Friday, April 19, 2013

Gmail's New Compose Is Now Default For All Users

Google recently announced that its new compose window will become the default option for Gmail users.

The feature was first launched in October 2012. Since then, the “new compose experience,” as Google calls it, has received a few upgrades in response to user feedback.

If you want the old look back, you can switch to the old experience, but only temporarily. To do so, click Compose => At the bottom corner of the message pane, click the More menu icon next to the Discard button => Select “Temporarily switch back to old compose”.

And as always, if you're having trouble with the new compose feature or any other Gmail or tech-related problem, you can contact IT Customer Care by email, phone, or coming in to a campus location in-person. Find all the contact info here.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Gmail now explains why an email was spammed

If you use Google and its assorted products every day, and you are the least bit like us here at, you relish the idea of a peak behind the curtains. After letting us watch a search engine quality meeting last week Google, seems to be in a particularly generous mood. Next stop on the transparency train is Gmail, which now explains why a message was spammed.
Above you can see a few sample message from Google regarding the algorithm’s reasoning for sending something to your spam folder. None are particularly insightful, in fact they cover the basic ground for why any email would be spammed: it’s something you’ve manually picked out as spam, something the filters have previously identified as spam, something new that uses a word or phrase that is typically found in spammed messages, or it is an email (or is like an email) that the crowd has identified as spam.

Google will also spam something if it appears to be an unsafe email or a phishing scam, as seen above. It’s worth noting that of all the phishing scams I received not all were marked with this message, so Google seems to be examining a number of signals within each email and then tagging the the one that is the strongest or that was flagged first. Something might also be marked as spam if it came from an unconfirmed sender.

These are all that I’ve been able to find, but there could be others (post them if you find them).
So why give people, potentially spammers, insight into the reasons why messages are spammed? My guess would be that Google is confident in its spam filtering system and that they fully realize a false positive is much more of a problem for people than a spam message appearing in their inbox. If this is the case, then it’s in their interest to ensure that real emails can be tracked and despammed. And let’s not forget that only you have access to the messages in your spam folder and someone that was spammed for you might not be for another user. So if you are seeing false positives, this gives you a way to identify and remedy that — either by creating a filter or hitting “Not Spam” until the system learns your preferences.

Beginners guide to IMAP vs. PoP

While many of the email users of the world are perfectly happy to use their browser based client with whatever the pre-defined rules are for their configuration, it’s important to remember that you have control over how your email travels. The two big methods of email delivery — POP and IMAP — allow you to make sure your email is available the way you want it.
Before doing all sorts of investigating about the nature of POP vs. IMAP, it might not be a bad idea to consider whether or not the default configuration you encountered before finding this article offers what you need. Most modern email clients allow you to choose which delivery method you would like to use to receive your email, while services like Gmail allow you to use a web interface, as well as POP or IMAP. These two protocols exist out of necessity, and together they support a number of workflows that allow you to choose the best way to interact with email.

Using POP3
The Post Office Protocol (POP) allows you to use your Inbox, as the name suggests, like a post office. The email leaves the sender and arrives in your Inbox without being stored on a server anywhere. In its default setting, you can have email live on your PC or phone and nowhere else. There are settings that allow you to store copies of the message on your email providers server, but this is often not included in the default configuration. Once you have received an email, you have the message stored locally. You could be offline, completely disconnected from the internet, and still have access to the complete message.
The biggest downside to POP is if you don’t have the server configured to store your email. If you download all of your email locally and something happens to your computer, you’ve lost those messages forever. Because storage is cheap everywhere now, and email takes up very little space (for most people), there’s not a good reason not to store your messages on the server. If you’re using POP in a smartphone and storage is an issue, maybe if you’ve got an 8GB iPhone filled with music and games for example, then storage may become an issue. For most users, however, storage is something that we have an abundance, so storing your email locally is a great way to make sure you always have access to your email.

Using IMAP
It’s 2013, and it seems like most of us have fairly constant access to internet. Should email be treated any differently than any other form of electronic communication that we receive? Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) allows users to access email from anything, as long as you have the username and password. With IMAP, the email lives on the server and you have access to some basic information about every email in your Inbox. When you want to see and interact with the email, the email is temporarily downloaded but not really stored on the machine you are using. The biggest benefit to IMAP is the ability to quickly access your email from just about any device — as long as you have a decent internet connection you’re never more than a moment away from your entire inbox.
Unfortunately, if you’re without a fast connection or if you are somehow without internet entirely (-gasp-), you’re going to have a bad day. Most IMAP clients will grab a week or two of email headers and store that information locally, but will not grab images or attachments. If you need to search your inbox for something, and that email is more than a few weeks old, you’ll find that the headers for your email will skip entire weeks of received messages unless you’re connected to the net.

Choose wisely, but switching is easy
The POP vs. IMAP debate is all about how you interact with your email. If you’re constantly in your email with attachments and use it like file storage system, POP will guarantee that you always have access to your information. If you’re constantly connected to a broadband or LTE network and you flip back and forth between a laptop, desktop, tablet, and smartphone, IMAP would most likely be the best thing for you. In most cases, especially if you have POP configured to store your email on the server instead of deleting it, you won’t normally notice a difference between the two services.
There’s also nothing that says you have to pick one and stick with it. Even Gmail, one of the most popular free email services in the world, makes it easy to choose POP or IMAP and allows you to switch between them as you see fit. You can choose the service the best fits your needs, but ideally your email should exist as a service that requires very little maintenance and configuration once it has been setup and used.

