Be practical at GMail with the labs

A short look at some of the most useful GMail Lab Features, encouraging you to start using them, if you’re not using them already. Also, some talks of some ways to backup your gmail and managing To-Dos.

GMail Labs is no new thing. It’s been around for many months now, churning out nifty and usually, very handy features every fortnight or so. Who doesn’t want something that adds value to something that you use very much ! At the time of writing this, there are 46 active features in the lab, ready for your use. If you use GMail, you should be using GMail Labs too. Take a look at some of the great ones.
You can start using labs by enabling labs for your GMail account at Settings > Lab

Photo by: Novembering

1. Offline
Take your GMail entirely offline with this lab. This one makes use of Google Gears to backup and localise a copy of your GMail account, allowing you to browse through your GMail through your browser, even when you’re offline.

Make Gmail go where the Internet doesn’t. Access your inbox through your browser and use Gmail’s familiar features when you’re offline. To get started, enable this lab and then click on the “Offline” link in the upper-right of your inbox.

Tip: If you want to keep a backup copy of your GMail, you may use GMail Backup (FREE) app. You can use that backup even Google Apps accounts.

2. Tasks
Gives you an overlay box titled “Tasks” that’s similar to the chat boxes. You may close it anytime and reopen it from the “Tabs” button located below the main navigation buttons.

Tasks adds a to-do list to Gmail. After adding the lab, click the Tasks link above the chat box on the left-hand-side of the page. Your task list will appear on the right – click anywhere in the list and start typing to add a task.

Tip: If you’re looking for a light and efficient desktop To-Do app, MiniTask is for you. Powered by Adobe AIR, this one is so light and just works brilliantly.

3. Rich Media Previews (YouTube, Flickr, Picasa, Yelp!)
Shows an inline preview of any links to above mentioned content.

4. Mark As Read Button
This is a really tiny feature but a killer one. Gives you a dedicated ‘Mark As Read button’, eliminating the need to check the mails and then access “Mark as read” from the drop-down menu. Saves precious time. (I realized, how great is this tiny feature, when I had to use an uncustomized GMail account. )

5. Multiple Inboxes
This one is seen as the second-best lab after Offline. This one enables you to have multiple panes on your traditional Inbox, that can display mails according to custom preferences, that are accessible at “Multiple Inboxes Settings” area. A screenshot will make it clear for you.

Add extra lists of emails in your inbox to see even more important email at once. The new lists of threads can be labels, your starred messages, drafts or any search you want, configurable under Settings.

Tip: You may read about using this feature to transform GMail into your feed reader.

6. Filter import/export
Filters could be rightly called as the biceps of GMail. And this one makes it possible to export your filter list and to import them to another account or to use later.

Tip: Use filters to keep those forwards, promotions, and notifications away from your gracious inbox !

7. Inserting images
Till now, GMail did not support inserting images into an email. There have been workarounds to do this, including the simple way of dragging an image and dropping it into the message. But now with this lab, GMail adds an “Insert Image” button to the rich text editor Toolbar. You can upload images from your computer as well as from any other place on web.

There are many more available for you. I use 17 labs. Take a good look at ’em. Check ’em frequently, as newer labs keep on coming. I believe you are rushing to GMail to get the labs activated, if not, gone and activated it midway, reading this !.
Oh yeah, some time back, I had written about Visiting the Labs, once in a while ! Cool.

ClearTrip. India’s pride on Web

It’s all about, the best Online Travel Agent (OTA) in India. But, they’re much more than that. Coded by a bunch of great Indian developers, ClearTrip is a gem among the innumerable services on web and is an excellent example on How things are to be done and maintained.

They started off offering Flight bookings, added Hotel reservations and a few weeks back, added Train Reservations too. The whole portal is a fine example of usability and efficiency, that leaves a scintillating memory in the minds of users, thereby making the important marketing principle work for them: “Get your product right into the customers’ mind”.


The homepage contains just 8 images (including a logo, two meaningful “new” labels, two tiny calendar buttons and an arrow, a temporary announcement background, and A BUTTON). How brilliantly, they’ve stated “It’s not all about images!”. They’re an example for professionalism in usability. All the details that are required to plan a trip have been provided right at the front page. No “get-it-done-easy-with-our-wizard”s, no “Step X of Y”. Straight to the point. All this and a “Current Offers” section, and there is still a lot of free-space left on the page; lets you breathe smoothly.

image The best fares calendar is a seriously handy tool, not to mention the Air Fare graphs. Here again, usability thrives.

What feels to me as the best is, the Train reservation system. It’s a power-packed bundle of handy and needed services and tools. The interface is similar to the flights section. But, to understand the awesomeness of ClearTrip’s system, you need to have used Indian Railway’s official reservation system atleast once !

The most usable feature is the “Check availability”. It’s all coded inline, there by eliminating the need for  multiple page loads. It appears right there on the same page. And you can even, view availability for next SIX days. The goodness doesn’t stop there. When you click on a train name, a box loads and shows you the schematic route diagram, and train-running details, where you have the option to view the route highlighted on Google Maps also.



Know about your travel and route inside out with the informative graphics, maps and details.

They’ve got a neatly updated blog, whose contents challenge even, acclaimed writers. And an active Twitter profile too. Upon my question, they replied,

Every single one of our coders is proudly Indian

Thus we conclude the review of ClearTrip, the best online travel agent/service in India, which is a great example of a web app, that offers maximum usability at the same time, providing a rich and vivid experience. You know it’s a success, when these two (usability & design) coincide.

Update: Within minutes after publishing the post, they send me a tweet, in which, they pointed me to a post on their blog, which talks about the sensible use of images (which we’ve read at the start of this post.)