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Gmail power tips and tools: Get the most from Google's e-mail

By Mitch Wagner
November 4, 2010 06:00 AM ET

Use third-party add-ons

You can add even more power to Gmail by using third-party services that integrate with Gmail.

Rapportive
Gmail: Rapportive profile
Rapportive shows the sender's profile next to incoming e-mail messages.

Rapportive, which runs in Chrome, Firefox, Safari and the Mailplane Gmail client, shows you a box of information about message senders, positioned next to e-mail messages. It can show you a picture of the sender (if it's available on the Web), as well as recent tweets and other social media activity. It's extremely handy when it comes to e-mails from strangers; it literally attaches a face to the e-mail address.

Rapportive works by cross-referencing the sender's e-mail address with online public databases such as Gravatar, Google Profiles, Twitter, RapLeaf, LinkedIn and more. (Users can also enter and update their own information with Rapportive.) If one of those services has a profile picture of the message sender, Rapportive displays that image next to the sender's e-mail, along with links to the sender's Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media pages.

Note: Rapportive is not always able to find information about a sender right away but usually does within a few minutes.

Rapportive says it uses only public information from those services. In other words, if your Facebook privacy settings say that only friends can see your Facebook profile picture, Rapportive won't show it to others in Gmail. But still, Rapportive might seem creepy to people who don't know how much information about them is public, so use it with caution (or, to be more candid, disclose that you're using it with caution).

For example, in January I had a business meeting with a woman who works outside the computer and technology industry. She was in the final weeks of work before going on maternity leave and was extremely pregnant. A few weeks ago, I heard from her again in e-mail, and Rapportive showed me her profile, along with a picture of her with her baby. I started to reply with a note that she and her baby looked great -- but then I thought to myself, "This woman isn't immersed in the Internet and social media as I am; if I tell her I've seen this picture, it will just alarm her unnecessarily." So I held back.

Boomerang
Gmail: Send Later button
Boomerang adds a "Send Later" button to your compose window.

Boomerang for Gmail from Baydin lets you schedule e-mail to send later. It installs as an extension in Firefox or Chrome and adds a big "Send Later" button to the top of your compose window. Use it to schedule e-mail to go out in an hour, or tomorrow, or next month -- anytime in the future, even if your computer is offline or shut down completely.

To use Boomerang, you need to give the service access to your Gmail account. The company says it only accesses headers, but technically could access entire messages. And in some circumstances even message headers can contain sensitive information. So you'll want to be careful using Boomerang with sensitive information or in regulated environments. 

Boomerang is currently in beta and requires an invitation to try it out, but you can sign up for an invitation online or follow @baydinsoftware on Twitter and tweet that you want an invitation; the developers say they'll direct-message you an invitation code within a day.

Mailplane

Mailplane is a fully functional Gmail client for the Mac only. It's a Web browser that's customized for use only with Gmail; it doesn't have an address bar, and you can't use it to open any Web sites 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, and you can try it for free for 30 days.



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