Borrowing Brains: GMail, Google Reader, Google Calendar

GoogleWell, I’ve made the jump to all things Google, inspired in part by losing my entire Outlook archives during an attempt to regain hard drive space. (Yes, I’m an idiot. Please see the note at the end of this post if we actually know each other.)

So, for all you Google application vets, what tips can you give regarding how to maximize GMail, Google Reader, and Google Calendar?

With Google Reader, how do you use the “star” function?  If I’m just browsing, but don’t want to take time to read things until later, how do I keep track of them? (Certainly there must be something better than having 20 tabs open in my browswer as I’ve done in the past. Duh.) And what do I do with blog posts I want to be able to reference later—like months later? Bookmark them? Is there a long-term cataloguing feature?  Do you even bother going to actual blog sites anymore? Can you get notified of comments on certain threads via Google reader if you wish? If so, do you integrate Google Reader or a comment featuer with Gmail so you’re notified of new comments without checking back? I’m a rookie. Help! :)

As for Google Calendar and Gmail, is it a nuisance having a calendar and email archives that aren’t available when you’re offline? Or is the way to have data available on my hard drive? Or do you keep another calendar and address book in addition to Google?

Do you keep a window open with these Google features all the time? (For example, I had Outlook running just about all the time.)

I’m sure these questions seem ignorant, but the concept of online info vs. hard drive info seems like it would have drawbacks in addition to obvious advantages. Yes? And what else do I need to know?

Thanks in advance!

Important: If you and I email each other, even occasionally, please send me an email so I can add you to my new address book. Your address has been sent into oblivion along with the rest of my Outlook data. Sorry.


21 Responses

  1. Andy Naselli linked to Gmail advice here.

  2. Google Desktop may be of help to you.

    I usually keep my gmail account open in a web browser tab. The best things (in my opinion) about gmail is 1) being able to get at all your email from anywhere, and 2) the searchability of it.

    I use the star function to “save” greader posts I want to return to at some point. I do go to blog sites at times with greader. It has not totally kept me away. :) You can add tags to posts in greader, and that should be a helpful way of indexing useful posts (everything at immoderate, right?) :) You can subscribe to comments on several blogs, but that would be a separate feed.

    Gtalk is nice too. :)

    I’ve never run into problems with calendar or with gmail being available only when I’m on-line, but I have DSL. Even so, there is “offline” functionality for gmail at least (for both, if I’m not mistaken). You should look into this. Even Greader has offline functionality.

  3. Sorry man, I only know about the google eyes on my fishing lures.

    BTW, I’m now using an Apple and love it!!!

  4. You can get your Gmail and Google Calendar while offline:

    Gmail –
    Google Calendar –

    Also check out Google Docs: edit Word, Spreadsheets, etc in your web browser without needing office. You can even edit simultaneously when you share them with others.

  5. My mobile phone runs Windows Mobile and I can use ActiveSync to connect my phone’s contact with my Gmail contacts, that way I never lose my contacts in my phone. I use the same to sync the Calendar on my phone with my Google Calendar. This allows me to manage one calendar in my web browser and then have those appointments show up on my phone where I get my reminders. If you don’t have a Windows Mobile phone you can still take advantage of some of this, read more here –

    Also both Gmail and Google Calendar support Tasks now. No sync-ing with a mobile device yet that I know of, but I can view the tasks in the web browser on my phone.

  6. I use FireFox for browsing and have found the extension VertTabbar to be indespensible for organizing my tabs. It lines up my tabs on the right-hand side of my FFX window and allows me to have 20 to 30 tabs open and still read all of the titles in the tabs.
    NetNewsWire (RSS reader for Mac) also allows this function.

    I’ve found that this allows me to reclaim precious screen real-estate.

  7. If you are making the jump, try out Google’s web browser, Chrome. It makes Firefox look geriatric! It helps with having multiple tabs open, too.

    You can mark certain posts as “unread” while browsing them in Reader. That’s how I keep things that I want to save for later.

  8. Oh, and I sync my Google Calendar with my Outlook calendar, then sync my Outlook calendar with my Palm. It’s a two-step process, to be sure, but keeps all my appointments updated. This is the ONLY reason I still have Outlook on my computer!

