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Email overload? 19 tips for taking control of your inbox



new email

Things have become more sophisticated in the world of email

Email is both a miracle and a curse. At no other time in human history and we been able to exchange messages instantly globally; but at the same time, our ancestors didn’t spend hours each day sifting through memos, missives and newsletters we probably should just unsubscribe from.

It doesn’t have to be this way – here are 19 tips, tricks and add-ons that will make email a breeze.


Canned responses

Canned responses
Much of our time using email is wasted crafting pitch-perfect responses to emails that could otherwise be dismissed with a cheerful “thanks, but I’m going to have to pass on this!”

Canned Responses, a Gmail Labs feature found in Settings -> Labs -> Canned Responses, allows you to save standard responses that can be inserted into emails at the click of a button.

Undo send

Undo Gmail
In an ideal world, we would never send anything we didn’t mean to. In the real world, features such as undo send exist. It can be found in Settings -> Labs -> Undo Send and in effect delays sending your email for up to 30 seconds so that you have the chance to bring it back.


Boomerang   GmailA powerful app for Gmail that acts as your personal email valet, Boomerang allows you to schedule emails to be sent in the future and can give you a tap on the shoulder when someone fails to reply to your email. It can be found by Googling Boomerang for Gmail. A version for Microsoft Outlook also exists.

Multiple email addresses

multiple gmailWeb services generally allow you only to create one account per email address, which can be a pain if you want to run two Twitter accounts, for example. Instead of having to manage multiple email accounts – one is hard enough – Gmail allows you to tweak your email address with dots and plus signs.

For example, [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected] are in Gmail’s eyes the same account. Messages sent to either of them end up in the same inbox. If I wanted to, I could create three Twitter accounts with one Gmail account.

A word of warning, while multiple dots can appear anywhere in the address, a single plus symbol must come after your standard account name, as above.

Combine accounts

Combine accounts   GmailIt’s possible that you already run multiple email accounts – instead of having to manage each individually, you can in effect turn them all into one email account under the Gmail umbrella using email forwarding. By going to Settings -> Accounts and Import -> Check email from other accounts, you can link your other email accounts to Gmail. Once you’ve done this, you can set up filters to treat incoming mail from different accounts differently if you wish.

Labels and filters

Labels and Filters   GmailThis is less of a tip or a trick and more of an exhortation to use your mail more efficiently. Spend some time adding filters, which can be created by doing a search and then clicking “Create filter with this search”, so that emails are sorted even before they hit your inbox. And add labels to conversations. This can be done automatically using filters so that they can be more easily retrieved via search at a later stage.

Archive everything

As a general rule, we tend to be hoarders of digital information. Desperately holding on to every last message, photo and file in case we might need it in future. This makes sense with important emails, but remember that Gmail’s archive function doesn’t make your emails difficult to access – they’re still searchable, retrievable and, most important, no longer clogging up your inbox.

Send & archive

Send & archive   Gmail
This nifty little feature, which can be activated by going to Settings -> General -> Send & Archive, is the Gmail equivalent of filing away your messages once you’ve replied to them.

Instead of remaining in your inbox after you have dealt with an issue, the email is automatically archived when you click send, clearing up your in-tray and letting you focus on the next email.

Mute conversations

Mute Conversations   Gmail
One of the worst aspects of modern email behaviour is our tendency to cc every last person in email threads, no matter how tangentially relevant to or responsible for the topic of discussion.

If you are the subject of this relentless ccing, you can mute a conversation by clicking More –> Mute from within an email, which means messages from that email thread will no longer appear in your inbox. You will still be able to find it via the search bar.

Is this email really for you?

Is this email really for you_.png
You can see at a glance if an email has been sent to you personally by turning on Gmail’s personal level indicators. This feature, found in Settings -> General, displays a single arrow beside emails that have been sent to your email address specifically, ie not to a mailing list, and a double arrow if an email has been sent to you alone. This feature isn’t entirely foolproof, however.

The power of search

The power of search   Gmail
Google’s existence is built on its ability to search information well (and to sell ads as a result of that search, of course). So, as you might expect, the search function in Gmail is incredibly powerful once you begin to get to grips with it. I won’t list all of the search operators here – Google “list of gmail search operators” – but here’s some advice for anyone with thousands of messages clogging up their inbox.

