Harry's List Architect the future

gmail labs - the freshbox

If you’re like me, you live inside of Gmail and deal with a neverending stream of information.  Having your Gmail properly set up with labs can greatly improve the efficiency of dealing with, categorizing, and prioritizing the emails in your inbox.  I have figured out a system that works for me, and I would like to share it with you.

First of all, this guide requires that you have a few labs enabled.  To manage your Gmail labs, click here and read along with my guide.

These are the labs that I have turned on, in the order they appear on the labs page.  I recommend you turn on all the labs I have list, those bolded will be detailed below. Please don’t be alarmed at the size of this list. Just about everything on it is quite useful.

  1. YouTube previews in mail
  2. Picasa previews in mail
  3. Flickr previews in mail
  4. Yelp previews in mail
  5. Google Voice player in mail
  6. Google Docs previews in mail
  7. Message translation
  8. Quick Links
  9. Superstars
  10. Pictures in chat
  11. Fixed width font
  12. Custom keyboard shortcuts
  13. Advanced IMAP Controls
  14. Default 'Reply to all'
  15. Quote selected text
  16. Navbar drag and drop
  17. Forgotten Attachment Detector
  18. Mark as Read Button
  19. Go to label
  20. Inbox preview
  21. Multiple Inboxes
  22. Google Search
  23. Create a Document
  24. Filter import/export
  25. Text Messaging (SMS) in Chat
  26. Authentication icon for verified senders
  27. Send & Archive
  28. Undo Send
  29. Title Tweaks
  30. Don't forget Bob
  31. Got the wrong Bob?
  32. Green Robot!
  33. Hide read labels.
  34. Mark Unread From Here
  35. Google Calendar gadget
  36. Google Docs gadget
  37. Add any gadget by URL

My favorites are the Superstars and Multiple Inboxes, the interaction of which is beautiful.  The Superstars allow you to apply different types of stars to your emails and Multiple Inboxes give you quick access to information that is likely to be referenced, such as emails you have recently starred. My favorite additional inbox is what I call the Freshbox, it simply displays my unread emails.  Also of great usage are the Quick Links, which provide easy access to saved searches.  I will explain how I’ve set up these labs, starting with the Superstars.

You can manage which stars are enabled and in which order on the General Gmail Settings page. Simply drag and drop them.  I use:

Blue square for emails with INFORMATION that I may want to refer to in the future.
Red exclamation point or BANG for emails that I need to act on ASAP
Red star for emails with DATES like meetings, appointments, parties
Purple star for SPECIAL emails that I want to want to save for a rainy day
and Orange » for delegated emails, stuff I’ve sent out that needs to be returned to me

These stars allow me to quickly prioritize what flows through my inbox.  Not a replacement for labels whatsoever, these stars work in conjunction.  For instance, I can click on my work label and see which emails are set with a red bang.  Similarly in the work label I can quickly spot emails with important documents by the info tag.

Now, the grandaddy lab: Multiple Inboxes.  What this lab does is allow you to create additional inboxes. These inboxes can be placed on top of, which I prefer, or to the right of or below the regular inbox. These additional inboxes show the results of a search query that you specify in your Multiple Inboxes settings.  These search queries could be anything you like.  I have mine set to show the Freshbox, Superstars and Chats.  The parameters I used to set up are as follows:

Pane 0: Query: is:unread in:inbox -in:buzz Title: Freshbox
Pane 1: Query: l:^ss_cr Title: ASAP
Panel 2: Query: l:^ss_sr Title: Dates
Panel 3: Query: l:^ss_cb Title: Reference
Panel 4: Query: label:chat Title: Chatbox

Have the maximum page size set to show 10 conversations per page for the new inbox panes and have them set above the inbox.

One last important thing left to set up are the Quick Links.  Once you’ve enabled this lab a widget will appear on the left-side of your Gmail.  After performing any search in Gmail, clicking ‘Add Quick Link’ will save the current search in a handy link with a name of your choosing.  So, do a search for l:^ss_sp and create a quick link for your special, rainy-day emails.  Likewise make a search for l:^ss_co and create a quick link for the emails you’re waiting on.  Here’s a quick link to all the files you’ve emailed from:me;has:attachment.  For a complete list of the search terms for superstars, see this lifehacker article on Gmail GTD that initially inspired me.