Responses on steroids. Not only can you create and use a series of templates for those repetitive emails, you can also keep track of your email stats. ToutApp comes with an analytics feature which gives you some pretty interesting statistics on how often your emails are opened, and replied to.
While ToutApp does require you to install an extension, the emails aren’t sent from your inbox themselves, but rather from the ToutApp website.
With the free version of ToutApp you can send up to 7 emails a day, and track the statistics of up to two templates. If you need more, paid plans start at $12 a month.
With this handy little extension, Rapportive, your Gmail contact list is enhanced, showing you all kinds of additional information about the people you’re in touch with.
Rapportive adds a sidebar when an email is open, with links to your contacts’ social profiles, a profile image, and any other information they have plugged into their accounts. It also displays a list of recent emails you’ve received from that contact.
As far as your own profile is concerned, you can edit it to your heart’s content, adding or removing accounts, and showing only the information that you want others to see.
Rapportive can also turn your Gmail account into a Twitter client. For that to work, you have to visit this page to activate the service. Once active, you will not only be able to see your contacts’ latest tweets, but also reply and retweet.
Rapportive is compatible with both Gmail and Google Apps accounts, and can be used in Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Mailplane.
Boomerang is a great Gmail extension that will stop those important emails from falling through the cracks. If you send and receive a lot of emails, it’s easy to forget when you’re waiting for a reply. Once installed, Boomerang can return an email to your inbox, after a certain amount of time if you haven’t received a response. Boomerang also makes it easy to schedule an email to send at a later time.
Boomerang is also a great tool for dealing with email clutter. If you receive an email, but don’t need to deal with it just yet, you can ‘boomerang’ it to return to your inbox after a certain amount of time, and that way it won’t slip into the depths of your email, where you’re bound to forget it.
Get the TNW newsletter
Get the most important tech news in your inbox each week.