5 Hidden Gmail Tricks for Power Users

How well do you know Gmail? Here are five tips, from setting up an automatic vacation response to signing out of your account remotely, that the average Gmail user might not know about.

Whether you use Google's Gmail service at work or for personal purposes, you probably have a good handle on the basics: organizing your contacts, sending emails, setting up folders and more.

But if you've mastered the basics and are looking to increase your Gmail prowess and productivity, here's a look at five tips and tricks that will take you to the next level.

1. How to Set Up Desktop Notifications

If you're expecting an important email, there's no need to constantly refresh or monitor your inbox. Instead, download an add-on for the Google Chrome browser that enables a popup that lets you know when you have a new email or chat message.

Chat notifications are enabled by default, but you can disable them in your Gmail settings. To enable email or chat notifications, here's what to do:

First, click the gear icon in the upper right of your Gmail and select "Settings." On the "General" tab, select the option you'd like in the "Desktop Notifications" section. Here, you can turn Chat notifications on or off, or receive notifications for all incoming email or only those Gmail marks "Important." When you've made your selections, click "Save." Right now, this feature works only for Chrome browsers.

2. How to Quickly Add Multiple Attachments to an Email

If an email you're sending requires you to add multiple attachments, there's an easier way than selecting and uploading files one-by-one.

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If you want to send multiple files from the same folder, hold down the Ctrl key (or Command key on Macs) and click on each file you want to attach to your message. Or, you can also hold down the Shift key to select a continuous group of files.

Another option is to click and drag file icons from a folder or your desktop directly to the "Attach a file" section. When you do, the area will change to white and display this message: "Drop files here to add them as attachments."

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3. How to Send an Automatic Vacation Response

Summer—and vacations—are right around the corner. If you'll be unplugged and out of reach, alert your contacts you're offline by setting an automatic vacation response.

The vacation response feature will automatically send a reply with a message to anyone who emails you, except for messages classified as spam and messages addressed to a mailing list you subscribe to. These groups will not receive a notification. If a person contacts you again after four days, Gmail will send another vacation response to remind the person youre away.

To set up a vacation response, click the gear icon in the upper right of your Gmail and select "Settings." From the "General" tab, select "Vacation Responder on" in the "Vacation responder" section. Next, enter the subject and body of your message in the appropriate fields, then check the box next to "Only send a response to people in my Contacts" if you don't want everyone who emails you to know you're away.

If you use Google Apps, you'll also see an option to send a response only to people from your domain. If you check both of these boxes, only people who are in your contacts and your domain will receive the automatic response. When you're done, click "Save Changes."

When you're back from vacation, click "end now" in the banner that runs across the top of your Gmail page.

4. How to Learn More About Your Contacts

Gmail's people widget, located on the right-hand side of your messages, shows you contextual information about the people you're interacting with in Gmail.

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Click on the contact's name on the right side to see information such as their name, email address or occupation; recent Google+ posts your contact has made visible to you, which you can +1 directly in Gmail; recent emails your contact has sent you; Google Calendar events if your contact's Calendar is shared with you; and Google docs, shared with both you and the contact.

If you have several contacts on an email thread, the contact with the first unread message in the conversation will have the above information shown in the people widget. You can find more information about others in the conversation by clicking the more link at the top of the people widget.

To disable the people widget, click the gear icon in the upper right and select "Settings." On the "General" tab, select "Hide the people widget" button. Then click "Save Changes" at the bottom of the page.

5. How to Sign Out of Gmail Remotely

If you use multiple computers or devices to sign into Gmail and think you forgot to log out, you can do so remotely. Scroll to the bottom of your inbox: You'll see information about the time and location of the last activity on your account. Click "Details" to see whether your account is still open in another location.

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The page that pops up shows you if your account is open in another location, recent activity,(which includes whether it was accessed by browser, mobile, POP3 and so on) the IP address; and the date and time. You can also log out of all other sessions from here.

Kristin Burnham covers consumer technology, social networking and enterprise collaboration for CIO.com. Follow Kristin on Twitter @kmburnham. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Kristin at kburnham@cio.com

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