Search “older_than:14d” and select all the emails that appear by clicking the checkbox on the top left. Then “Select all conversations that match this search”, which will be every last email you’ve ever received up until two weeks ago. Finally, archive them all. They’re all still there if you need to find them, but now they’re not hanging over your head anymore.

Keyboard shortcuts

As with any software, learning some basic keyboards shortcuts will allow you to streamline your workflow by reducing the need to involve your mouse. With Gmail, you’ll need to activate keyboard shortcuts by going to Settings -> General -> Keyboard Shortcuts. To find the full list of shortcuts, Google “Gmail keyboard shortcuts” but some basic ones include C for composing a new message, E for archiving a message and R to reply to a message.

You can customise your keyboard shortcuts by going to Settings -> Labs -> Custom keyboard shortcuts.

Gmail Offline

Gmail offline
In future it will be child’s play to remain connected to the internet at all times, but until then Gmail Offline is useful for working when you can’t get online.

It can be found by going to Settings -> Gmail Offline and when used in conjunction with the Gmail Offline Sync Optimizer, automatically saves emails from up to a month ago on your computer. Any changes you make or emails you compose are automatically synced when you are reconnected to the internet.

Authenticated senders

Authenticated GmailOne way scammers attempt to steal your personal details is with emails that pretend to be from companies such as eBay. Gmail has a function that puts a little key icon beside emails that are from verified senders, giving you another piece of information to help you detect what is legitimate mail and what is an attempt to trick your information out of you. This feature can be activated by going to Settings -> Labs -> Authentication icon for verified senders.


Create aliases

Alias OutlookWhile Gmail allows you to alter your email address with dots and plus signs, Outlook takes a slightly different approach, which is the creation of aliases associated with your core account. An alias is a separate email address connected to your main address, using, for example, the same inbox and password. To create an alias, click the cog -> Options -> Create an alias.


Sweep OutlookOutlook makes it easy to clear masses of emails with the Sweep function. Just by clicking on one email from a specific newsletter, for example, Sweep gives you the option of deleting all instances of that newsletter at the click of a button.

Keyboard shortcuts

Like Gmail, Outlook offers the ability to use keyboard shortcuts to streamline your email use. But unlike Gmail, Outlook offers you the opportunity to switch them to Yahoo or Gmail style shortcuts. It’s slightly less powerful than Gmail’s fully customisable add-on, but perhaps more straightforward for a casual user. To create a new email you push N, but a full list can be found here.


Create aliases

Alias YahooAs with Outlook, Yahoo Mail allows you to create an alias that lets you disguise your email address when using Yahoo Messenger or Yahoo’s message boards. To create an alias, click the cog -> Account Info -> Manage your Yahoo aliases.

Alternative and disposable email addresses

Alternative and disposable email addresses   Yahoo
In Yahoo’s case, aliases are different to alternative email addresses, which function like Outlook’s aliases, and disposable email addresses, which is closer to Gmail’s dot and plus sign functionality. You can have only one alternative email address, which is basically another linked account, while you can have many disposable email addresses, which act as receiving addresses only. To create an alternative email address, click the cog -> Settings -> Accounts – > Create an extra email address and to create a disposable email address, click the cog -> Settings -> Security -> Disposable Addresses.

Delay “mark as read”

Delay If you’re the kind of person who sometimes opens an email briefly without reading it or responding to it, Yahoo has a nifty little feature that will mark an email as “read” only if it has been opened for more than five seconds. If that’s not long enough, you can set it to “never”, so that you have to mark them as read manually. To enable this feature, click the cog -> Settings -> Viewing email -> Mark as read


Create aliases

Create Aliases   iCloudAs with the other email services, iCloud also has email aliases. Functioning as additional email accounts that feed into your central account, the aliases help you conceal your real email address. However, you can have only three active aliases at a time. To create an alias, click the cog -> Preferences -> Accounts -> Add an alias.

