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Simple Gmail hack to show unread messages only

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gmailSome years ago, I switched from Outlook for many reasons and began using Gmail and since it is a mail service that is still being developed, there are some features lacking in the offering. We’ve talked now about adding a HTML signature to your outbound mail, about how to recall an accidental email sent and adding a basic client management tool, bringing the offering closer to complete.

But there are more features missing from Gmail… One reason I prefer web based mail is the consistent interface that I can use from my phone, my browser, or maybe if I’m lucky, someday a third generation iPad. But one thing that I missed about my old Outlook was the ability to arrange emails based on whether they were read or unread since I marked emails I needed to respond to as unread, allowing me to prioritize.

In Gmail, you can place stars next to emails just like flags in Outlook and prioritize starred mail, and you can use tags on Gmail just like folders on Outlook, but I learned a little trick today from @ObviouslyBen on Twitter that allows you to see all of your unread emails and none of the read emails, simply type in “in:inbox is:unread” in the search bar of your Gmail and it filters out all read messages.

gmail hack

This may seem like a mindless, simple Gmail hack but for me, it is the biggest productivity booster I’ve learned for Gmail in years! Does this tip help you to prioritize?

Originally published February 05, 2010.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius - she has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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31 Comments

31 Comments

  1. Ben Hughes

    February 5, 2010 at 2:52 am

    Yay! Glad I could help you figure this out. :]

  2. Joe Loomer

    February 5, 2010 at 6:44 am

    Lani,

    I’ve been a Windows Live Mail guy since they rolled it out, and have loved it. It’s replaced Outlook Express on all my computers.

    I use Google and YouTube (business account, adword keyword tools etc…), I’m debating a switchover to Gmail, but had resisted for reasons including the lack of read/unread (I do exactly what you do – mark “unread” to items requiring a reply). Are you happy with the myriad other functions of Gmail? I’ve found Windows Live to be as easy and functional as Outlook Express, although I wouldn’t have switched if I’d found Xobni first….

    What is it about Gmail that made you switch in the first place? Was it mainly the fact that it’s web based? Are you using Google Chrome?

    It’s probably apparent in my comments, I’m usually a quick study, but I’m still playing catch-up on a lot of the web advances.

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

    • Lani Rosales

      February 5, 2010 at 10:47 am

      @joeloomer, there are several reasons I switched to Gmail:

      1. I began living in “the cloud” as much as possible many years ago. Some find this controversial, but as someone who has had an email address since I was 13, it’s natural to me.
      2. As Fred outlined below, the Gmail search function is phenomenal and adding the MailBrowser firefox addon, I can even search the text within an ATTACHMENT! For me, this is important because my brain is going 103489320mph at all times and my recall is based on phrases, not subject lines, so I search something almost hourly for expediency.
      3. I’ve stayed with Gmail because I’ve tried Outlook, Thunderbird, Yahoo, Hotmail, even AOL over the years and the Google Labs continues to add functionality and innovation I hadn’t even THOUGHT of before. I can change the theme/skin, preview videos or pictures in my mail browser, etc.
      4. I like living in the cloud because the functionality and appearance isn’t based on what computer I’m on, rather which account I sign into.

      Gmail isn’t the best email out there, but I know so many people who have switched, so I’m trying to help others like me learn to use it as a professional email suite, rather than just a personal email. Thanks for all of your questions, Joe! 🙂

  3. Joe Loomer

    February 5, 2010 at 6:54 am

    uh, forgot to subscribe – please don’t hurt me….

  4. Fred Glick

    February 5, 2010 at 8:44 am

    I opened a separate gmail account just to copy all my business and personal email as a back up. I can also search content in there.

    It’s a cloud version of all my email.

    I highly recommend it for that just in case moment!

  5. Joe Loomer

    February 5, 2010 at 8:58 am

    @Fred – AWESOME tip – thanks!

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  6. Jim Little

    February 5, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    If only Gmail had hierarchical folders I would be 100% pleased. As it is, I am only 95% happy with it.
    I have used it exclusively for 2-3 years.
    One tip, make a label for your pdf copies of manuals and email them to yourself ie. name+manuals@gmail.com. Now when you are trying to remember some trick with your camera or… just check your email.

    • Braxton Beyer

      November 23, 2010 at 10:25 pm

      You can actually enable ‘Nested Labels’ in the labs section of Gmail and you basically have nested folders. In fact it is better because an email can appear in more than one place since they are labels and not actual folders.

