by Kristin Burnham

10 Google Apps Tips and Tricks for Better Productivity

Jul 17, 20126 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsInternet

From remote Google Calendar access to auto-declining appointments, here are 10 tips and tricks that will keep you focused, organized and productive.

1. How to Receive a Daily Agenda

Want to see your day at a glance before it starts? Google Calendar gives you the option to receive a daily email detailing all your appointments and meetings. Generally, the email is sent to you around 5 a.m. local time.

To receive a daily agenda, click the drop-down menu next to the appropriate calendar and select “Notifications.” Select the Email check box next to “Daily agenda” in the section called “Choose how you would like to be notified.” Then, click “Save.”

2. How to Sign Out of Gmail Remotely

Google Apps Gmail

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.

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.

3. How to Access Google Calendar Offline

Google Calendar

If you’re traveling and don’t have access to an Internet connection, you can still access your calendar. To enable Offline, you must download the Google Chrome browser. Click the gear icon and choose “Offline” from the drop-down menu. You’ll be prompted to install the Google Calendar Web application from the Chrome Web Store.

Once the installation is complete, a new Chrome tab will open and the Google Calendar Web app icon will appear. Click the icon to go to Google Calendar. Next to “Offline,” you should see a green icon with a checkmark. This indicates that your calendar is synched and ready to use offline. If your calendar is still syncing, you’ll see a green spinning icon.

4. How to Alert Others When You’re on Vacation

Google Apps Gmail

Going away? Gmail’s out-of-office feature, called Vacation Responder, will automatically send a response when someone e-mails you while you’re away.

To activate it, click the gear icon and choose “Settings.” Under the “General” tab find “Vacation responder.” Enter the subject of the email you want sent to those who contact you via Gmail, type in a message, set the period of time you will be away and click “Save Changes.”

5. How to Customize Calendar Time Ranges

Google Calendar

If you generally don’t have anything scheduled at 3 a.m. (except for sleep, hopefully), the “Hide morning and night” feature lets you customize your calendar so you see only events within the time range of your choice.

Click the gear icon in your Calendar view, then select “Labs.” Find “Hide morning and night,” click “Enable” next to it, then “Save.”

On your main Calendar view, you’ll notice a gray bar that appears in the column with the hours of the day. Adjust the time range by clicking and dragging the bar at the top to the desired start time, and move the bar at the bottom to the desired end time.

6. How to Chat Off the Record

Google Gmail chat

When you use Gmail’s chat feature, conversations are automatically stored in your Gmail chat history or the history of your contact. If you’re engaged in a conversation that you don’t want stored or searchable, you can take the conversation “off the record.”

Do this by clicking the Actions drop-down menu at the top of the chat window. Select “Go off the record.” Note, however, that people you chat with may still choose to save chat histories in their Gmail settings.

7. How to Add Events to Google Calendar Via SMS

Google calendar

If you forgot to schedule a meeting or you don’t have good Internet service, don’t worry: You can easily add events via your mobile phone in a few quick steps.

From your computer, sign in to your Google Calendar account, click the gear icon at the top right of your screen and choose “Settings.” Then click the “Mobile Setup” tab and enter in your information. Gmail will send a verification code to your mobile phone; enter the code and click “Finish setup.”

Once the setup is complete, send events to your calendar by texting the details of your event (such as, “Dentist appointment 1:00pm April 20) to GVENT (48368). You’ll receive a confirmation text message, and the event will appear in your calendar.

8. How to Quickly Add Multiple Attachments to an Email

Google Apps 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.

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.”

9. How to Learn More About Your Contacts

Google Gmail people widget

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.

Click on the contact’s name 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.

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.

10. How to Auto-Decline Appointments

Google Calendar

If you’ll be away on vacation or know you have a prior commitment, a handy tool in Google Calendar labs is “Automatically declining events.” To turn on this feature, click the gear icon at the top right of your screen and select “Labs.” Click “Enable” next to it, then “Save” at the bottom of the page.

This feature lets you block times in your calendar when you know you’ll be unavailable. When someone sends you an invite for an event during this time period, Google Calendar will automatically decline it.