Tag Archives: gmail

Scary PayPal Scam

This screenshot is of an email I received today. As I have used Paypal in the past [some years ago] and as the so-called transaction info. is addressed to an ‘Andrea’, I did have a moment of total dislocation. Had the scammers hacked my financial information?

And then I thought to look at the sender:


I’m pretty sure that Paypal, the real Paypal, doesn’t use gmail to communicate with customers! Nevertheless, I did get a fright so I thought I’d share this scam so no-one else gets a fright…or god forbid…clicks on one of those nice, official looking links.

Why not? Because those links will not lead to anywhere good. They could lead to a site that downloads a trojan to take over the computer, or they could lead to a bogus Paypal page where they’re asked to enter their ID and password. The ID and password will fail, of course, but the scammers will now know how to access that Paypal account. Lose-lose.

If you even suspect that an email might be a scam, don’t click on any of the links! Danger Will Robinson. Danger!

As to how the scammers found me, that I don’t know. Did they send out millions of emails all addressed to women of different names in the hope that a few would hit the jackpot?

Or is there a database out there that contains my email address and first name but not my last name? That sounds a bit far fetched. I mean if they knew my email address and my first name, why would they not know my last name?

Or…given how often we’re asked to provide our email address, did some algorithm go through the data here, on this blog and profile me?

A quick check revealed that I’ve written twelve posts [counting this one] that are either about Paypal, or mention Paypal. Another check showed that ‘Andrea’ has been mentioned in 16 posts counting this one. One of those posts is actually about the singer Andrea Bocelli, but that’s still a lot of identifiers. Curiously, the one thing you won’t find on my blog is my actual email address. So how did they find me?

I may never know how these scammers do what they do, but I know one thing for sure, the person who owns the email address used by the scammers has been hacked. After I publish this post I’m going to email him/her and show them the same screenshot that you have seen. After that it’s up to them to work out how the scammers managed to hack their gmail account and use it to farm out scams to other people. Sadly, this person really doesn’t have anything to hide, not any more.


Gmail for Beginners, Part 5 – opening an attachment & attaching a picture [Windows 7]

Part 1, Getting Started is here.
Part 2, Finding and Reading emails is here.
Part 3, Replying to an email & Saving a Contact is here.
Part 4, Composing an email & inserting a smiley is here.

Warning! Some of the screenshots and step-by-step instructions appearing in Part 5 are only applicable to Windows 7.

The screenshots and instructions pertaining to Gmail – i.e. how to open an attachment – will be the same for everyone, but the instructions for finding a picture on your PC [in order to attach it to an email] will only be relevant to Windows 7 users. This is because people using other operating systems – such as a MAC or Windows XP, Vista, or one of the 8’s – may not see the same things on their own PCs.

What are attachments?

Attachments are simply files that you send along with your email message. Most of these files cause no problems whatsoever, but some hackers will use attachments to sneak viruses onto your computer. These viruses are triggered when you ‘open’ the attachment. For this reason, ALL attachments should be treated with caution.

Internet security and staying safe

When I first started browsing the internet I thought I would be safe from viruses because, well, you know, how would a hacker even know I existed? It was not as if I was someone important.

-blushes with embarrassment-

What I did not know was that hackers do not care about me personally. In fact, they do not target me at all. Quite simply, hackers throw out huge, baited nets and wait to see what bites. And yes, my PC did get infected.

I’ve learned a lot since then, and one of the things I’ve learned is to be very, very wary of attachments. Before I click on an attachment I check a couple of things carefully:

  • do I know the sender? If the answer is ‘no’, I automatically assume the attachment is suspect and  delete the whole email,
  • does the sender [someone I do know] sound a bit odd – i.e. is the email a generic sounding one-liner such as ‘hi, thought you might like this’ or something similar? If it is, I’ll delete the email and the attachment first and apologise, if necessary, later.

This lack of certainty when it comes to attachments brings me to a bit of netiquette – if you are sending someone an attachment, it is a really good idea to tell them about it in the email message itself.  It’s a small thing but will reassure the recipient the attachment is safe to open.

As a general rule, however, I will never open an attachment if the filename ends in ‘.exe’ or ‘.zip’.

[Note: for a description of filenames, seeHow can you tell what’s a picture file and what isn’t?below].

There are exceptions to this rule of thumb, but beginners should probably delete first and ask questions later.

So what attachments are safe to open?

Picture files are generally safe to open, unless there is something else suspicious about the email – e.g. it’s from someone you’ve never heard of, or promises something unsavoury.

How can you tell what’s a picture file and what isn’t?

Like people, files have a ‘first name’ and a ‘family’ name. The ‘first name’ describes what’s in the file while the ‘last name’ describes what kind of file it is – i.e. one of the picture files, a text file, a music file, etc.

To illustrate this naming process, have a look at the following example:

picture file exampleThis is a simple picture created in Windows Paint. It was saved as a file called:

picture file example.jpg

‘picture file example’ = the first name of the file

‘.jpg’ = the family name of the file – i.e. what type of file it is. In computerspeak, this part of the file name is called the file extension. The file extension tells the computer how to handle the file – i.e. as a picture file rather than, say, a music file.

Examples of picture files

The following are examples of the most common types of picture files. Notice that only the file extension changes in each filename:





If you get an email from a friend, and if the attachment in that email ends in any of the above file extensions, the attachment is safe to open.

