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Switching from Outlook to Gmail without losing all functionality



mailbrowserTypically, people become dependent on Outlook for the folders, the contact management, and the searchability. The Outlook-dependent sometimes harbor a silent jealous of people with a snazzy Gmail account but the jealousy fades when the two are compared because Outlook outperforms Gmail despite how ugly and clunky Outlook is.

This article was originally published on on January 26, 2010.

MailBrowser is a Gmail browser addon that sits quietly alongside Gmail that gives Gmail much of the same functionality of Outlook. Many people don’t know that some time back, Gmail added tags and folders which solves the first objection to most Outlook users. But Gmail has yet to become a robust contact manager, so MailBrowser has stepped in and calls itself akin to Xobni (for Outlook).

I am currently a Gmail user, recovering from many years of Outlook use and this addon excited me for their robust features:

  • searches text not only in mail but in attachments
  • view thumbnails of all attachments between you and a contact
  • simple contact management
  • users can manage multiple accounts
  • the program functions in the sidebar
  • adds the ability to tag contacts
  • stats “determine the balance of a relationship”
  • auto sync across multiple installations
  • offers desktop search for attachments

Aside from the endless Gmail options (like themes, tagging, Gmail chat, etc.), MailBrowser steps in to make Gmail a robust alternative to Outlook. What email client do you use today and which will you use tomorrow?

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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  1. Loren Nason

    January 26, 2010 at 1:00 am

    Im going to try that out NOW!

  2. Susie Blackmon

    January 26, 2010 at 3:10 am

    I converted to GMail quite happily and easily a while back but need additional help in deleting/archiving (bulk) and CM, etc. This is a must add! Hugs Ms. Lani.

  3. Fred Romano

    January 26, 2010 at 8:49 am

    I love Gmail right out of the box! It is simple and easy to organize your contacts, group them, and blast email them. I couldn’t run my business as easily without it. I also love the add on features (labs) available like canned messages.

  4. Lani Rosales

    January 26, 2010 at 8:50 am

    Loren, Susie, I know most people will use it because of the client management, but I’m most drawn to the ability to search INSIDE of attachments, not just for their title- I find myself remembering bits and pieces and have a tough time narrowing it down sometimes with how frequently I use email (it has truly replaced the phone for me). Let me know how y’all end up liking it! 🙂

  5. Jonathan Benya

    January 26, 2010 at 9:28 am

    Awesome add-on, I just added it myself. I’m a big gmail fan, and the lack of functionality out of the box can be easily corrected with free add-ons like this one. I’ve found gmail to work best with firefox, and have been working that way for some time now. It’s much better to be on that instead of outlook because I have better access remotely this way. I also ended up adding my gmail to my iphone, and I use Calengoo to sync up my gmail calendar to my phone. The gmail calendar beats the pants off of iCal!

  6. Anna Altic

    January 26, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    Love this and can’t wait to try it. I am a new mac convert and don’t like outlook for mac. Thanks for such a useful tip.

  7. Jamey Prezzi

    January 26, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    Just in time! Going to do this right now!!

    Thanks for the tip!

  8. teresa boardman

    January 26, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    I have used outlook since it first came out, I also self host my email accounts. I will look at the add on I wouldn’t mid dumping outlook however I will probably always host me own email account. 🙂

  9. Marissa Myers

    January 27, 2010 at 12:58 am

    Oh, wow! I’m downloading the app as I write. I’ve been looking for a CRM bridge between gmail and MailChimp, my email marketing provider. I love MailBrowser’s potential for segmenting customer lists with tags, then uploading those lists to MailChimp for email marketing. Thanks, Lani!

  10. April Groves

    January 31, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    ****Holding my nose and closing my eyes****

    Seriously, ya’ll. Like Teresa, I have ALWAYS used Outlook for the awesomeness of it all. But I am also using Google Groups. Docs, calander, House cleaning service….okay maybe not that last one. But I can see where converting to gmail can be productive…

    But I am supppppper nervous.

    Question – I have an assistant and Outlook doesn’t play well across the accounts (sharing contacts, calanders, tasks, etc) does gmail and this new add on address that at all?

  11. James Malanowski

    February 5, 2010 at 1:05 am

    Grr … Interesting concept but no Linux support.

    • Lani Rosales

      February 5, 2010 at 1:09 am

      You’re right, it’s not a full suite. Maybe some day! 🙂

  12. James Malanowski

    February 5, 2010 at 1:11 am

    From the comments on the site the authors didn’t seem opposed to a Linux port they just didn’t think the demand would be high enough. I think they’d be surprised.

