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Top Add-ons for Gmail
By: wubayou
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    Letís say you have been a Hotmail or Yahoo Mail loyalist for all these years and are ready for a change. Googleís Gmail service is certainly a good choice if you are looking to make the switch, as itís rather snappy in terms of performance and has a clean overall look. Gmail is set up in a way that you could learn the ins and outs of its feature set without too much trouble, but there are ways in which you can truly maximize your Gmail experience through the use of add-ons.

    Add-ons do exactly what their name suggests Ė they add on to the functionality of the main program for which they were designed.  In the case of Gmail, there are several add-ons you can employ to help realize its full potential, and this article will describe some of the best around.

    Before we get started, itís worth mentioning how to access some of the add-ons that will be discussed.  Gmail Labs refers to a collection of certain Gmail features which arenít exactly official as of yet.  Think of them as experimental ways to increase Gmailís functionality.  They are not foolproof and can fail, but they are worth giving a shot.  Well, at least some of them are. 

    To access Gmail labs, go into your Gmail account and click the little gear icon that resides in the top right-hand corner of the page.  Click Mail Settings, and click on the Labs tab.  Once there, you will see a list of available labs and have the option to either Enable or Disable each one as you please.  Now letís move on to the details of some of the best add-ons themselves.

    Keyboard Shortcuts

    As with any area in life, shortcuts get you where you want to be in less time.  That holds true in Gmail as well thanks to keyboard shortcuts.  You can enable keyboard shortcuts via the General tab in Gmailís settings.  Click Learn more and you will see a large table of Gmail shortcuts that will cut down your clicks.  For example, hitting ďfĒ will forward a message, while typing the letter ďaĒ will initiate a reply all response.  There are plenty more shortcuts to learn, and once you get all of them down, you will be able to navigate Gmail like a pro.

    Undo Send

    Undo Send is without a doubt one of the most clever and useful add-ons in Gmail Labs.  If you are like most people, you probably sent an email when you were angry and quickly regretted it after hitting the Send button.  With Undo Send, you have the option to cancel an email submission after a few seconds thanks to a grace period that the add-on implements.

    Mouse Gestures

    Located in Gmail Labs, Mouse Gestures lets you put your mouse to work to navigate Gmail in a way thatís not only faster, but more fun and natural as well.  Optimized for Windows, this add-on gives you the ability to get back to the inbox by holding right-click and moving your mouse upward.  Similarly, you can hold right-click and move the mouse to the left to go to a previous conversation, or right-click and move the mouse to the right to navigate to the next conversation.

    Google Calendar Gadget

    This add-on may not be the sexiest or most innovative you will find, but it is highly useful.  It simply adds a box to the left column of your Gmail interface that will give you a mini overview of your Google Calendar, complete with details that include vital events that are coming up along with their locations.  For added functionality, you can add an event to your calendar with ease straight from your inbox with just a simple click.

    Background Send

    Background Send is the perfect add-on from Gmail Labs for those who are constantly in a rush.  Like its name suggests, the add-on lets you send mail in the background in a flash without having to wait around.  As long as you stay logged in to your Gmail account, the email will be sent, but you wonít have to sit there and observe as all of your attachments upload.  Just click Send, and the Compose Mail screen will close.  A small notification will appear to let you know that the message is sending in the background, which allows you to move on to the next task.

    Canned Responses

    Are you too lazy to respond to each and every email?  If so, head on over to Gmail Labs, locate the Canned Responses option, and enable it.  It will allow you to save common messages and then send them out when applicable.  You can also tweak the add-on to send emails automatically by using filters.


    Gmailís default setting kicks you back to the inbox view after you delete, archive, or mute a conversation.  While this setting may be ideal for most users, you may want to move on to the next conversation in your inbox after performing such actions.  Auto-advance, which is located in Gmail Labs, will give you the option to do so, but you can also choose to go back to the previous or older conversation.

    Quick Links

    If you are looking for fast one-click access to certain messages, Quick Links is a must.  Enable it in Gmail Labs and you will get a small box in the left column that is essentially a list of custom bookmarks to your most important Gmail items.

    SMS (text messaging) in Chat

    Enable this Gmail Labs feature if you want to increase Gmailís functionality and usefulness by implementing the ability to send and receive text messages in chat.

    Send & Archive

    This Gmail Labs add-on increases efficiency by adding a button to the Compose mail form that gives you the option to Send and Archive a message all at once.

    Message Translation

    Use this Gmail Labs feature if you work internationally or message with those from other countries.  It uses Google Translate to give you a heads up on whatís going on, no matter what the language.

    DISCLAIMER: The content provided in this article is not warranted or guaranteed by Developer Shed, Inc. The content provided is intended for entertainment and/or educational purposes in order to introduce to the reader key ideas, concepts, and/or product reviews. As such it is incumbent upon the reader to employ real-world tactics for security and implementation of best practices. We are not liable for any negative consequences that may result from implementing any information covered in our articles or tutorials. If this is a hardware review, it is not recommended to open and/or modify your hardware.

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