  7. Ken Montville

    February 6, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    This whole Gmail thing is fascinating to me. I have a Gmail account but use it more as a “personal” account vs. my “professional” account which I keep in Outlook.

    Maybe this has been addressed or maybe you can point me in the right direction —
    – can you make subfolders with the folders (labels) in Gmail? Ex: “Agent Genius” may be the “master” label and then “Fred Glick” and “Lani Rosales” would be subfolders.

    – is there an app for accessing multiple Gmail accounts from one source or do I sign in and out of each? Ex: ken@gmail.com, kenmont@gmail.com, etc. (not my e-mail addresses and don’t know if they exist or who they might belong to)

    – I’m guessing Gmail is easy to use with Google Calendar but will Google Calendar send reminders to my iPhone and/or pop up on my desktop screen?

    I guess I should read the manual, huh?

    • Ken Montville

      February 6, 2010 at 5:18 pm

      Well, read the MailBrowser post and that seems to be the answer.

      • Lani Rosales

        February 7, 2010 at 12:10 pm

        That’s one way, or just being really diligent (which I’m not) about tagging and using multiple tags which equates to subfolders. I prefer a simple search over the time consumption of tagging.

  8. Melissa Zavala

    February 7, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    Lani: When I was thirteen we communicated via a string laced between two tin cans. Boy, how times have changed. Thanks for the gmail tip; I was also unfamiliar with that one and am constantly stymied by the “conversations.” (I think that’s what they call them.)

  9. Barry Bevis

    February 8, 2010 at 10:21 am

    I wish there was a lab to add a button to show unread mail.

    • Lani Rosales

      February 8, 2010 at 10:53 am

      I agree. Although as much as I dislike how Big Brother-y Google is, they do a pretty good job of studying user behavior, so if enough people are suggesting this feature (as I have) and are using the feature daily (as I now do), it’ll eventually show up in the lab. *fingers crossed!!*

      • Braxton Beyer

        November 23, 2010 at 10:28 pm

        It is actually in the lab already, sort of. Just enable ‘Quick Links’ and then you can save any search as a link in your sidebar. I’ve used it for a while but ultimately end up using the search more than anything else.

  10. MichaelP

    May 10, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    If you have the Quick Links options enabled under labs you can save this as a Quick Link and then simply click the link whenever you want to view unread messages. It works exactly like a Unread button.

  11. Braxton Beyer

    November 23, 2010 at 10:32 pm

    Lani,
    How are you republishing this article? It says originally published in February but then the date at the top is today. Is this a plugin for WP?

    • Lani Rosales

      November 23, 2010 at 11:06 pm

      It’s the ol’ timestamp switcharoo 🙂 We republish from time to time.

      Thanks for the tips above!

  12. Ken Brand

    November 24, 2010 at 9:05 am

    Nice Tip. I switched from Outlook to Google Domain Apps about a year ago and it’s been way better, plus the Google Docs feature is a must. Thanks for sharing. Happy Thanksgiving.

  13. Julia

    November 24, 2010 at 11:24 am

    Brilliant, glad I didn’t miss this the 2nd time around (now with an easier way to do it through quick links!).

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3 awesome ways bug sized robots are changing the world

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Bits of robots and microchips changing the world.

When we envision the robots that will (and already are) transforming our world, we’re most likely thinking of something human- or dog-sized. So why are scientists hyper-focusing on developing bug-sized (or even smaller!) robots?

Medical advances

Tiny robots could assist in better drug delivery, as well as conduct minor internal surgeries that wouldn’t otherwise require incisions.

Rescue operations

We’ve all heard about the robot dogs that can rescue people who’ve been buried beneath rubble or sheets of snow. However, in some circumstances these machines are too bulky to do the job safely. Bug-sized robots are a less invasive savior in high-intensity environments, such as mine fields, that larger robots would not be able to navigate without causing disruption.

Exploration

Much like the insects after which these robots were designed, they can be programmed to work together (think: ants building a bridge using their own bodies). This could be key in exploring surfaces like Mars, which are not safe for humans to explore freely. Additionally, tiny robots that can be set to construct and then deconstruct themselves could help astronauts in landings and other endeavors in space.

Why insects?

Well, perhaps the most important reason is that insects have “nature’s optimized design”. They can jump vast distances (fleas), hold items ten times the weight of their own bodies (ants) and perform tasks with the highest efficiency (bees) – all qualities that, if utilized correctly, would be extremely beneficial to humans. Furthermore, a bug-sized bot is economical. If one short-circuits or gets lost, it won’t totally break the bank.

