Gmail is one of the most popular free and Web-based email services on the Web. When Gmail first launched in 2004, people clamored to get precious invites to this hot new service (not much unlike Google+ last year). However, Gmail is now available for everyone, and while many other individuals still use services like Hotmail or Yahoo!, even businesses and educational institutions are using Gmail to manage their email. Gmail is a great service in and of itself, featuring the ability prioritize an inbox, filter incoming email, or add labels to keep an inbox organized — even automatically.
What many people don’t know, however, is that many third-party services and startups have developed — and continue to develop — extensions and plug-ins for various Web browsers of choice (usually Chrome and Firefox) that add additional functionality to a Gmail inbox that make it even better to use. If you’re looking to add a little power to your Gmail inbox, here are five must-have apps and plugins for Gmail.
If your Gmail inbox is uncontrollable and you’re finding yourself with more emails at the end of the day than with less, you may want to consider the Chrome and Firefox plugin for Gmail, Active Inbox. I initially wrote about Active Inbox when I was on a mission to be more productive in the summer of 2010, but I’m still a huge fan of this app that turns your emails into tasks and, as I mentioned before, “forces you to either act on the email, such as by replying or delegating the email, acting later on the email, or assigning the email prioritization, or do nothing with the email by deleting it, sending the email to spam, or archiving it.” For those who aren’t burdened with hundreds of emails per day (like me), this plugin may not be for you; but for most of you, consider trying out ActiveInbox for your Gmail account if you use Chrome or Firefox. It’s a great way to take control of your email instead of the other way around.
Another popular plugin for Gmail that I have also previously raved about is Rapportive, which was recently acquired by LinkedIn for around $15 million, according to TechCrunch. As Rapportive explains on its website, this plugin for Gmail “shows you everything about your contacts right inside your inbox. You can immediately see what people look like, where they’re based, and what they do. You can establish rapport by mentioning shared interests.” Additionally, the plugin will show you the recent tweets, status updates, and LinkedIn activity from the person or people with who you are emailing for social context, which can help enrich your email conversations. This can be a huge benefit when engaging in business discussion with colleagues whom you have never met.
I’m not the only one here at LockerGnome who loves to find ways to make the most out of Gmail. Chris Pirillo is personally a fan of Boomerang, a Firefox / Chrome plugin that lets you take control of when you send and receive email messages. Chris is especially a fan of the feature that allows users to schedule outgoing messages — just like outgoing social media messages. Chris explains that “I tend to stay up entirely too late at night sometimes. I’ll often shoot out an important email, only to find later that the person didn’t see what I had sent. Using Boomerang, I can now set a specific time for my message to be sent so that I don’t run into this problem again.” For those who have other types of emails that need to be sent out at a specific time, Boomerang is a must-have for Gmail users who use Firefox or Chrome.
Do you send the same email every day, again and again? With Tout, you can create templates using this plugin that works for Gmail with multiple browsers. For Gmail users like myself, this is especially useful in alerting startups and other businesses that I’ve written about their product or service. But for those on the other end, their PR staff would undoubtedly find something like Tout useful to contact me. On top of featured templates integrated into Gmail, Tout provides real-time stats on whether your email has been viewed and whether anyone has clicked on your link. Additionally, this plugin can auto-attach files, automatically CC and BCC, and even fills in frequently used content for you. Tout even features the ability to schedule emails — though if you don’t need all of this functionality, Boomerang might be a better choice. Tout is a freemium model depending on your needs, but if these features sound intriguing, everything you need to know about Tout is available at www1.toutapp.com.
Finally, for those of you who already are or might be thinking of creating content-rich emails, PowerInbox is a must-have plugin to create this content with Gmail. According to its website, “PowerInbox brings the app experience to email. Email apps make your emails more useful by letting you perform actions inside the email itself.” For example, you could create a Facebook email that allows users to comment directly in the email, or create an email with a Twitter app that allows users to tweet at your or follow you back. As the social Web proves to be a more powerful source for social commerce, if you use Gmail for your business, PowerInbox is another must-have plugin.
Do you use Gmail? What plugins do you use with it? Let us know your favorites in the comments.