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Faces of Gmail: Forum Top Contributors

Category: Gmail | Oct 31, 2011

Posted by Sarah Price, Gmail Community Manager

Usually for Faces of Gmail, we talk to a Googler who works on Gmail. But this month, we’re talking to our forum Top Contributors. Top Contributors (TCs) are volunteers who post in the Gmail Help Forum. When we’re impressed with the amount they are posting and the quality of their answers, we give them the TC title. We have dozens of Gmail TCs around the world posting in all different languages.

About a month ago, we got to meet some of these wonderful volunteers at the Global Top Contributor Summit. Now you can meet a few of them, too! Below we’ve included excerpts from a group interview with five of our TCs.

Gmail Forum Top Contributors at the Global Top Contributor Summit in September

Name: Brett (bkc56)
Location: N. California, US
Favorite Gmail Lab: Message Sneak Peek. It’s so useful for quickly dealing with short messages.

Name: John (Deman_Nu)
Location: Woodstock, NY, US
Favorite Gmail Lab: Undo Send. It’s amazing how many times I notice something wrong in the seconds after I hit “Send.”
Name: LMckin51
Location: South Carolina, US
Favorite Gmail Lab: Undo Send

Name: Tito Dutta
Location: Kolkata, India
Favorite Gmail Labs: Inserting Image, Add any gadget by URL, Extra Emoji
Name: wdurham
Location: Hampshire, UK
Favorite Gmail Labs: Sneak Peek, and after years of using Outlook, the Move Icon Column which puts the attachment paperclip in a more obvious place.

What is your Gmail expertise?

Brett: To be in the Gmail help forum is to be always learning. I wouldn’t say I’m an expert, but I tend to focus on topics like account recovery, account security, missing messages, labels versus folders, and account backup.

LMckin51: I like teaching users how to keep their accounts safe, and how to avoid scams. I also like to help them learn about all the Gmail settings.

What do you like about participating in the forum?

wdurham: It’s great to feel you are helping people get more comfortable with Gmail, or solve particular problems they’re having. What’s even greater is the amount I learn myself each time I help someone solve a problem. Best of all is that “Eureka!” moment, when you spend ages explaining one of Gmail’s unique concepts, like labels, and the light suddenly dawns for the user.

Tito: It’s a great place to learn new things. The forum has taught me to think deeply. When an asker replies to my post in the forum, it helps me to assess my own answers.

What’s your most memorable forum experience?

wdurham: When people give out the wrong email address, the real owners of that address find themselves receiving mail meant for someone else — like a “wrong number” phone call. Sometimes they don’t understand what happened and incorrectly think it’s a Gmail problem. I answered one such query a few months back only to have the “someone else” join the thread and ask for her missing mail to be sent on to her because she gave out the wrong address – thus conclusively proving my point!

John: I was helping one woman who had accidentally deleted a number of emails that were important to her. Using search queries, I was able to help her find some of messages she thought she deleted. She emailed to thank me and I was overwhelmed by what she said: “I honestly am warmed to be reminded that there are selfless people helping others that they don’t even know. It means a lot! So even if I never find the rest of the emails you’ve still helped me to feel better.”

What are you doing when you’re not posting in the forum?

Brett: I have a full-time job as a software engineer plus a wife and four kids. I also play guitar, collect Legos, and watch movies (often sci-fi).

LMckin51: In my spare time I create and maintain websites. I also take photographs at events at my church.

What words of advice do you have for Gmail users?

Tito: Explore Gmail settings pages and Gmail Labs. Use and play with web browser extensions, plugins and and reliable userscripts. And the old rule: if you have any question on Gmail (or anything), don’t forget to search in Google first.

Brett: Gmail’s servers are very reliable, but it’s always a good idea to do regular backups in case you accidentally delete mail you need, or in case your account is compromised by someone getting your password (for example, if you reused your Gmail password on another website and it was stolen from there). Personally, I like Got Your Back as a backup/restore utility. Another resource for exporting and saving your data is Google’s Data Liberation Front.

John: Forum posters, please remember that we are volunteers who are here to help you. We recognize that you are often angry or upset when you come to us with serious problems, but it is much easier to help when your posts focus on providing the information we need rather than on your emotions. Feel free to ask questions if you don’t understand us and let us know if we misunderstood something about your situation. We also greatly appreciate it when you let us know when your questions have been answered!


Learn more about ads in Gmail

Category: Gmail | Oct 31, 2011

Posted by Alex Gawley, Product Manager

We don’t want ads to be a mystery, so with our new “Why these ads” link, you can find out why an ad is being shown to you. By clicking the link – now next to ads in your Google search results and coming very soon to Gmail – you’ll be able to see information about why a specific ad appeared. In addition, we’re giving you greater control through our improved Ads Preferences Manager, where you’ll be able to block advertisers or turn off personalized ads.

