Let’s Talk iOS Gmail

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Native email on the iPhone and iPad has always left a lot to be desired, particularly if you are a Gmail user. Same has historically been true for Gmail users on iOS. However, with a major refresh of the universal iOS app yesterday, Gmail has really come into its own on the Apple mobile front. I’m not sure whether buying uber-popular email app Sparrow had anything to do with it or not – I’m just happy with the results.

 

Obvious changes include improvement in the physical UI, which is simpler and easier to view, and responds beautifully on my iPhone 5. Other improvements clearly had me in mind as well – I am thrilled that the newest version not only has multiple sign in, but allows really simple switching between accounts with icon-based buttons. You can add up to five Gmail accounts within the app – I’ve filled up four slots already.

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Another new benefit is better integration with other Google products – clearly the direction Google has been heading in with all its products. You can now add calendar invites and events from within Gmail without having to switch to another app. And you can post to Google+ from within your Gmail, such as +-ing a post.

 

There are notifications, now, if you prefer to have your incoming email accompanied by a charming tone and a lock screen note. Really. Some people like that.

 

Easily add photos or scribbles to your emails. Yes, scribbles. You can draw something and attach it.

 

Search in the iOS app is now predictive – Google will offer up options as you type your query. Certainly speeds things up a bit. And, with infinite scrolling you can slam through 150 emails with a few swipes, without having to reload after 50 items.

 

All of the new features have usability in mind. I like the new app so much, I am thinking of moving it to the tray. A lot of these features have already been available in the Android version, which really is no surprise at all. And Google also updated the Android version yesterday as well, keeping it well ahead of the iOS version with pinch-to-zoom on individual messages and swipe (left or right) to delete or archive. There is also an ability to “auto-fit” a message to your phone’s screen, a thumbnail view of attached images that can be tapped to open a swipeable gallery, and the ability to attach phone-captured videos to an email. For phones with Android 4.0 or higher, unfortunately, but still pretty cool.

 

Both apps are free. What are you waiting for?

Another Reason to Love Google Drive & Gmail – 10GB Attachments!

 

As file sizes go up, the restrictions imposed by email services on file attachment sizes become more and more painful. I have bumped up against these limits on more than one occasion, with the net result of me not being able to email the desired file and suffering a bald spot where I was forced to pull out my own hair.

One of my reasons for touting Google Drive from the start was the ability to easily upload large (read 10GB) file sizes to the cloud. Well Google has done that one better: by integrating Google Drive into Gmail, you can now send 10GB file attachments from Drive using the email service!

If that wasn’t cool enough, Drive will make sure that recipients have the latest, up to date version of your cloud-stored document.

It is being rolled out slowly (unfortunately for me as I have a big file attachment to send right this minute), so check the new Composer in your Gmail to see if you have the little Drive icon down next to the attachments clip along the bottom bar of the compose window. You can also achieve attachment by pasting the Drive link to the doc right into the email. Gmail will check to see whether the recipients you designate in the “to” box have access to the file you are sending, and prompt you to adjust the file sharing settings within the email dialog. So, I definitely recommend you opt into the new Compose option if you plan on sending the entire Encyclopedia Brittanica to your friend via Gmail.

Yes, this is just one more reason to consider Gmail and Google Drive when deciding what cloud storage, communications, and file management system to employ.

Gmail blog.

Gmelius Makes Gmail Better

Hardcore Gmail users will love this – Gmelius is a cross-browser extension that offers lots of options for customizing and  improving your Gmail experience. First and foremost: Gmelius will allow you to excise the ads that show at the top of your inbox! Right now, it appears Gmelius has extensions for Chrome, Firefox and Opera – hopefully they will come to the aid of some  of those other browsers  soon.

 

Some of the other great features that are selectable within the extension include the ability to make the header auto-expandable, remove the People Widget, customize the navigation icons, add a row highlight, clear formatting from incoming emails to make them look-alike, add attachment icons for different types of docs such as Word or Powerpoint, disable the “consider including” box if you don’t want Gmail to suggest recipients to you, make the Google logo clickable (but watch out when you have multiple sign in’s activated), auto scroll to the top of your inbox when you click the black bar, and move email labels to the right in the inbox. In total, Gmelius is all about creating more space in the interface so that it becomes easier to work with your Gmail, definitely a good thing.

 

 

 

Gmelius insists that it will never access, read, store, alter or transmit your personal data. Gmelius code meets the latest Content Security Policy (CSP) recommendations, making sure its users can keep browsing the Web safely.

