Device and account security are both critical components to anyone who uses technology. The past few weeks have centered around this topic with tips that covered how to keep your Chromebook secure and up-to-date. For my final post in this series, we will examine how to access and review the activity on our mail account.
Part 4: Gmail Activity Information
Many of us login to our Gmail account from multiple devices, sometimes even from “shared” devices like a computer lab terminal or shared workstation. When this does happen, do you make sure that you sign-out of your account each time? Google provides a way to examine your Gmail account activity and, more importantly, force logout of all Gmail sessions that may still be active.
- Open the Gmail app
- Scroll to the bottom of your window and in the bottom-right corner locate the heading “Last account activity” and click on the Details link.
- Here you can review the activity displayed. If anything looks suspicious, then you can click the ‘Sign out all other web sessions’ to force sign-out of your Google account on all devices that have been used to access your mail account.
- It is highly recommended that at this point you consider changing your account password to prevent any future unauthorized access.
- Before closing the window, scroll down to the bottom and locate the “Alert preference” heading. By clicking the ‘change’ link, you can configure this setting to notify you if any unusual activity is detected in the future.
In a previous post I covered several tools and tips for when you find yourself in the situation of being “offline” with your Chromebook. While offline means that you can’t send or receive emails, there is a way that you can at least access the email you have already. In fact, you can even compose emails that will be sent when your Chromebook is able to access WiFi again and resume normal “online” operations.
Get the App
- On your Chromebook, use the Launcher tool to access your Google Apps and locate the Web Store app. You can also open the Chrome app and do a search for Chrome Web Store.
- Locate the ‘Search the store’ box located in the top-left corner of the site, then type in the keywords “Gmail offline” and press Enter.
- Scroll down to the list of “Apps” to find the entry for Gmail Offline.
- Click the ADD TO CHROME button to start the download.
- When prompted, approve the app to initiate the install.
Setup the App
- Use the Launcher, located in the bottom-left corner of your Chromebook, to access the list of installed apps and find the Gmail Offline app.
- When you run the Gmail Offline app for the first time, you may be prompted to ‘Allow offline mail’ so that the app can sync copies of recent mail to your device.
Using the App
- If you’ve ever used the Gmail app for iOS and Android, then you will notice that the interface is very similar to the Gmail Offline app.
- All email that the app was able to sync prior to going offline will be available here for you to read.
- With the app you are able to:
- Read emails
- Archive or delete emails
- Star emails
- Organize emails into labels
- Compose new emails or reply to existing ones
- Note that email attachments may or may not be available, depending on whether the app was able to sync them to your Chromebook before going offline.
When your Chromebook is able to resume normal online operations, the Gmail Offline app will automatically begin syncing all of your offline activity up to cloud and send any emails that were waiting in your Outbox.
Several years ago my school district transitioned to Google Apps for Education and Gmail became the handler of our email. After the move we encountered an issue where email links in Chrome were being handed off to the default email app on our laptops (in our case, Mac Mail) instead of Gmail. This was very frustrating for our users until we found a Chrome Extension, Mailto, to help redirect the email link requests.
Fast forward to today, and lo and behold there is an option built right into Chrome to ensure that Gmail is the default mail client for email links.
- Open your Chrome browser
- Navigate to mail.google.com or use the Gmail app from the navigation ‘waffle.’
- After the Gmail app has loaded, locate the omnibox (a.k.a. address bar) at the top of the Chrome browser window. Move down until you reach the far end of the bar and look for a pair of overlapping diamond icons.
- Click on the double diamonds to access a pop-up window containing the option to allow mail.google.com to open all email links. Select ‘Allow’ enable this feature.
If you use Google’s Inbox app, then you will need to go into the app Settings and disable the “Redirect Gmail to inbox.google.com” option under ‘Other’ then follow steps 2 through 4 from above. Afterward, navigate to inbox.google.com and then into Settings to re-enable the redirect option.