To learn more, check out this video from our lead software engineer, Diane Tang, or read our post on The Official Google Blog.


Trying on the new Dynamic Views from Blogger

Category: Gmail | Sep 27, 2011

As you may have noticed, the Gmail blog looks a lot different today. That’s because we—along with a few other Google blogs—are trying out a new set of Blogger templates called Dynamic Views.

Launched today, Dynamic Views is a unique browsing experience that makes it easier and faster for readers to explore blogs in interactive ways. We’re using the Classic view, but you can also preview this blog in any of the other six new views by using the view selection bar at the top left of the screen.

We’re eager to hear what you think about the new Dynamic Views. You can submit feedback using the “Send feedback” link on the bottom right of this page.

If you like what you see here, and we hope you do, we encourage you to try out the new look(s) on your own blog—read the Blogger Buzz post for more info.

Posted by Peter Harbison, Product Marketing Manager


Gmail and Gmail for mobile go global again, available in Persian

Category: Gmail | Sep 22, 2011

Posted by Ian Hill, Localization Project Manager

At Google, we want to make our products universally accessible and useful, and that means providing them for as many people as possible in the language they speak. The Gmail and Google Localization teams have worked together to bring Gmail to people around the world in 53 languages. Today that number grows to 54, because we’re proud to announce that through working with the Persian Initiative Team, we are able to release Persian (Farsi – فارسی), as the newest language available in Gmail. If you or someone you know speaks Persian, they can change the language in Gmail by selecting it on the Gmail settings page, under the language dropdown.

Gmail for mobile is also now available in Persian through your mobile browser.

To read this announcement in Persian, visit the Google Persian blog.


Introducing multiple sign-in and preferences on Gmail for mobile

Category: Gmail | Sep 21, 2011

Posted by Posted by Dominic Leung, Mobile Software Engineer

The Gmail for mobile team works hard to bring you features that make you more productive on the go. Today, we will highlight some new features for Gmail in your mobile browser.

Multiple sign-in support

Just like on your desktop, you can now to sign into multiple accounts simultaneously. To sign into an additional account, click on the account switcher at the bottom of the threadlist, then click ”Sign into an another account.” You can quickly switch between accounts by selecting the desired account from the Accounts menu.

Mobile-specific signature

We know that autocorrect and other mobile spell-checks can be frustrating as you are typing on the go. Let your friends know that you are responding via your mobile phone so that they understand why you might have sent a message that you are meeting for “monitors” and not “mojitos”. It’s an easy way to make them understand why your message might be short or have a few typos. To create a mobile signature, from the menu view, press the new settings icon, choose your signature, and then check the box that tells us you want to activate it. If you ever want to disable the mobile signature, you can uncheck the box and we will use your desktop signature instead.

Vacation Auto-Responder

Ever forgotten to set your out-of-office auto-reply in Gmail before going on a trip? You don’t have to worry about that anymore, since you can now set your auto-reply using the mobile interface. Simply choose a start and end date and specify your message, just like on the desktop interface.

As part of added multiple sign-in support, we’ve updated URLs so that each account can have a separate bookmark. For those who have previously bookmarked Gmail for Mobile, please update your bookmark. If you haven’t, now is a great time to head to on your smartphone or tablet browser and add a bookmark to your home screen.


Never run out of calling credit with auto-recharge

Category: Gmail | Sep 20, 2011

Posted by Posted by Ilya Frank, Senior Software Engineer
Cross-posted from the Google Voice Blog

 If you’re calling internationally from Gmail a lot, you may have noticed that your calling credit goes a very long way… which makes it easy to get caught off guard when it runs out.

So based on your feedback, we implemented the ability to auto-recharge your account: just go to your billing page (click on the add credit link next to your balance) and select the recharge amount. When your calling credit dips under $2 or 2€ we will automatically charge your credit card on file for the selected amount.

This feature becomes available after your first purchase and can be changed or disabled at any time.