  9. Here’s how I use Google products.

    Google Reader: For posts I want to save for later, I use Evernote ( Evernote provides you with an email address that allows you to email yourself notes. I added the Evernote email to my Google address book, and whenever I want to save an article for the long term, I just use the Google Reader email function and email articles to my Evernote account.

    For short term saves, I use the mark as unread function.

    Gmail: Learn to use labels and filters. It can keep a lot of unwanted newsletters and other items out of your inbox, yet still accessible. Organizing incoming mail with filters helps you prioritize which emails are important to you and keeps your inbox less cluttered.

    Also, be sure to check out Gmail labs under your settings page. There are a lot of really handy features in there that can improve your experience. You have to enable the ones you want, though, as they are off by default

    Oh, and just so you know, Gmail and Google Calendar do have offline features that are currently in beta. For Gmail, you will have to go to “Labs” under your settings page and enable offline Gmail. For the calendar, you just click “Offline” at the top. You won’t have to be completely separate from your hard drive :)


  10. One more thing relating to keeping gmail open in a tab–I don’t like to keep multiples tabs open if I don’t have to. I use Mozilla Prism (a Firefox extension) or Google Chrome (just Google either one to find download pages) to turn my Gmail and Google Calendar into stand-alone applications that run like regular desktop applications. Instead of having a tab open for Gmail, it is running in its own application window. That way you can close Firefox and still have Gmail open. I hope this helps!

  11. Wow. Very helpful. Thanks all. Keep the ideas coming and I’ll implement them as I’m able. You’ve answered a lot of my questions already!

  12. Re: A Few Things About Google Reader

    1. I use the starred items to re-read ones I’ve browsed (and liked) very recently.

    2. I use the tags to sort of archive. (just “add tag” at the bottom of the post) FWIW Google search can find anything even if it’s not starred or tagged. If you only remember a word, search it, you’ll likely find what you read. As far as I know, Google can find any post it’s ever “seen,” as long as it still exists at the original site.

    3. I never keep up with all the RSS feeds so I use the “All Items” view to a list of the most recent titles. There’s view settings to only look at new items

  13. I recently made the jump to Googlemail having used Hotmail for the past 7 years or so.

    Syncing info is important for me because of my situation. You can still use Outlook with Googlemail, if you do a search for Googlemail and Outlook there are lots of walk throughs.

    I like it this way as I can still access all my info offline, plus I have a Backup should anything ever happen to Google (which is highly unlikely, but you can’t be too careful).

    Also, I use Google Mobile to sync all my calendar and contact information direct to my Blackberry.

  14. Question:

    When I click an email link on a web page (using Firefox), it automatically tries to open my Outlook account to send the email. How can I switch the default to use gmail for email hyperlinks?


  15. @Chris,

    How your computer handles hyperlinks is a Firefox setting.

    Go to Tools > Options > Applications (Tab)

    Scroll down to find the one that says “mailto” in the drop down list there should be “use gmail”

  16. Thanks, Matthew. Done.

  17. About email: I no longer use an email client (although my MacBook has both Microsoft Entourage (think Outlook) and Apple Mail.

    I have three Gmail accounts. One native; and 2 branded ( and I use the native for all lower priority email. The other two I port over to a email account that collects all important emails into appropriate folders while archiving on the branded gmail accounts.

    We (my wife and I) use Google Docs for most of our shared documents. No documents are retained on a local PC (in our case MacBooks). That way when it is time for client replacement there is no need to recover files. Google docs documents can also be accessed via other clients (Windows at work or a Linux Netbook that I travel with). We also use Google docs to archive PDFs of tax documents.

    We also have a 500 gig IOmega file store for photos, etc. Pogoplug (which is a small linux file server) manages. These files are available on the Internet (password protected access via Pogoplug website).

    We use Google Calenders for all non-business calendaring items.

  18. Use flock ( to organize gmail etc. + is much better than google reader. Based on firefox but a whole lot better

  19. lastest Gmail tips:

    Also, I use my gmail account to check multiple email addresses, 3 and 1 non-gmail account.
    Add other gmail accout – settings | accounts | get mail from other accouts.
    Add non-gmail account – (I did it but I can’t figure out how at the moment.)

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