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Whether you use Gmail as part of the Google Apps suite, as an email solution for your business, or simply for your personal email, Gmail is easily customizable to meet your needs. In these Gmail tips, we’ll take a look at some Gmail Labs settings that can dramatically improve your email productivity – even if you never thought you’d need them.

First up: Gmail Labs, as Google itself describes it, is “some crazy experimental stuff,” and Google may not always support all of them. So these Gmail tips are great for most users, but if you need a continuous and absolutely stable email environment to keep all your nuclear power plants running smoothly, stick with the basics.

Those caveats aside, for just about everyone else, these Gmail tips can make your Gmail experience a whole lot better.

1. Unread Message Icon

unread-message-icon-in-gmailThe Unread Message Icon, like most of these Gmail tips, makes so much sense you’ll wonder how you lived without it. This feature displays your unread message count in the Gmail tab icon of your browser. That means you’ll know if you get new mail without even having to go to Gmail: just glance at your tabs. It eliminates the need to check Gmail every ten minutes, since you’ll know right away whether you have new mail.

To enable the Unread Message Icon, click on the large cog in the top right in Gmail, and click settings. Click the Labs tab. The Unread Message Icon may appear in the list, but it’s fastest just to search by name. Then, click Enable and Save Changes, and you’re all set. Note: this one only works with the Chrome, Firefox, and Opera browsers.

2. Preview Pane

gmail-preview-paneThe Preview Pane, another Gmail Labs setting, lets you read your email and look at your inbox at the same time. Preview Pane opens up a panel that covers a little more than half of the Gmail screen. That panel displays the email you’re reading while the rest of the interface displays the list of everything in your Inbox. Essentially, Preview Pane gives Gmail the look and feel of Outlook, and it lets you switch between emails more easily than the basic Gmail interface.

Activate Preview Pane by clicking on the large cog in the top right of the Gmail interface, and clicking settings. Click on Labs and search for Preview Pane, then click enable. Your inbox will have a new button to the left of the cog. Click to choose between a vertical split (Outlook style), a horizontal split (Thunderbird style), or no split (Gmail default).

3. Docs Preview

google-docs-previews-in-gmailThe Google Docs preview Lab setting does pretty much what you’d expect: it provides quick previews of Google Docs documents right in your email. That means you can look at text documents, spreadsheets, and presentations with just a click, and without having to actually open them. And it adds a link to open directly in Google Docs as well.

Enabling Google Docs preview is similar to the others: click on the large cog in the top right of the Gmail interface, click settings, and click on the Labs heading. Then search for ‘Google Docs previews in mail.’ Enable it and save changes and you’re good to go.

4. Undo Send

gmail-stop-message-from-sendingThis one is probably the coolest, certainly the flashiest, of our Gmail tips. Undo Send does exactly what it sounds like: it unsends an email you already sent. Without it, when you send an email, Gmail displays a ‘Sending…’ message at the top of the screen until the message is sent. With Undo Send, that message has a Cancel button next to it. Even better, for 5 – 30 seconds after that (your choice), a button appears to revoke the sent message. It’s perfect for the trigger-happy: if you realize you sent it to the wrong person or just left in a typo, it’s easily fixed.

Turn on Undo Send by clicking on the cog in the top right, choosing settings, and clicking the Labs heading. Search Undo Send, enable it, and save changes.

5. Mark As Read Button

gmail-mark-as-read-buttonWe’ll close out with another basic. The Mark As Read Button adds a separate mark as read button to the Gmail interface. So instead of having to click through dropdown menus, you can just click the button. Fewer clicks, less wasted time. It’s as simple as that.

Mark As Read works the same as the others: click on the cog in the top right, choose settings, and click the Labs heading. Search Mark As Read Button, enable it, and save changes.

These Gmail tips are great ways to customize your Gmail experience depending on your needs. You can use as many as you want and turn them on or off freely, so give them a try today.