 

Gmelius is constantly updating the extension, with new features in settings shown with a “new” tag. Plus they appear committed to cleaning up bugs as quickly as possible.

 

 

The extension is free, but the developers ask for a donation. With the advent of Google Drive and an increase in storage size in your Gmail from 7 to 10 GB to celebrate, Gmelius offers yet another good reason to move your emailing activity to the Gmail cloud. Hope you enjoy this great new extension as much as I do.

When You Need To Secure Your Email Tight

Sure I love Gmail. But every so often, we hear stories of Gmail hacking and cracking and the online privacy dialog starts up again in force. What can a user do?

 

The obvious option is to use an application or service that encrypts your email. Whether via the web, or desktop or as a layer of security on your existing email program, encrypted email makes it that much more difficult (but not impossible) to crack your security code.

 

There are several options available to those seeking security. The one I see and hear about the most is Hushmail. Hushmail is a secure web-based email service that has been around since 1999, which is like 1,000 years in internet years. Email is stored in Hushmail in encrypted form, and decrypted when you log in with your password. When you send to another Hushmail user, the encryption / decryption process is automatic. Non-Hushmail users are  provided with a secret question to answer before the email is decrypted. Hushmail also works on the iPhone and Blackberry devices (wait, no Android?) and can be incorporated as a layer on your Outlook program. Hushmail via the web is free, while domain-based, fully customizable Hushmail costs $1.99 per user per month.

 

The more expensive option is Zixmail, frequently used by companies seeking HIPAA compliance. This service works much like Hushmail and  also allows you to send encrypted email to others, whether or not they are Zixmail users. Zixmail provides desktop email encryption that includes automated key management and delivery through a secure web portal. It can be used with any corporate or web-based email system, and optional plug-ins are available for full integration with Microsoft Outlook. ZixMail can be set up to automatically scan out-going emails sent from the secured network  for sensitive information and encrypt them. Recipients receive a notification in their inbox informing that a secure message from the Zixmail sender is waiting to be read. Click the link and the recipient is taken to a message center where the user is prompted to log in with a password to view the email; new users are prompted to create an account and establish their password. Depending on the number of users, that cost can start at $75 per user per year.

 

There also is VaultletMail, a desktop app that allows you to send encrypted mail to others, whether or not they are VaultletMail users. Those who don’t use VaultletMail can access a SpecialDelivery Service, which prompts you to create an account and special catchphrase (“The Eagle Flies At Dawn”) or some such to access encrypted messages.  VaultletMail has lots of controls over what can be done with emails (no copying, forwarding, printing, etc.), can employ a “self destruct” for emails that sit unread for a period, and can even send from an anonymous email address.

 

Google has now enabled encryption for Gmail by default when you use the Chrome browser. The tech behind the encryption is called HSTS, which directs the browser to only use a particular website over a secure connection. If you use Firefox, you can add an extension that encrypts your Gmail – Gmail S/MIME which allows you to send and receive signed and encrypted messages in Gmail. The extension operates with every S/MIME-capable mail client including Microsoft Outlook (2000-2010), Microsoft Outlook Express, Mozilla Thunderbird, and Apple Mail.app, and now works up through Firefox 4.0, Seamonkey, and the latest versions of Gmail.

 

Speaking of Mozilla, if you use their Thunderbird email system, you can use the Enigmail extension. Enigmail requires you to install the Enigmail extension for Thunderbird and the GNU Privacy Guard software for your operating system. The application adds an OpenPGP dropdown menu in Thunderbird which contains the set up wizard. Encryption is selectable in the S/MIME dropdown menu in the composition window. While the encryption process is a bit cumbersome, you can use it with any email provider serving as the backend of your Thunderbird program.

 

It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that secure email encryption is all well and good, but it is no panacea or defense against a valid government subpoena. These programs will protect your legally permissible communications, but will not protect you from disclosure of your illegal activities. So email wisely. And securely.

 

Check Your 2011 Email Habits With ToutApp

Interesting. ToutApp lets you pull a report on your 2011 email habits and insights from a scan of your inbox. Tout’s main biz is email management software that assists businesses in making the most of their email efforts, by offering Email shortcuts, View/Click tracking, Scheduling and Analytics for those emails. The app requires permissions to scan your emails, calculate a set of metrics and generate the report. It purports to only look at your email headers and not content or file attachments. Once the report is generated, the data is discarded. While the report is only accessible to you, you can choose to share it with others via a secured link. Tout does advise that, while your report is secure, it may use data to create its own reports on generalized geographic trends, albeit in a completely anonymous manner. Right now, the app only works with Gmail – and you need to make sure that IMAP is enabled and that the Language setting is set to “English.” Apparently, the app will extend to other providers soon, so stay tuned.

