Ever find yourself flipping back and forth between calendars, jumping between your Facebook, CoTweet, and LinkedIn pages, and all the while struggling to maintain a master version of that upcoming presentation that everyone needs to edit?
Maybe you chalked these tech annoyances up to “just the way things are”—but turns out, that’s not the case. Thanks to everyone’s favorite search engine, many of our daily tasks and organization systems can been made less complicated than they once were. Google has some great features you might not know about—or might not be using to their full potential.
The gadgets in Google Labs can enhance your Gmail page from a place to simply view mail into a one-stop dashboard for your calendar, your docs, your social media updates, and more. Labs is what Google calls its “crazy, experimental stuff,” and while the developers are testing that stuff out, you can, too!
To access these features, go to the top right hand corner of the screen, click on the gear icon, and select “Labs.” From here, you can add some pretty innovative features to your Gmail home page: a list of current documents, “canned” responses to recurring emails, and even weather forecasts. You can also add your own gadgets, like RSS or social media feeds, just by inputting their URLs.
Our favorite: the “Unsend,” button, for when you’ve sent an email off exactly four seconds before realizing that “Mr. Pat Jones” is actually Patricia.
Is your mouse slowing you down? You can speed up your Gmail navigation (yes—more time to write emails!) by making the most of keyboard shortcuts, which let you do everything from compose a message to search for a contact to jump to a new folder. Just click on the gear icon, select the “Settings” tab, and turn “keyboard shortcuts on.” To view the full list of shortcuts, click “Learn more” or hold down the “shift” + “?” keys.
And if these pre-created shortcuts still don’t satisfy all your instant gratification needs, enable the Google Lab that allows you to customize your keyboard shortcuts, and create your own!
If you’re sick of a group document going through 27 versions before it’s complete or of waiting to edit something until three other people have finished, ditch Microsoft Word and use Google Docs. Not only can you access your documents from anywhere (it’s compatible with Mac, PC, and Linux operating systems and doesn’t require any special software), but Google offers several communication features that make working together a snap.
Google Docs allows for real-time document tracking, which means everyone in the group can work at the same time and see changes as they’re being made. You can even carry on a discussion with others right in the document by using the built-in chat feature. Pretty cool, huh?
Most Google users are familiar with the primary calendar that comes standard when you sign up for an account. But one of its best features is lesser known: you can actually have (and sync) multiple calendars. Google makes it easy—it lets you specify the color of each calendar, so you can quickly distinguish different departments or projects (or distinguish those work projects from your social events).
You can also customize the privacy settings for each. For example, if you’ve created a calendar to share an event planning timeline with your department, but you’re hosting a meeting that not everyone’s invited to, you can adjust the settings on meeting entries to keep them private.
And if not everyone has a Google account, you can publish a group calendar with a unique URL that allows anyone to view your calendar.
Google continues to revolutionize our communication and organization with features that help us work faster and smarter. So, look beyond your Gmail, and play around with these new features. Use Google to its full potential—and hey, it can help you reach yours, too.