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Gmail Power User Tips and Tricks and Filtering

Keyboard Shortcuts

The keyboard shortcuts available within Gmail are, without any doubt, the quickest route to speedy productivity within the application. The time investment in learning the keyboard shortcuts of all of your computer’s applications always pays off, as you can navigate your system much more quickly than before. Instead of reaching the keyboard, grasping the mouse, moving it to the right place, and clicking, keyboard shortcuts allow you to press just one button. You don’t lift your hands off the keyboard, and when you’re good at typing, you don’t even need to look at the screen.

Plus Addressing and Filtering

One little-known feature of the more old-school e-mail systems is plus addressing. It can be instrumental both in Gmail and your other e-mail systems, and I use it extensively for mailing lists and weblog commenting. In a nutshell, Gmail ignores anything in the first half of an e-mail address after a plus sign. So [email protected] is treated in precisely the same way as [email protected]. It is not, as you might expect, a different address. You can put anything after the plus sign except for a space or an at (@) signal, and it always gets delivered to your actual Inbox. Figure 3-5 should prove that it works.

Other Addressing Tips

Gmail has a few other features to its addressing. First, the dot in the middle of most people’s Gmail addresses is entirely optional.

Quickly Mark a Group of E-Mails

Like most desktop applications, Gmail allows you to mark a group of items without having to select each one individually (by mark, I mean to put a check in the checkbox next to an e-mail when you are presented with a list of e-mails). With Gmail, if you’d like to select a group of consecutive messages without marking each one separately, you need to check the first one in the list, and then hold down the Shift key and check the last one you want to include in the group of marked messages — the two e-mails you contained and all of the e-mails between them will now be kept. You can use the same method to unmark e-mails and star or unstart them. Note, however, that this might not work in all browsers.

Send Executable as Attachments

When you receive an e-mail from an address that doesn’t end in @gmail.com, Gmail looks at attachments for file extensions known to be executable (such as .dll, .exe, .vbs, and so forth), so if someone sends you one of these file types, their message will bounce back. This goes for files within ZIP archives as well — Gmail looks inside these for executable extensions, and the e-mail bounces back to the sender if it contains any. Gmail doesn’t look inside other archive formats, such as RAR or ACE, so you might want to use one of these formats instead of going through the hassle of the following workaround. To get around this annoyance, you can use the same trick that has been used for years. Tell the sender to rename the extension of the file to something Gmail will allow (such as .jpg), and when you receive the file, rename it back to the type it is (for example, change file.jpg to file.exe).

Advanced Searching

Google runs Gmail, so its built-in search engine will be potent indeed. Everyone is used to the standard search technique of putting keywords into the box and pressing Enter, but not everyone knows the additional operators you can use.


Gmail is probably not your first e-mail account, but its features may well make it your best. Indeed, it’s likely to be the one with the most significant amount of storage available and such an exemplary search system.

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