If you’ve ever tried to pitch or promote a book, you probably know what it feels like to live and breathe Gmail (and if you’ve ever tried to write a book, you probably know what it feels like to try to tear yourself away from Gmail). Yet surprisingly few people ever take the time to learn how to use Gmail effectively, or take advantage of its many lesser-known or beta features.
Here are five of the best Gmail features for busy writers. To enable any of these features (and discover new ones) go to the Google Labs toolbar in your Gmail account. You can search for these features by name and enable them with one click.
1. Undo Send
If you’ve fired off a query letter to the number one agent on your list, only to realize you’ve spelled her name wrong, Undo Send can be a lifesaver. Undo Send gives you about fifteen seconds to unsend an e-mail—a tiny window, yes, but just long enough to eliminate the kind of mistake you realize you’ve made moments after you’ve sent an e-mail.
2. Canned Responses
Despite its sarcastic name, Canned Responses is an extremely useful feature that allows you to create templates instead of re-typing the same basic message again and again. For example, you might create a template thank-you letter for radio shows on which you were a guest, or a “canned response” directing media requests to your agent or publicist. You can always personalize relevant details before clicking send.
3. Create a Document
The Create a Document feature lets you turn any Gmail conversation into a Google Doc. For writers who use Gmail to carry on critique sessions with their writing partner, agent, or editor, Create a Document can turn a string of e-mails into a single document—handy if you’re trying to revise your manuscript and want all your comments in one place.
4. Sender Time Zone
If you’re trying to write or promote a book, chances are you’re in frequent contact with people all over the country, if not all over the world. Enabling the Sender Time Zone feature in Google Labs will mark all incoming e-mails with the sender’s time zone—so you don’t make the mistake of waking up your East Coast agent with a one AM telephone call to chat about her revision comments.
5. Offline Gmail
Want to catch up on e-mail when you’re stuck on a plane between book tour destinations or sitting in a coffee shop that doesn’t have wireless? Offline Gmail allows you to read and respond to e-mail when you’re not connected to the internet. When Gmail detects a wireless signal, it will automatically send messages you composed while offline.
Offline Gmail isn’t a Google Labs feature, but can be found in your regular Gmail settings.
Check Google Labs frequently for more handy (and some not-so-handy) Gmail features. Learning how to get the most out of Gmail can help you communicate more effectively—leaving you more time to write.