Review: 6 Chrome extensions let you track your Gmail

Want to know if that important email was actually read -- or ignored? These Gmail tools can help.

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MailTrack for Gmail

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Your account page on the MailTrack site lists all the tracked emails you’ve sent, if any have been opened and if so, how many times.

MailTrack lets you track an unlimited number of emails for free -- but there's an odd catch: Under a free account, tracking cannot be turned off.

How it works

With a free account, all emails you send are tracked; there's nothing else you need to do other than write and send your email as you normally would.

When the recipient opens your tracked email, a notification card pops up from the lower-right corner of your desktop, and will also appear among the cards listed in the Chrome Notifications panel. MailTrack will also notify you by email, if you set it to do this.

In the Gmail main screen, MailTrack also adds two checkmark icons to the left of the sender names in your email list. If the first checkmark is green, it means that the email was sent using MailTrack -- if it's gray, then it was sent without. (Since the option to turn off email tracking comes with the paid plan, in the free plan, the first checkmark will always been green.) The second checkmark turns green to indicate that the tracked email was opened. Hover the pointer over these two checkmarks when they're both green, and a small panel will pop open listing all instances of the email being opened, and what operating system the recipient used to open it.

Your account page on the MailTrack site lists all the tracked emails you've sent, if any have been opened and if so, how many times.

Paid plans

There's only one premium plan starting at $30 for six months and $48 for a year. MailTrack will then track when a link inside your tracked email is clicked, and provide you with a daily analytics report regarding the open and link-click rate of your tracked emails. You'll also be able to turn off email tracking, if you wish.

Bottom line

I love how this extension's checkmark indicators make it convenient to tell, at a glance, an email's tracking status without having to open the email or visiting your user page on the MailTrack site. The pop-up notification cards are also nice.

The real downside: It's a little weird and intrusive that you cannot switch tracking off under a free account. Not only does this raise potential personal privacy concerns, it could also be a problem if you need to send email to someone who uses email through a network or service that blocks tracked emails or flags them as spam.

Sidekick by HubSpot

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Your user account page on the Sidekick site shows your tracked emails listed as an “activity stream.”

Sidekick is the second most popular app in this article, with more than 500,000 users of its Chrome extension. It comes from HubSpot, an online marketing platform, whose email tracking is also available for Outlook and Apple Mail.

How it works

The Sidekick extension adds a checkbox to the right end of the email composition toolbar of Gmail. Clicking it will set the email you are writing to be tracked. Like MailTrack, a notification card will pop up from the lower-right corner of your desktop every time a tracked email is opened; you'll also get a notification in Chrome.

Sidekick also installs a button (showing its logo) on the upper-right of the Chrome browser itself. Whenever a tracked email is opened, a count number will appear over this button. Click it and a small panel pops open that lists the status of your tracked emails, each represented as a card. Clicking "Expand" on a particular card will make it expand downward to reveal a list of all the times that the tracked email has been opened by the recipient.

Your user account page on the Sidekick site shows your tracked emails listed as an "activity stream." Basically, these are the same cards that appear when you click the Sidekick icon button.

Interestingly, if you open your own sent email that you're tracking through Sidekick, you'll receive a notification for that as well. This actually has a useful purpose -- it is meant to alert you if someone may be accessing your personal account on Gmail and opening tracked emails in your Sent folder without your knowledge.

Sidekick can track link-clicks, but only if the links are set as hyperlinks in the text of your email -- unlike with most of the other services in this roundup, you can't just enter an URL (for example: www.computerworld.com) into the body of text. Once you've embedded the link, Sidekick will track the number of clicks to that link.

Free and paid plans

Free accounts are granted 200 notifications (for whenever a tracked mail is opened) per month. For $10 per month, the 200-notification limit is removed.

Bottom line

Compared to the other extensions in this roundup, Sidekick's extension modifies the original user interface of Gmail the least -- the only new element it adds to the email composition window is the aforementioned checkbox for activating tracking.

I liked the design of Sidekick's notification cards, and how you can use them to keep up with the status of your tracked emails without needing to visit your account page. In addition, the limit of 200 notifications means that most users will be able to keep to the free account, while business users can handle the reasonable $10 per month fee.

Yesware Email Tracking

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Yesware's Enterprise plan offers a variety of tracking and reporting features for organizations.

Yesware is geared toward the business user, as evidenced by its (for pay) reporting features for CRM and Salesforce accounts and its add-on for Outlook.

How it works

The Yesware extension inserts its own toolbar into Gmail's composition window; the toolbar includes a checkbox that lets you turn tracking on or off.

It adds another toolbar, called the Inbox Dashboard, to the main Gmail screen, above where your emails are listed. An Events button makes the toolbar expand down to show a list of when tracked emails have been opened and lets you turn off tracking if you wish. An Emails button shows you all the tracked emails you've sent and whether the recipient has opened an email, clicked a link inside it, or replied.

The Inbox Dashboard isn't integrated seamlessly; it operates like a separate utility that's laid over the original Gmail UI. In my testing, this toolbar took a couple of seconds to load after the main Gmail screen was fully loaded. You can switch off the Inbox Dashboard, but you then have to visit your account page on the Yesware site to follow the tracking statuses of your emails.

A notification card will pop up from the lower-right corner of your main desktop alerting you whenever a tracked email is opened, a link inside it has been clicked, or a file attached to it has been downloaded or opened. As with Sidekick, links inside your email must be set as hyperlinks if you want their clicks to be tracked.

You can turn off tracking for an email that you've already sent by opening it and clicking the "Tracking" button that appears on its upper-right corner.

The Web site has some interesting features as well. You can go to your account page to view a chart that graphs the number of times your tracked emails have been opened over the last 30 days. Below this is a list of your tracked emails and the current status of each (i.e., when it was last opened, a link inside it was clicked, and an attachment to it downloaded or opened).

Free and paid plans

Yesware's free account will track 100 events (such as openings and link-clicks) per month. There are also three paid plans.

The Pro plan ($12 per month per user) lets you send an unlimited number of tracked emails and adds the ability to schedule emails, to sync with CRMs, and to track attachments and presentations. You can also be informed of how many times a PowerPoint presentation has been viewed or downloaded. The Team plan ($20 per month per user) includes a variety of team features, while the Enterprise version ($40 per month per user) adds integration with Salesforce.

Bottom line

As with Mail2Cloud, Yesware's ability to track attachments could be helpful, if you're willing to pay for it. Yesware also has some excellent business features, such as the ability to track PowerPoint presentations. However, if you simply need to send a few emails to track, there are simpler options that don't clutter up your Gmail user interface quite as much.

Conclusions

If you only need to track when an email you send through Gmail is opened, and don't mind having to set the links you want to track in your emails as hyperlinks, Sidekick is a good bet because of its great notification-card user interface.

Bananatag and Boomerang also include free send-later and remind-later features, but Boomerang's remind-later functionality can be tied to a tracked email, a nice addition. On the other hand, Bananatag provides a chart on your account page illustrating the opened and link-click rates of your tracked emails for free. When you pay for Bananatag, you'll get info about the recipient's location and device. Boomerang doesn't provide this level of detail.

Need to track attachments in your emails? That doesn't come free. The cheapest to consider is Mail2Cloud at $8 per month. It will keep an accounting of how many times your attachments are downloaded and let you set a shut-off date as well.

Finally, Yesware's plans offer a great many more details about how your recipient interacts with your attachments (although you can't set a date to prevent them from being downloaded), and offers a plethora of business features for both small organizations and enterprises.

This story, "Review: 6 Chrome extensions let you track your Gmail" was originally published by Computerworld.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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