What’s next?

Something scientists have yet to replicate in robotics is the material elements that make insects so unique and powerful, such as tiny claws or sticky pads. What if a robot could produce excrement that could build something, the way bees do in their hives, or spiders do with their webs? While replicating these materials is often difficult and costly, it is undoubtedly the next frontier in bug-inspired robotics – and it will likely open doors for humans that we never imaged possible.

This is all to say that in the pursuit of creating strong, powerful robots, they need not always be big in stature – sometimes, the tiniest robots are just the best for the task.

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Extend your smart home to the mailbox with the Ring Mailbox Sensor

(TECH NEWS) With the rise of the smart home and mail theft, Amazon’s new Ring product is the perfect addition to protect your letters and packages.

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Ring Mailbox Sensor on the inside of a mailbox door with hand delivering letters.

Smart home enthusiasts worried about the increasing problem of mail theft are getting a new piece of security technology: The new Ring Mailbox Sensor.

Pop the wireless, battery-powered motion sensor in your mailbox, and it will alert you when someone opens the lid or door. You can get a notification in the Ring app on your smartphone and, because Ring is an Amazon company, through any Alexa-enabled device. (So your Ecobee thermostat can tell you you’ve got mail. Cool.)

The sensor’s biggest benefit: You can immediately collect your mail when you get an alert that it’s been delivered. If you’re home.

There’s no camera with live view or speaker for yelling at the thief to drop your stuff, although you can do that with any microphone-enabled cameras near your mailbox.

But if you’ve ringed your home with Ring products, you can set the sensor to turn on Smart Lights or to make the video doorbell or security cameras start recording. If your mailbox is near your front door, however, that will probably already be happening after those devices detect motion. The sensor could be very useful for mailboxes at the end of a long driveway and out of sight of any cameras.

You can preorder the Mailbox Sensor ($29.99) at Ring.com and Amazon.com starting on Oct. 8. To connect the sensor with the doorbell, smart lights, and Alexa devices, you’ll need the Ring Bridge ($49.99).

You may want to keep an eye on Amazon’s new Sidewalk technology, however. Sidewalk is designed to extend the range of your Wi-Fi network. It siphons off a small part of your bandwidth, and that of your neighbors with Amazon-related devices, to create a crowd-sourced neighborhood network.

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FYI: If your mail is stolen, You should report to the USPS, using their online form. You could report to the police via 311 but know that it’s unlikely officers will pursue the crime.

The best defense against thieves is still a locked mailbox. It’s not fool-proof, of course, but it can make thieves take longer to get at your mail. But if they take the sensor with your mail, or even your whole mailbox, Ring will replace the Mailbox Sensor for free.

You can find out more about the Mailbox Sensor in Ring’s support FAQ.

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Degree holders are shifting tech hubs and affordability

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degree city

Bloomberg recently announced their annual “Brain” Indexes. The indexes are an annual reckoning of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) jobs and degree holders. The “Brain Concentration Index” approximates the number of people working full time in computer, engineering, and science jobs (including math and architecture.) It measures the median earnings for people in those jobs. It also counts how many people have a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field, or an advanced degree of any kind. It blends those things together to determine how “brainy” a city is.

Since they started in 2016, Boulder, CO has been at the top of the list. This year it’s followed by San Jose, CA, which many people might expect to be at the top. Many of the more surprising cities, like Ann Arbor, MI, Ithaca, NY, and even Lawrence, KS, are bolstered by the presence of a strong university.

It’s an interesting methodology. It’s worth noting that anyone with an advanced degree, whether it’s an MBA, a law degree, or a Ph.D. in literature, contributes to which city is a “tech hub.” It’s also worth noting how expensive many of these places are to live.

If you follow this kind of national data collection at all, you may also know that Boulder is one of the least-affordable cities in the country. So is the San Jose/Sunnyvale/Santa Clara metro area, with a median home price of 1.25 million dollars and a median household income of $117,474. (That means that the average mortgage is more than half of the average paycheck). However many people tech hubs like San Jose and San Francisco attract, they’re also hemorrhaging talent. Every day, 8 Californians move to Austin. Of the people who stay, more than half are thinking of moving.

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Knowing the people behind the numbers makes it clear just what a mixed bag this is. Maybe we need more tech hubs like Lawrence, Kansas. Or maybe we need rent control. Or maybe we need to embrace remote work. Maybe there are no answers. As interesting as data like this is, there’s something sort of wistful about it, too.

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