Archive instead of deleting

Archive instead of deleting iCloudIn case you want to retain your emails by default, you can replace the delete button with an archive button. A word of warning – this will become frustrating if spam makes up a significant proportion of your incoming email, denying you the satisfaction of hitting delete on unwanted mail. To swap delete for archive, click the cog -> Preferences -> Show Archive icon in the toolbar.

Create rules

Create rules   iCloudLike other email services, iCloud allows you to set up rules for incoming mail, helping to keep your main inbox clear. You can either choose to automatically forward the mail, move it to a specific folder, or if you want in effect to block someone, send it straight to trash. To set up rules, click the cog -> Rules -> Add a Rule.


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Instagram is working on a two-factor authentication solution that would not require a user’s phone number, according to a report from TechCrunch. Instagram has confirmed that it’s working on the more secure method, just hours after a prominent Motherboard investigation on SIM hacking was published earlier today. Like other social media platforms, the upcoming option will let you authenticate with code-generating apps like Google Authenticator and Authy.

Though Instagram’s confirmation was likely prompted by the investigation, it appears that the company has been working on moving beyond phone numbers for some time. Engineer and tipster Jane Manchun Wong discovered a prototype version of the updated two-factor feature in the Android version of Instagram’s APK code and publicized it yesterday on Twitter.

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

Jane Manchun Wong@wongmjane

Instagram is finally working on token-based two-factor authentication!! 🎉

Thank you Instagram! I have been waiting for this since 2016! We finally won’t have to rely our account’s security

Right now, Instagram lets you recover your account and log in on new devices so long as you can confirm your identify via a phone number associated with your account. But, as the Motherboard article makes clear, a growing new form of online theft has resulted in hackers illegally gaining access to a user’s phone number and tying it to a new SIM card. They do so by using a bit of information like a social security number, perhaps leaked during one of countless data breaches, to trick a telecom customer service agent into reassigning a phone number to a new SIM.

From there, the hackers can extort a victim for financial gain, or they can use the phone number and its recovery benefits to reset Amazon, Instagram, Twitter, and other accounts. Specifically, hackers are targeting rare and lucrative Instagram and Twitter handles because those go for high sums on virtual underground markets, Motherboard reports.

Many tech companies have built tools to protect against the vulnerability of SMS-based two-factor authentication. For instance, Google has its Authenticator app that uses randomly generated numeric code with a strict time limit, and Facebook now uses a similar tool built into the Facebook app itself. It’s good to see Instagram now following suit.

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Mobile Platforms




Well, gang, it’s official: Cross-platform convergence is now both magical and revolutionary.

Apple, in case you haven’t heard, is taking a serious step toward bringing its mobile and desktop platforms together: At its annual Worldwide Developers Conference adjective-shouting extravaganza this week, the company announced a plan to let developers bring iOS apps onto MacOSstarting next year. So, yes: That means the Apple faithful will soon be able to run iPhone-like software on their regular ol’ keyboard-packin’ computers.

Pretty spiffy idea, right? Mobile software, on the desktop! Just think of the possibilities. But wait: Why does something about this seem so eerily familiar?

Oh, right — because it’s exactly what we’ve been watching take shape with Android and Chrome OS over the past several years.

Now, before you grab the nearest suit of armor and novelty foam sword, hang on: I’m not here to play a game of “Who Did It First?” Let’s be honest: That kind of talk is pretty tired at this point. Some years, Apple borrows heavily from Google; some years, Google borrows heavily from Apple. Sometimes, the inspiration-lifting is for the better, and sometimes, it’s for the worse. I’m not an intellectual rights attorney (thank goodness) — and from a normal user’s perspective, the arguments over who copied whom are equal parts boring and irrelevant.

What I do want to discuss is how much Apple’s move validates the approach Google’s been pursuing for some time now — and, at the same time, how its implementation of the idea is both similar and simultaneously different.

Let’s jump in, shall we?

Apple, Google, and the tale of converging platforms

We’ll start with Google. The move to bring Android apps to Chrome OS began in earnest in 2016. (Yes, the work technically started two years earlier, with the beta-wearing “App Runtime” project — but that was basically just a test, with significant limitations and nothing even close to a polished or mainstream-ready experience.)