3 Labs graduations, 1 retirement

Today we’re excited to graduate three more features from the experimental testing ground of Gmail Labs. Superstars, Nested Labels, and Advanced IMAP Controls are now first-class citizens in the Gmail world, thanks largely to your feedback. We’re also retiring the Google Search box lab which was redundant with the “Search the Web” button that’s already in Gmail.

Superstars, one of the most popular Labs features, provides different types of stars in addition to Gmail’s basic one. You can assign a certain star to special conversations and use another as a visual reminder that you need to follow-up on a message later. You can now choose your own set of stars from Settings:

Once you’ve done that, the stars will rotate with each consecutive click on the star icon.

Nested Labels
Labels are a great way of organizing your email; nested labels give you the ability to organize labels hierarchically. Starting today, nested labels are enabled for everyone along with a couple of small improvements such as a sticky collapse/expand state and better editing options.

To start using them, you can either create a new sub-label from the dropdown menu on the left hand side or just move an existing label under another one using the edit option:

Advanced IMAP Controls
This Labs feature provided a very useful set of advanced controls for those of you who access Gmail through IMAP clients (e.g. Outlook, Thunderbird, or your iPhone’s native mail app). Now it’s easier to take advantage of features like syncing only selected labels or limiting the folder size limit to improve your IMAP experience. 

True to the original spirit of Gmail Labs, we’ll continue to add new features, graduate some, and retire others, so keep trying them out and sending us your feedback.

9 Gmail gadgets to try

There is a powerful but little known Gmail feature that lives in Labs called “Add any gadget by URL.” Once you turn it on, you can add iGoogle gadgets (or any gadget specified by an .xml file) to the side of your Gmail account. While most of these gadgets are built by third-parties and not owned or maintained by Google, they can be super handy. 

To install any of these gadgets, follow those steps:
1) From your Gmail account, go to the Labs tab of Gmail Settings
2) Look for the Lab “Add any gadget by URL.” Enable it, then click “Save changes.”
3) Go to the new “Gadgets” tab under “Settings” and add the relevant .xml address.

Here’s a list of 9 I’ve found worth trying out:

Look for a specific query right from Gmail.

Google Calculator
Make some quick calculations while typing an email.

Add a sticky note to the corner of your Gmail account.

Remember the Milk
If you’re a fan of this task management system, accessing all your “Remember the milk” notes from right within Gmail can be super handy.

Gives you the time of day for any place in the world.

Currency Converter
A real time currency converter. URL shortener
Lets you shorten URLs in a single click.

Google Calendar
Displays your Google Calendar agenda right from Gmail.

Google Docs
Gives you quick access to your most recent documents.

Gmail: It’s cooler in the cloud

Cloud computing is secure, simple, keeps you productive and saves you money. But the cloud can also save energy. A recent report by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and Verdantix estimates that cloud computing has the potential to reduce global carbon emissions by millions of metric tons. And Jonathan Koomey, a consulting professor at Stanford who has led several studies on data center energy use, has written that for many enterprises, the cloud “is significantly more energy efficient than using in-house data centers.”

Because we’re committed to sustainability, we sharpened our pencils and looked at our own services to see how they stack up against the alternatives. 

We compared Gmail to the traditional enterprise email solutions it’s replaced for more than 4 million businesses. The results were clear: switching to Gmail can be almost 80 times more energy efficient (PDF) than running in-house email. This is because cloud-based services are typically housed in highly efficient data centers that operate at higher server utilization rates and use hardware and software that’s built specifically for the services they provide—conditions that small businesses are rarely able to create on their own. 

An illustration of inefficient server utilization by smaller companies compared to efficient utilization in the cloud.

If you’re more of a romantic than a businessperson, think of it this way: It takes more energy to send a message in a bottle than it does to use Gmail for a year, as long as you count (PDF) the energy used to make the bottle and the wine you drank.

We ran a similar calculation for YouTube and the results are even more striking: the servers needed to play one minute of YouTube consume about 0.0002 kWh of energy. To put that in perspective, it takes about eight seconds for the human body to burn off that same amount. You’d have to watch YouTube for three straight days for our servers to consume the amount of energy required to manufacture, package and ship a single DVD.

In calculating these numbers, we included the energy used by all the Google infrastructure supporting Gmail and YouTube. Of course, your own laptop or phone also consumes energy while you’re accessing Google, so it’s important to choose an efficient model

There’s still a lot to learn about the global impacts of cloud computing, but one thing we can say with certainty: bit for bit, email for email, and video for video, it’s more efficient in the cloud.

Search for emails by size and more in Gmail

We're always looking for ways to make it faster and easier for you to find your messages using search in Gmail. So starting today, you can now search emails by size, more flexible date options, exact match and more.

This means, for example, to find emails larger than 5MB, you can search for size:5m or larger:5m or to find emails sent over a year ago, older_than:1y

These changes go hand in hand with other recent enhancements to search such as the improved autocomplete predictions and a field trial for instant results from Gmail, Google Drive and more as you type.