E-mail tips from hassle-free PC

By Rick Broida, PC World |  Internet, gmail

Manage multiple Gmail accounts with Gmail Manager

At the risk of sounding greedy, I have five Gmail accounts. Hey, Google makes the rules, not me. Gmail accounts are free, and there's no limit on how many a single person can have. However, checking all those accounts gets to be pain, what with all the signing in and signing out. That's why I rely on one of my all-time favorite Firefox extensions: Gmail Manager.

True to its name, the add-on lets you manage multiple Gmail accounts from within the comfy confines of your browser. After installing it and configuring your accounts in the Preferences, you'll see a Gmail Manager status bar in the bottom-right corner of the browser window. Mouse over it for a pop-up listing your newest messages. Click it to open Gmail in a new tab. Or right-click it to select a different account.

Gmail Manager has loads of options you can tweak, like new-mail notifications, a numeric unread-mail count, and a pop-up "snippet" box. In short, it does everything you could want short of actually reading your mail for you. This is a killer extension and a must-have for anyone who uses multiple Gmail accounts.

Use Gmail to fight spam

Everybody has a favorite method for fighting spam, the bane of inboxes planet-wide. Tools like MailWasher and SpamAssassin get the job done for some, but I'm partial to another solution: Gmail.

Google's universally adored mail service does a great job filtering out junk-but not just for Gmail accounts. See, I have a personal domain (let's call it hasslefreepc.com) that I use for my primary e-mail account, and it gets positively bombarded with spam.

By taking advantage of a couple native Gmail features, however, I was able to rid my inbox of 99.9% of it. Here's the process in a nutshell:

I created a new Gmail account. (I already had one, but I wanted a second that was exclusively dedicated to my domain's mail.) I clicked Gmail's Settings link, then headed to the Accounts tab. I clicked Add another e-mail account and configured Gmail to fetch messages from my domain's servers (and to not leave copies there, otherwise my server would eventually get full and start rejecting messages). Presto: Gmail automatically scans for spam when it retrieves mail from other servers, so I could have stopped right there. However, I didn't want browser-based Gmail to be my primary destination for e-mail activities, as I prefer to use Outlook on my desktop and my cell phone for on-the-go messaging. Therefore, I headed to Gmail's Forwarding and POP/IMAP tab and enabled IMAP, which allows for two-way communication between Gmail and other mail clients. Finally, I followed Gmail's configuration instructions for setting up IMAP with Outlook and other clients.

Now, when I receive e-mail via Outlook or my phone, it's totally transparent: There's no evidence of Gmail's involvement-except for the total lack of spam, which gets filtered out along the way (and stored in Gmail's Spam folder, where you can easily review it for false positives).

In other words, Gmail acts as the spam-filtering intermediary between my domain and my PC or phone. And as an added bonus, it lets me access my mail on the Web, which is very handy at times. Sometimes I wish I could give Gmail a big fat kiss.

Fix extra line breaks in Outlook signatures

I can't even remember when it started happening, but for some reason my Outlook signature--the text that appears at the bottom of every e-mail I compose--has extra line breaks. It's like someone turned on double-spacing without asking me. Even though the signature looks correct (i.e., single-spaced) in Outlook's signature editor (and even in Word, where I added some hyperlinks), the mystery line breaks appear whenever I create a new message.

Fortunately, I finally stumbled on a solution (with a little help from Microsoft, believe it or not). Perhaps unsurprisingly, the problem turned out to be the wrong kind of HTML tag in the signature: "paragraph" instead of "single line break." But because I couldn't see any of the underlying HTML, I couldn't correct the tags. Luckily, there's an easy fix. (Note that I work in Outlook 2003--not sure this applies to other versions.)

In Outlook's Tools menu, click Options. Click the Mail Format tab. Click Signatures. In the Signature box, select the signature that you want to modify, and then click Edit. Place the insertion point after the last character in the line. Press Delete, and then press Shift-Enter. Repeat Steps 5 and 6 for each line of text. When you have finished with all lines, click OK three times.

Presto! No more extra line breaks in your signature. And good riddance!

Rick Broida writes PC World's Hassle-Free PC blog. Sign up to have Rick's newsletter e-mailed to you each week.

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