For Google, the notion of bringing two platforms together was nothing short of transformational. Chromebooks had traditionally been cloud-centric computers — a model that provided some enticing advantagesover traditional PCs but required you to rely mostly on web-based software like Google Docs and Office Online. Realistically, that sort of setup was more than sufficient for the vast majority of modern-day computer users, but it also left a fair number of gaps in what a Chromebook was able to do.

By allowing anyone to install and run almost any Android app while still maintaining Chrome OS’s security, simplicity, and speed-related advantages, Google accomplished several significant things: First, it redefined a Chromebook’s possibilities and limitations, making the devices more compelling and feature-complete for an even broader array of users. (On a smaller and much more specifically targeted scale, the current move to allow Linux apps on Chrome OS serves a similar purpose.)

Beyond that, it essentially created a whole new category of device — the Chromebook/Android mashup. That’s something we’ve seen progress considerably over the past couple years, as the hardware has slowly caught up with the software and convertible Chromebooks have effectively become the new Android tablets.

And last but not least, it created an ecosystem like no other. Developers could build and publish a single app and have it be available to the world’s largest mobile platform and the world’s increasingly dominant desktop computing environment. As long as the apps are built with responsive design and with a handful of form-specific optimizations in mind, it’s a single, streamlined process with minimal extra effort involved.

Significant as those first two points may be, we can’t underestimate the value of that last one — the ecosystem expansion. Remember, Chromebooks are hugely popular, particularly in schools. And developers tend to go where the users are. For the first time, Google could actually overcome its chicken-and-egg problem and have an existing audience that’d entice developers to craft large-screen-optimized apps — apps that, by their very definition, would straddle the lines of two overlapping ecosystems and benefit Android and Chrome OS alike.

Apple’s approach is a bit different. Unlike Chromebooks, Macs already run traditional desktop software. Unlike Google, Apple already has a successful tablet platform. And unlike Google, Apple doesn’t currently offer touch-enabled Macs — another one of those classic “it doesn’t work” declarations from Steve Jobs, way back when — and even if the company does eventually come around to rethinking that stance, it doesn’t seem likely that it’d look to phase out or de-emphasize the iPad anytime soon.

What Apple does share with Google, however, is the ecosystem part of the equation. Apple is all about the ecosystem, in fact, and it has been for a very long time. Google is the relative newcomer to that kind of focus.

So Apple, like Google, stands to benefit by aligning its platforms (a familiar phrase, no?) and making them more similar from a user’s perspective. It’s no secret that people adore their iPhones and the apps associated with them. Making MacOS follow iOS’s lead in some ways and allowing users to run familiar mobile apps within it will make the Mac feel more consistent and connected with the iPhone — and thus could make it more appealing both to current users and also perhaps to those who don’t presently own a traditional laptop or desktop computer.

Apple, like Google, could also benefit from energizing its desktop software ecosystem and giving developers added incentive to focus on that form. It may not be entirely comparable to Google’s Chrome OS situation, but the idea that development on the desktop side of Apple’s ecosystem is stagnating compared to the mobile side is a pretty common theme of discussion these days. Bringing iOS-like apps onto Macs could go a long way in reversing that view.

Perhaps most critically, aligning the ecosystems provides yet another piece of ammo for the famous “lock-in” weapon: You’ve got the environment you know and love and the apps you know and love on your iPhone and/or iPad — and now on your Mac, too. Just like Google is aiming to accomplish with Android phones and Chromebooks, our investments in these ecosystems are more expansive than ever — which, of course, means we’re more likely than ever to stick with whichever ecosystem we choose and continue to buy its associated products year after year.

Interestingly, Apple and Google also share the same persistent view from pundits that “the two platforms must be combined!” — a view that no level of adamant denial or ongoing evidence to the contrary seems able to extinguish.

Converging platforms, diverging paths

One thing the two companies don’t fully share is the specific approach to bringing mobile apps onto the desktop. Google, fitting with its general ethos, has established a bit of a free-for-all with Android apps on Chrome OS: By default (unless a developer explicitly disallows it or an app is inherently incompatible due to hardware requirements), most any Android app can be installed on a Chromebook. The Play Store you get on a Chromebook is quite literally the same Play Store you get on a phone.

