Un-send an email if you’re quick and on Gmail

It’s not quite what it looks like, but if you’re a Gmail user and you switch this feature on, you can now have between 10 and 30 seconds to change your mind about sending an email.

Around the web this is being touted as a way to stop the hellstorm of an ill-thought, kneejerk angry email you sent in a fury. I think more practically it’s going to be to save you some of the times you forget to add the attachment you meant.

Here’s what Google says:

Previously a popular feature in Gmail Labs, and recently added to Inbox by Gmail, today we’re adding ‘Undo Send’ as a formal setting in Gmail on the web.

‘Undo Send’ allows people using Gmail to cancel a sent mail if they have second thoughts immediately after sending. The feature is turned off by default for those not currently using the Labs version, and can be enabled from the General tab in Gmail settings.

Google Apps update alerts: Undo Send for Gmail on the web (22 June 2015)

It isn’t really an undo. It’s a not-do-so-quickly. What happens is that the email just doesn’t go when it says it does, it waits in a little limbo for a moment. That’s why you can have a brief time to ‘unsend’ it but you can’t, for instance, undo the bitter message you sent yesterday to your ex.

This also isn’t new. It’s a feature in other email services but Gmail is definitely the biggest one and it’s so big that you can bet money both Microsoft with Outlook and Apple with Mail will surely introduce it soon.

Read the full piece for a bit more detail.

Use an email client instead of the web

I’m prompted to say this to you because of an short article about Gmail whose writer says:

I’ve been using Gmail since 2003 exclusively. It’s awesome. And when I learned the keyboard shortcuts in 2006, it vastly increased my email productivity. I highly recommend taking the time to learn them.

Yesterday I discovered the biggest boon to my email productivity since shortcuts: Gmail Offline, a Google Chrome app that does just what it says: Allows you to read and write email (in the browser) when you’re not connected to the Internet. But that’s not the key point. I haven’t even been offline since I started using it.

Do Your Email Faster by Getting Offline – Ev Williams, Medium (13 May 2014)

He sounds so surprised. Here’s the thing. If you get to your email by firing up Firefox or Safari or Chrome or (twitch) Internet Explorer, then logging on to a site like outlook.com (hotmail.com as was) or laposte.net, you’re reading your email online. (* See that asterisk? It’s important. But shush, I didn’t say it yet.) You’re reading your email online. That’s nice. You can do that from anywhere, absolutely anywhere that you can get an internet connection and it’s fine.

So long as you have an internet connection. You are bollixed if you don’t. And so long as your email provider remains your email provider. A friend recently moved from one broadband supplier to another and in the process was told she would lose her old email address. You know that’s a problem: if there are any statistics into why so many people remain subscribers to AOL then they probably conclude that it is solely to keep that familiar @aol.com address. Same with Hotmail. You keep putting up with the crap because you’ve given everybody that bleedin’ email address and there is nothing you can do about it.

Until forced. Then you change to something good and that may well be Gmail but this is another story.

Back to the online versus offline stuff.

If you work in an office and your PC or Mac there includes Microsoft Outlook, you’re getting your email offline. It might be stored on your company’s network servers but it’s not sitting out there on the internet waiting for you to login or for Microsoft to switch you off.

Back when this used to be an either/or kind of situation, there were advantages and disadvantages to online and offline email. I have always used offline, though, and I’ve done so because it means I have all the email right here. It’s mine and on my Mac and on my backups, you can’t take it away from me without theft and some serious effort.

It’s called using an email client: Apple’s OS X Mail is a client, Microsoft Outlook is a client and email is served to them. Your computer goes off to get email for you and brings it back, you don’t have to keep going to a website or leaving a website tab open.

Also back in the day, leaving that connection open cost you money. I knew someone who stay online while slowly peck-typing her emails, not appreciating that it was only when she hit Send that she needed to be online. I did tell her that and her internet connection did keep dropping the line because, as far as it was concerned, she wasn’t using it for a very long time. But I have no doubt that she persisted until whenever she got broadband.

These days we can have both worlds. I have all the advantages of having my emails on my Mac but they are also on my iPad and iPhone, moreover they are also also on any computer I chose to login to. Where you might have to go to hotmail.com to get your email, I can elect to go to iCloud.com to get mine. I did this most recently at a secure mental health establishment where I wasn’t allowed my iPad or iPhone but could use their office computers.

So that’s all good, then. You can get your email online or offline, whatever what you like, and so long as your supplier doesn’t stiff you, you’re so good to go that you never even realise there’s any choice to be made. Until you do what this Williams writer did and move to an email client, then you find out the other big benefit. The benefit so big that it surprised him and it now surprises me that not everybody knew this:

The reason Gmail Offline makes you faster at your email is because:

It’s freaking fast. Gmail proper is fast, most of the time. But sometimes it takes a second or two (or three or…) to archive or reload your inbox. When you’re plowing through email — especially with shortcuts — that seems like an eternity. Gmail Offline removes those waits, pretty much completely.

Yep. That would do it.

If you’re on Gmail, Williams is enthusing about Gmail Offline, and here’s where we:

*throw in an asterisk.

Purely and entirely to be awkward and not because Google wants to take over the world, Gmail Offline uses your web browser. It has to be Google Chrome with extensions so it’s really turning your browser into something that uses local storage like a regular document-creating application. But it’s your browser. So all that stuff I said about how you can tell you’re reading email online because you use a web browser, not so much.

But offline is faster? Very much.

