Google's webmail service, Gmail, is powerful and flexible, but not everybody's using it to its full advantage. You can beef it up by applying these 14 tips and tools to customise and extend it.
Mailplane is a fully functional Gmail client for the Mac only. It's a web browser that's customised for use only with Gmail; it doesn't have an address bar, and you can't use it to open any websites other than Gmail. That means Gmail is always open on your desktop, and if you have multiple Gmail and Google Apps accounts, you can stay logged into an unlimited number of them simultaneously.
Mailplane lets you access your Mac OS X address book for sending mail, integrates with iPhoto and more. It has its own built-in notifier, but unlike Google Notifier, Mailplane can be configured to only show you new messages in your Priority Inbox.
I use Mailplane as my primary mail client. It costs $24.95 (£15.50), and you can try it for free for 30 days.
Use your own domain with Gmail
You don't have to have an @gmail.com address to use Gmail. Sign up for Google Apps, and you can use Gmail's webmail client with your own domain. The Standard Edition is free and supports up to 50 users. It's great for individual users and small businesses (it's the plan I use).
The Premier Edition starts at $50 (£31) per user account per year and supports added features, including unlimited users and increased storage. (Regular Gmail accounts and the mail service in Google Apps Standard Edition support 7GB per user, while the Premier Edition supports up to 25GB.) In addition to Gmail, you get other Google Apps with your own domain, including Google Calendar, Google Groups and Google Docs.
Aggregate mail from multiple accounts
Sick of checking multiple in-boxes, possibly in different email clients, to keep up with all your email accounts? Send all your email to Gmail instead. Go to Settings, then Accounts and select either 'Get mail from other accounts' or 'Check mail using POP3', depending on which version of Gmail you're using. Enter the email address and POP3 address of the remote server you want to check. (Not an IT pro? You can get that information from your email administrator or from your ISP's configuration instructions.)
Warning: Aggregating your employer's email into Gmail could violate security policies and confidentiality regulations. If you're an end user, check with your IT manager for permission, and if you're an IT manager, check with your company's compliance officers.
Gmail will occasionally poll the external server for new messages. The more frequently you get mail on that server, the more frequently Gmail will poll. You can speed things up even more by going to Settings, then Labs and enabling 'Refresh POP accounts'; that adds a link to the top of your Gmail that allows you to poll external POP servers manually.
Gmail aggregation works with other webmail services if those services also support POP. Hotmail does, as does the premium version of Yahoo Mail, but not the free, basic Yahoo Mail.
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