    • Lani Rosales

      February 5, 2010 at 1:18 am

      I absolutely agree. I’m not a Linux users, but since I’m in a high tech city, I know a LOT of people that are.

  13. Marlow

    January 30, 2011 at 1:03 am

    I was hoping this would make Gmail usable for me, but, sadly, it does not. Even with this download, Gmail is inadequate, inferior and unusable for me.

    Important features that Gmail lacks:

    Limited to 100 emails per page instead of ALL emails shown on one page
    Inability to create newsletter-style emails with embedded photos
    Inability to alphabetize and view all emails from the same person on one page
    Inability to have a signature inserted after your email message

    • Lani Rosales

      February 1, 2011 at 12:11 am

      Marlow, even though I’ve switched, you hit on some things that drive me crazy. I miss being able to sort like I could in Outlook, but I’ve learned a few tricks that make Gmail usable:

      1. When I just want to see unread emails, in the search bar I type “in:inbox is:unread.”
      2. When I want to see only emails with attachments, I type “in:inbox has:attachment”
      3. I do newsletters via Gmail (drag images into the compose box and they embed rather than attach), but it gets flagged as spam more often than when I do it through
      4. Gmail in labs now allows an HTML signature in all emails. It’s new.

      Sorting is a problem and capping at 100 is, but maybe these other tips have softened the blow? 🙂

  14. Joe Loomer

    January 30, 2011 at 7:59 am

    I’d love to go to the cloud permanently, but in my position, the Xobni interface and the issues Marlow mentioned are just too important to give up Outlook right now. I’m sure there’s a future for that in Gmail.

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  15. Bryan

    January 31, 2011 at 11:11 am

    Developing a growing disdain for Outlook. Will definitely give MailBrowser a try! Thanks for sharing!

  16. Nicole Boynton

    February 1, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    Lani –
    Do you know if this add on allows you to create follow ups/to dos or appointments directly from the contact list? Had someone looking for this feature the other day.

    • Lani Rosales

      February 1, 2011 at 1:42 pm

      Nicole, you can’t do that from the contact in standard GMail but you might be able to from MailBrowser. What I do is I keep the calendar widget on the sidebar of my Gmail and immediately schedule it in the “quick add” portion and note in my contact that I did so. But no, it’s still not robust enough to do that on its own but there are likely browser extensions on Chrome that offer it…

  17. MH for Movoto

    February 1, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    I use Outlook at work and Gmail in my personal life. And while I never want my personal life to feel quite THAT organized, i definitely prefer it and it’s nice to think that maybe someday we’ll use nothing but gmail, all the time!

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Tech News

3 awesome ways bug sized robots are changing the world

(TECH NEWS) Robots are at the forefront of tech advancements. But why should we care? Here are some noticeable ways robots are changing the world.



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.


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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Tech News

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.



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 and 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.

Amazon has released a list of devices – mostly Echoes and cameras – that will act as bridges themselves, and it’s not yet clear how the Mailbox Sensor will interact with all of that in the future. By the way, if privacy concerns were the first thing that popped into your head when you read that, check out Amazon’s Sidewalk white paper on privacy.

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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Tech News

Degree holders are shifting tech hubs and affordability

(TECH NEWS) Tech hubs are shifting as degree holders move, but it’s causing some other issues and raising some interesting questions about the future of jobs.



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.

They aren’t doing that for fun. As much flak as Californians get for gentrifying places like Austin, they’re being megagentrified out of their own homes. As salaries rise and CEO gigs attract the wealthy (and turn them into the Uberwealthy), the people who wait on tables or teach their children can’t afford to stay there anymore.

Speaking of people leaving, Bloomberg also measured what they call “brain drain,” the flow of advanced degree holders out of cities. They pair that with a decline in white-collar jobs and a decline in STEM pay to come up with their annual list. It includes places like Lebanon, PA and Kahului, HI.

All in all, it’s interesting information. But there are other factors at work that it can’t speak to. What does wage stagnation in the U.S. mean for the flow of education workers? If San Jose and San Francisco can be tech hubs based on the number of people with degrees, but people are still fleeing, what does that say about rankings like these? What human stories get lost in the shuffle? And is “tech hub” even something a city wants to be if that means running out of teachers (or making them sleep in garages)? Where does the next generation of tech hub workers come from?

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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