GFU Moving to Gmail: Tips and Tricks

You may have heard that George Fox University is moving to Gmail this summer. I thought it would be helpful to share  some Gmail tips and tricks that have worked well for me for quite some time.

Keyboard Shortcuts
First off, turn on Keyboard shortcuts inside of the Settings area in your Gmail account. This makes Gmail much faster to use than even Outlook for navigating to messages, reading them, and replying/archiving them. After keyboard shortcuts are on you can type in a ? to get a pop-up menu with them listed (this works in Google Calendar as well). The shortcuts I use most are:

  • J & K to move up and down in the message list
  • O to open a message
  • X to select a message or several messages
  • # to delete message
  • E to archive a message
  • R to reply to a message sender
  • A to reply to all recipients and the sender
  • After I’ve completed writing the email, hit <TAB> then hit enter to send
  • When you have a message open and want to return to the Inbox, hit G then I.
  • If you want to select all the messages on a screen, type * then A

Setup Gmail as your default email application in Windows (without using Outlook)
To setup Gmail as your default email application on Windows, send me an email and I’ll send you a link to special software package for Google Apps. It will create three shortcuts on your desktop to‘s Docs, Calendar, and Email. When you double-click on the Email icon for the first time, it will ask you if you would like to set it to be your default email client. The benefit of this is that Windows will now know to open up a new message in GFU Gmail for you when you click on a mailto: link or when an application on your computer asks to create a new message.

My Enabled Google Labs in Gmail

The following are the Google Labs that I’ve enabled in Gmail:

  • Authentication icon for verified senders. Displays key next to legitimate messages sent from eBay or PayPal.
  • Canned Response: this is great for when you send out the same message over and over again to our customers to solve the same problem. For instance, if you send the same message to people about creating/reseting/backing up a FoxTALE course, or accessing FoxFiles, or accessing the FAQ for Google Apps, or <insert recurring question/solution here> then you can create a Canned Response and use it next time someone asks that very important question. Idea: we could publish a list of Canned Responses in the Service Desk Site and make it available to everyone to add to our personal list.
  • Default ‘Reply to all’: My usual behavior in a group email is to reply to all. You can easily click Reply or hit R (if keyboard shortcuts are activated) to reply to the sender only.
  • Filter import/export: makes it easy to backup or share your filters with others.
  • Flickr previews in mail: (eye candy) shows a Flickr preview if someone sends a Flickr link to me.
  • Google Calendar gadget: makes it easy to see upcoming appointments and it causes appointment announcements to appear on screen while you are in Gmail.
  • Google Docs previews in mail: just recently added this — haven’t used it much but it’s supposed to display previews of Google Docs directly in the email when you receive a link to a Google Doc.
  • Inserting images: makes it easy to embed images in your emails like a desktop client.
  • Mark as Read button: makes it easy to just select a list of messages and mark them all as read.
  • Message translation: it’s so important to be able to read that Russian and Chinese SPAM that comes to my Spam folder, er label.
  • Picasa previews in mail: same as Flickr above.
  • Pictures in chat: because I like to see my friend’s faces/avatar when we’re chatting in Google Talk.
  • Quote selected text: lets you quote only a selected part of an email when you reply.
  • Right-side chat: (widescreen monitors only) moves the chat box to the right side of the screen.
  • Send & Archive: automatically archives a message (removes it from the Inbox) when you send it.
  • Undo Send: for those moments when you type to fast. Gives you a bit of that FirstClass magic and lets you unsend that hastily worded email.


  • I think if you give it a try, you’ll find the web-version of Gmail to be extremely efficient and effective for managing your email, with the added benefit that your email looks the same no matter where you are or which browser you are using. There are so few times when I am not connected to the internet and having a local copy of my email has so rarely ever been an issue.
  • When you’re in the field helping someone else, turn on private browsing in their browser (Safari or Firefox 3.6+) or open up an Incognito Window in Chrome to securely access your email account with the fear of leaving cookies or session information behind on someones computer.
  • That being said, do keep in mind that you should only login to your email on computers that you trust. If you login to Google Apps on a computer with malware installed, you will risk giving away your account credentials.
  • Google Chrome is a very fast browser and I highly recommend it for both general web browsing and for using Google Apps.

More information about our move to Gmail is available at our email conversion site.


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