If for some reason you do not see the double diamonds icon in the address bar, then you can still access this option from the Settings panel in Chrome. The complete navigation tree to find this option is Settings -> Show advanced settings… -> Content settings button under Privacy -> Manage handlers button under Handlers. However, I think it’s easier to go up to the search box in the Settings panel and type in the keywords: manage | handlers and let Google show you the way there.
NOTE: This option does not make the Mailto Chrome extension obsolete. Rather, because it is an extension Google Admins can choose to deploy it to all of the users inside of their organization.
In my last post I talked about how to use special ‘search operators’ when conducting a Google Search to help Google return results that are more closely related to the information you are looking for. If you are a Gmail user, then there are special search operators designed specifically for this Google App to help you quickly and efficiently zero in on a specific email or conversation.
For example, you can search for emails that have attachments by using the operator filename: (Ex. filename: agenda.doc – this will look for messages that have an attachment called ‘agenda.doc’). In another example, by default Gmail does not search for items that may be in your Spam or Trash labels. You can instruct Gmail to do a truly global search by using the operator anywhere: (Ex. anywhere: minutes – this will search for any messages containing the word ‘minutes’). There are many other operators that will let you search Gmail by label, starred items, before a date, after a date, between two dates, and many more.
A sampling of some of these search operators is covered below in a video from Techzilla; the full list of operators can be viewed on Google’s Gmail Help site.
My thanks to FreeTech4Teachers.com for tweeting this video and Techzilla for sharing the link to Google’s full list of Gmail search operators.
Of all the Google Apps that are at our disposal, the most common member of their family is the web-based email application ‘Gmail.’ Google has jam-packed their email application with tools to help you easily organize, filter, and be more efficient with your digital mail and contacts. The hard part is learning what these tools are, where they are located, and how to activate them.
The YouTube video below, produced by AnsonAlex.com, does a pretty good job of introducing you to Gmail and several of its basic features. Because it is a screencast tutorial, you get to see what Anson is doing in his Gmail window as he speaks. Additionally, because you are watching a video you can pause, rewind, and playback any part of the tutorial as many times as you need while you explore your own Gmail account settings and available tools.
Email has become an intricate part of both our professional and personal correspondences, and it is to our benefit to learn how to manage this data easily and efficiently.
Additional Google Resources:
If you’ve ever tried to print a webpage, then you know that the document that comes out rarely conforms neatly to an 8 1/2″ by 11″ piece of paper. This problem can be doubly troublesome when trying to print messages from Gmail…that is, if Google hadn’t already planned for such situations.
Print an Email Conversation
When you want to print a message from Gmail (or just about any document from one of Google’s Apps) do not use the print option built-in to your web browser. Instead, open the designated email and use the print icon located in the top-right corner of the message window. This will open a new window/tab with the contents of the email formatted for printing. This process will print all of the conversations within the chosen subject thread.
Print an Individual Email Message
But what if you don’t want to print all of the email conversations and instead print just one in particular? In this case, first select the particular email within the conversation thread that you want to print. Next, locate the disclosure triangle just to the right of the Reply button. From this drop-down menu, choose the “print” option. Again, Gmail will open a new window/tab and format the email for printing, but without all of the email conversations within the subject and instead just the one you selected.
Have you ever driven a car where the manufacturer put everything (headlights, wiper blade speed, cruise control, etc.) on one control arm attached to the steering column? Talk about not having enough elbow room. I was experiencing the same thing with all of these gadgets running in the left-hand column of the Gmail interface; I was feeling claustrophobic.
Luckily, there is a Lab available in Gmail that will take the gadget with the biggest potential foot print, Google Chat, and move it to the right-hand side of the window: Right-side Chat. Labs are small add-ons to your Google Apps to enhance or add efficiency to your Google experience. You access these add-ons from the Labs tab in the Gmail settings window, or follow the Google Support article by clicking here.