Improved accessibility for Google Calendar

Category: Gmail | Sep 14, 2011

Posted by: Florian Niemann, Software Engineer

Today we announced some of the updates we’ve released recently to make Google’s applications more accessible to the blind community. Google Calendar now has new keyboard shortcuts and better screen reader support for our blind users. Members of the blind community can now use JAWS, VoiceOver and ChromeVox to manage your calendars, create and edit events or simply browse your events. Here are a few examples of how screen readers and keyboard shortcuts work with Google Calendar:

  • In your calendar lists, you can use the up and down arrow keys to navigate between your calendars. For each calendar in the list, you’ll hear its name and can use the spacebar to turn the calendar on or off. To remove a calendar from the list, use the delete key.
  • In the agenda view, you can use the up and down arrow keys to move between events and use the left and right arrow keys to move between dates. To expand an event and expose the event details, press enter. To go to the event details page, type ‘e’. To remove an event, press delete. Although agenda view provides the best screen reader experience today, we are also working on improved accessibility for other views.
  • In the guest list on the create/edit event page, you can navigate around using the up and down arrow keys. Use the spacebar to switch a guest’s status between optional and required. To remove a guest from the list, use the delete key.
  • Additional keyboard shortcuts make it easier to use Google Calendar no matter which view or screen you’re on. Type ‘c’ to create an event, ‘/’ to start a search, and ‘+’ to add a calendar.

For a complete list of keyboard shortcuts and to learn more about using Google Calendar with screen readers, please visit the help center.

With these new accessibility features, we hope to make it easier for everyone to use Google Calendar. Please use this form to share your feedback directly with the accessibility team so we can continue to improve our products.


Gmail account security in Iran

Category: Gmail | Sep 9, 2011

Posted by Eric Grosse, VP Security Engineering

Cross posted from the Google Security Blog

We learned last week that the compromise of a Dutch company involved with verifying the authenticity of websites could have put the Internet communications of many Iranians at risk, including their Gmail. While Google’s internal systems were not compromised, we are directly contacting possibly affected users and providing similar information below because our top priority is to protect the privacy and security of our users.

While users of the Chrome browser were protected from this threat, we advise all users in Iran to take concrete steps to secure their accounts:

  1. Change your password. You may have already been asked to change your password when you signed in to your Google Account. If not, you can change it here.
  2. Verify your account recovery options. Secondary email addresses, phone numbers, and other information can help you regain access to your account if you lose your password. Check to be sure your recovery options are correct and up to date here.
  3. Check the websites and applications that are allowed to access your account, and revoke any that are unfamiliar here.
  4. Check your Gmail settings for suspicious forwarding addresses or delegated accounts.
  5. Pay careful attention to warnings that appear in your web browser and don’t click past them.

For more ways to secure your account, you can visit If you believe your account has been compromised, you can start the recovery process here.


Gmail: It’s cooler in the cloud

Category: Gmail | Sep 7, 2011

Posted by David Jacobowitz, Program Manager, Green Engineering and Operation

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.


Using Gmail, Calendar and Docs without an Internet connection

Category: Gmail | Aug 31, 2011

Posted by Benoît de Boursetty, Product Manager

(Cross-posted on the Google Enterprise Blog)

The great thing about web apps is that you can access all of your information on the go, and we’ve introduced ways to use Google Apps on a variety of devices like mobile phones and tablets. But it’s inevitable that you’ll occasionally find yourself in situations when you don’t have an Internet connection, like planes, trains and carpools. When we announced Chromebooks at Google I/O 2011, we talked about bringing offline access to our web apps, and now we’re taking our first steps in that direction. Gmail offline will be available today, and offline for Google Calendar and Google Docs will be rolling out over the next week, starting today.

Gmail Offline is a Chrome Web Store app that’s intended for situations when you need to read, respond to, organize and archive email without an internet connection. This HTML5-powered app is based on the Gmail web app for tablets, which was built to function with or without web access. After you install the Gmail Offline app from the Chrome Web Store, you can continue using Gmail when you lose your connection by clicking the Gmail Offline icon on Chrome’s “new tab” page.

Google Calendar and Google Docs let you seamlessly transition between on- and offline modes. When you’re offline in Google Calendar, you can view events from your calendars and RSVP to appointments. With Google Docs you can view documents and spreadsheets when you don’t have a connection. Offline editing isn’t ready yet, but we know it’s important to many of you, and we’re working hard to make it a reality. To get started using Google Calendar or Google Docs offline, just click the gear icon at the top right corner of the web app and select the option for offline access.

IT administrators can deploy Chrome Web Store apps to users en masse by setting up organizational policies for Chrome.

Today’s world doesn’t slow down when you’re offline and it’s a great feeling to be productive from anywhere, on any device, at any time. We’re pushing the boundaries of modern browsers to make this possible, and while we hope that many users will already find today’s offline functionality useful, this is only the beginning. Support for offline document editing and customizing the amount of email to be synchronized will be coming in the future. We also look forward to making offline access more widely available when other browsers support advanced functionality (like background pages).