So everyone is in, more or less — and it’s then up to each developer to optimize an app and make it excel in the large-screen, keyboard-and-trackpad-using form. Or not. Most apps work well enough on a Chromebook out of the box, and in some scenarios, it’s clear a developer went the extra mile to really make the experience shine. Either way, you can find plenty of useful titles that add meaningful value to the Chrome OS environment.

But you can also find plenty of apps that clearly weren’t made to run on that type of hardware — where even the most minimal amount of effort is painfully lacking — and those apps, while technically compatible with a Chromebook, are incredibly awkward and unpleasant to use. (Hi, Instagram!)

From the sounds of it, Apple is taking the exact opposite approach: The door will be closed by default — and the MacOS-iOS collection will consist only of apps optimized for the traditional computer form. That’s why Apple is releasing only its own iOS apps for the Mac to start and will be working with developers to optimize their apps for the desktop over the months ahead.

“There are millions of iOS apps out there, and some of them would be great on the Mac,” Apple Chief Shirt Unbuttoner Craig Federighi noted during yesterday’s announcement. The emphasis there is mine, but the message is clear: The entire App Store won’t — and, in Apple’s view, shouldn’t — be coming to the desktop.

Apples and oranges

So which approach is better — Apple’s or Google’s? The reality is that each seems to have its own set of pros and cons, and it’s tough to label either one as a definitive “winner.” Google’s implementation brings a massive number of new applications into the desktop environment and then puts the onus on the developers to make the experiences shine. The result, as we’ve established, is a bit of a mixed bag: You have tons of possibilities, many of which are valuable (with or sometimes even without form-specific optimizations) — but you also have apps that are just plain clumsy and out of place.

Apple appears poised to offer a more strictly curated selection of apps, allowing only those with form-specific optimizations into the mix. That should create a more consistent level of quality and experience, which is obviously a good thing, but it’ll also mean some apps that might be more mobile-specific and not likely to be optimized probably won’t become available.

Who cares? Well, consider one example: Apps like Netflix and YouTube are readily available via the web and don’t seem like the types of titles that’d receive the full desktop optimization effort or the Apple stamp of “great on the Mac” approval. But running the mobile apps on the desktop gives you the unique advantage of being able to download videos from those respective services for offline viewing — a handy little loophole crafty Chromebook users have certainly come to appreciate.

When you stop and think about it, the differences here are very much analogous to the differences in the two companies’ broader approaches to mobile app distribution: With Apple, you get a more closely controlled selection, which forces developers to comply more closely with guidelines and (in theory, at least) creates a more consistent experience. With Android, the less closely controlled gates mean more variance in the level of experience within — but that also means the door is open to more advanced and interesting types of creations that wouldn’t make their way past Apple’s gatekeepers.

I think most reasonable people would agree that Google could stand to gain some of Apple’s quality control and ability to get developers to follow its lead, while Apple could stand to loosen things up at least a little and allow some different types of tools into its closely walled garden.

Neither scenario is perfect, but both serve to accomplish the same goal — one that, in this wild new cross-platform world, seems both sensible and inevitable, regardless of which ecosystem you prefer.





Source: Computer World

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In our current culture, CEOs arguably command more power than respect. You can blame that in part on the light-speed exchange of information in the digital era. As Fortune‘s Geoff Colvin writes in the introduction to this year’s World’s Greatest Leaders list, “Easier access to information for customers, competitors, and others causes industry dominance to change more quickly, corporate life spans to decline, and executive tenures to shorten.” What’s more, unflattering news goes viral in an instant.

Nonetheless, year after year there are chief executives whose impact, not just on their own companies but on the world around them, is so significant that they deserve to rank among the greats. Our annual leader list spans politics, the arts, activism, sports and the nonprofit world, but each year, many business figures shine in this particular galaxy. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is one of only two people who have made all four editions of our list. (The other is Pope Francis.)

Here are nine private-sector CEOs who made Fortune‘s 2017 list. (For the rest of the list, click here.)

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