Google revamping Gmail

I know this is just me, but Gmail is confusing. And sometimes even announcements about Gmail confuse me. Such as this one. I read Google’s news about a new email solution called Inbox and it felt like I was swimming in a little ocean of very gorgeously photographed images but not an awful lot of information. I did get that Inbox by Google wants you to include your To Do list in your email and that’s just a bag of spanners waiting to fall on you.

But a lot of smarter people who do like Gmail have been reading that same information and understanding it. Here’s one:

Today, Google unveiled a new email solution called Inbox, which looks like a marriage between Gmail and Google Now. Currently available by invitation only, this new app takes bits from your email like purchase invoices and bank statements and groups them together for fast access. Like Google Now, Inbox adapts to the way you operate, highlighting key pieces of emails like flight plans, photos, documents and upcoming event information.

Google’s new Inbox app is a marriage between Gmail and Google Now (update) | 9to5Mac (22 October 2014)

Read the full piece and let me know what it means.

Making email addresses as secure as passwords

I do know someone who deliberately picked a hard-to-remember email address, something like 9fytyth@hotmail.com because that looked professional. No, I have not one single idea either. I’d email to ask her why, but I can’t remember her address.

However, friend-of-the-blog Daniel Hardy has spotted another, better, easier-to-do way of making an address that’s hard to guess. Easy to remember, hard to guess. He tweeted:

I remember you saying you use this to combat spam, turns out it’s good for security too
Tweet – Daniel Hardy (3 September 2014)

The thing I’d use to counter spam was creating sort-of fake email addresses. They’re only sort-of fake because they really work. But they’re not your real one. What I really recommend is getting your own domain name so that you can make up any address, any time. So I might sign up for Tesco with an address of tesco@williamgallagher.com and it will work. But should Tesco ever sell out its email address to, say, an alien invasion force from beyond the stars, I can just block anything sent to tesco@williamgallagher.com.

But there is now also a very smart way to do this without the trouble of getting your own domain name. If you’re a Gmail user and your address is, say, Al.Phabet@gmail.com then you can give Tesco the address Al.Phabet+testco@gmail.com and it will work. It will work, the fine people at Tesco will be able to email you whatever it is they burn to email you, but at any time you can nobble this new address. And at no time do they know your real one.

Dan saw this on The Verge which goes on to say:

Now, this is not a security panacea by any stretch. You should still be using a password manager to help you keep track of all your different passwords — and now, different email addresses. If you forget the specific email address you’re using, you’re even more out of luck than you are if you forget your password. If you don’t even know the email address you registered with, you won’t be able to even get to those security questions. I personally use 1Password, which I like because it securely stores my data in the cloud (yes, there is an irony there), but there are others like LastPass that seem generally trustworthy.

How to make your email address as hard to guess as your password – Dieter Bohn, The Verge (September 3, 2014)

The full piece does cover the times that this can’t work. And while this particular trick is specific to Gmail, the piece goes on to at least begin covering some similar things you can do with Outlook and others.

Gmail adds nice Unsubscribe feature

Well, you’ve always been able to unsubscribe from advertising emails but Google is making it easier: if the email has a wee little unsubscribe link hidden at the bottom, Gmail will pop an unsubscribe link right up at the top where you can see it.

Two things to note. First, this is rolling out across Gmail but Gmail is big so this will take time and you may not see it just yet. But hold on, it’s coming.

Second – and trickier – think twice about unsubscribing. You know how you don’t always remember when you signed up to receive something? Occasionally you didn’t and it’s spam. In which case, hitting Unsubscribe sends a message – literally – to the spammer telling them that this is a real email account with a real human being reading it. No chance they’ll go “oh, okay, let’s take ’em off the spam list”.

Previously if I’ve had any doubt I’ve marked the emails as junk and let Mail (I use Apple’s Mail) deal with it. There is a wee problem with that: if the email is not junk, the fact that you junked it gets reported back to whichever company is delivering the emails. If enough people junk the emails, the sender is blocked. You can bet that spammers have ways around that so the only ones who suffer are legitimate companies that you really did sign up to receive emails from.

If you’re struggling with a huge amount of email newsletters and the like, take a look at Unroll.me. When you let it, Unroll.me scans your emails and gives you a list of everything that you can unsubscribe from – and lets you do that with a click. I’ve not used it myself but it comes recommended.

Apple improves Gmail support in OS X 10.9.1

Right now my Mac is nudging me. Oi, William, it’s saying, I’ve got something for you. That’s nice but what’s nicer is that I can say nudge me again in an hour or maybe try me tonight or perhaps tomorrow and the nudging will go away.

And it will come back so I don’t have to add to my To Do list that there is a new version of OS X Mavericks, I certainly don’t have to remember that lottery-number-length “10.9.1”. I can just agree to it being downloaded the next time I leave my desk.

The significant digit of the 10.9.1 is that last .1 because this is a small, minor, trivial update so I’m happy to just let it loose while I go off somewhere. But it’s also one of those teeny updates that bring important things – to some people. If you are a heavy Gmail user then you’ve apparently been narked by how OS X Mavericks broke Apple’s support for Gmail. It didn’t break it enough that you could see it had died, no, it just bent it a bit so that you’d be working away unaware that something wasn’t right.

I don’t believe anyone lost any data, this was a matter of convenience but an important matter of convenience. Apparently.

I’m not particularly a fan of Gmail – ask me why some day, it’s trivial but it sticks with me – so I don’t need the update for this. But there are also tweaks akimbo for software that I do use, such as the Safari web browser.

Plus, it’s such a quick download and such an automatic don’t-need-to-think-about-it kind of job that if you’d started it instead of reading this, you’d be updated now. Sorry about that.

Your Mac will be telling you the update is available but if it hasn’t yet, check up the Software Update option in the App Store.