If this interests you, then check out the explanatory video below.

Tap Gmail for Storage with Gmail Drive

There is about 7.5 gb of storage space in your Gmail account. Presumably for emails. Even voracious emailers, however, are unlike to put a major dent into that kind of space. It bothers me when an untapped resource remains essentially untapped, so I was pretty excited to happen upon MakeUseOf’s piece on Gmail Drive.

GMail Drive is a Windows only application that allows you to create a virtual file system in your Gmail account and permit direct access to that system through Windows Explorer. After installation and set up, you will see Gmail Drive in your list of storage spaces in Explorer.

The way it works is via the email process – dragging and dropping files into Gmail Drive creates an email with the file as an attachment. Depending on how you manage your mail, this may or may not work for you. At the least, you can create a filter that sends these emails into an archived location, so you don’t need to deal with them regularly in your inbox. Or, set up an additional Gmail account to simply hold your Gmail Drive documents.

When you select Gmail drive in Explorer, you will be prompted to log into the Gmail account with your credentials and then you can execute whatever action you need:

Access Gmail Drive docs from the browser on any computer – you can work via the Web and your Gmail account or you can install Gmail Drive on another computer and work with documents from there. There are some limitations – file size for Gmail hovers around 25gb and it isn’t practical to share docs with others via Gmail – you would need to give invitees your Gmail log in. But, still, what do you want for nothing? Put that empty space to work for you!

New Gmail!

The new Gmail is here. Well, not officially for everyone. But you can preview the new form factor by selection. Why would you do that? Well, to get a fancy new look and feel, for one thing. But beauty is as beauty does and the new Gmail is more than just a pretty face. New features include a morph to fit page that optimizes for any size screen resolution, dramatically improved search, the ability to change the dimensions in the left sidebar, and the option to create filters within the search box – MUCH easier than the old way. Plus, a bunch of new HD backgrounds that are very sweet indeed. Find out more about the new Gmail here and test drive it for yourself – simply click on the button offering the option at the bottom right of your Gmail page. Tell them Martha sent you.

 

Simply Starred

So simple, cute and effective. I know. I said cute. Heavy duty Gmail users know about starring important messages. With a sweet little Mac app called Starred, you can get a menu bar button that organizes your starred Gmails into a drop-down to-do list. This is exciting to me – I use my email inbox as a to-do list of sorts already. Click an entry and get a pop out of the message. Completely great, and totally free.

Get it here in the Mac App store. 

Thanks Lifehacker for the tip.

Want To Stop Sending Hot-Headed Emails? There's An App For That

I’ll give you the spell-checker. While I wish we all could embody the skill set natively of a National Spelling Bee finalist, the spell-checker has been around long enough to gain even my old-school acceptance. But what if you suffer from email rage? For those of you who have a problem with the premature send, check out Tone Check. Tone Check, the “emotional spell check for email”,  is an add-on to Outlook or Lotus Notes. Or it can operate as an extension to Gmail in Chrome. Coming soon for Firefox, Safari, Apple Mail and Windows Live Mail. Once installed, it essentially assigns a tone rating via meter  on the bottom of your email. There are plenty of settings for establishing how you want the checker to respond to your writing and when you want it to respond. You can use a slider to establish the application’s sensitivity.  It’s free for basic use, with two tiers of pricing for pro and business levels for added features.

On one hand, I find it amusing that someone thought we might need an app for this. On the other, I have received enough emails to recognize that we might, in fact, need an app for this. So, what’s the harm in getting a little reading at the bottom of your email that tells you your language is “too darn hot?” If you want to know, Tone Check’s your tool.

Nice Gmail Add – Copy / Paste Images

I love Gmail. And it just got even better, in a small but oh-so-convenient way. You can now copy web images - or any other images for that matter – to your clipboard and paste them into your Gmail messages. This works in the latest version of Google Chrome (my browser of choice). So cool! No more saving the image to the desktop or some other folder. And, while it only works in Chrome right now, Google is indicating that it hopes to extend this ability to other browsers in the near future.

Go Gmail!