How to open an attachment in an email

Returning to our friend, Kenneth, I discover that he has sent me an email at meekasmind@gmail.com. The email has a file attached. When I read the email, this is what I see:

gmail attachment received 1

As you can see, part of the picture has been truncated in the preview. To see it all, I point the mouse at the picture. This causes an overlay to be displayed:

gmail attachment received 2This overlay shows the full filename of the attachment, including its file extension which tells me it is a picture file. Also of interest is the ’15 KB’ which tells me how big the file is.

[Note: A huge picture file would be shown in GB, an average picture file would be shown in MB, and a small picture file would be shown in KB. Thus the attachment from Kenneth is quite small and will take next to no time to load]

The overlay also contains the buttons for two options – Download and Save to Drive.

Save to Drive option

Clicking this option will save the file to Google Drive [a storage area in the Cloud]. This option is not covered in the Beginners guide.

Download option

Clicking the ‘Download’ option will copy the file from the email and save it to my own PC. Once the file is on my PC, I can do whatever I want with it. This is the option we will be exploring.

When I click the Download button [in Windows 7], the screen changes to display the last location at which I saved something. In the example below, you can see that it was in ‘Libraries, Documents, My Documents, My Games, Final Fantasy xiv – A Realm Reborn’. This is not where I want to save the attachment.

gmail attachment download 1

To make it easier to see where I’m going, I will close the Documents folder I am in. To do this I simply click on the small arrow next to ‘Documents’ in the navigation pane:

gmail attachment download location

I can now see the main folders quite clearly, including the folder I want to reach. It is called ‘Pictures’ :

gmail attachment download location 2

A single click on the ‘Pictures’ folder causes the ‘Pictures Library’ to be displayed. In the Library is a folder called ‘Sample Pictures’. This is where I want to save the attachment:

gmail attachment download location 3

The easiest way to open the folder is to click on the ‘Sample Pictures’ icon once. This will highlight the icon, and it will cause the ‘Save’ button to change to ‘Open’ [as shown above]. Now all you have to do is click the ‘Open’ button.

Once ‘Sample Pictures’ opens up, the ‘Save’ button reappears.

Click the ‘Save’ button to save the attachment to this location.

Now that I’ve saved the picture file to my PC I can edit it if I want to. I do, I did, and this is the result:

picture file example black and whiteNaturally, I want to share the new picture with Kenneth so I compose an email to him [see Part 4].

Before I click the ‘Send’ button, however, I click the small ‘Attach Files’ icon shown at the bottom of the compose form.

It looks like this:

picture file attach icon

Clicking the attach icon in Gmail causes the following screen to be displayed in Windows 7:

gmail attachment send location 3

This screenshot is almost identical to the one we saw before…except that in this one, the image peeping out of the folder is of the edited house. That’s because I saved the edited file to the same location as the attachment.

Click on the ‘Open’ button [as shown above]. The following pictures are available for you to attach to your email:

gmail attachment send location 4

Clicking on an image displays information about it, including its dimensions and size. You will also see a much larger preview of the image. When you are sure you have the correct image, click the ‘Open’ button as shown.

You should now be back in Gmail, looking at the message you typed to Kenneth. Down near the bottom of the form, you should also see the name of the file you have attached to the email. This is what mine looks like:

gmail attachment send location 5

Click the ‘Send’ button and that’s it. As always, Gmail will display a yellow confirmation message telling you your message has been sent.

Before I finish, a quick word about the other way of attaching a photo to an email. And yes, there is another way. It looks like this:

gmail attachment insert photo1

The difference between ‘Insert Photo’ and ‘Attach Files’

If you click the ‘Insert Photo’ button, you will be given the choice of inserting an image as an attachment or as an inline picture.

If you select the ‘Inline’ option, the image will be embedded into the body of your email message like this:

gmail attachment insert photo3

Sometimes it’s nice to embed a photo like this because it means the recipient doesn’t have to do anything but look at the email. Unfortunately, the drawbacks are that:

  • the process is not quite as straightforward as it should be, and
  • the recipient cannot easily download the image onto his/her own PC. It can be done, but not in a straightforward way.

If I ever do an Advanced Gmail how-to [shudder], I will include the ‘Inline’ function, but given the unfinished state of Gmail at the moment, I don’t see that happening any time soon.

I did not intend to review the new version of Gmail, but after a month of working on it for this series, I can honestly say I am not impressed. I had to work around certain key functions – like Contacts – because the interface was so poorly designed and/or implemented. And even the Inbox functions leave a lot to be desired. Too much is hidden, making not-so-advanced functions hard to find, hard to use and hard to explain.

In many ways, the new Gmail reminds me of Windows 8. There too, key functions were hidden, or implemented in ways that were not at all intuitive. And people hated it, myself included.

I truly believe that function should never be subordinated to form. I don’t care what something looks like so long as it works. Sadly both the new Gmail and Windows 8 placed form well and truly over function.

To be fair, I understand that mobile devices have made it necessary to simplify all applications in order to conform to the new ways of doing things, but we have not yet reached the point where serious work is done on those devices. Imagine trying to write your magnum opus on your mobile phone! Or if that’s not your style, imagine trying to create a complex spreadsheet on your phone.

Mobile devices are simply too limited for the kind of work we currently do on desktops or laptops. Therefore it does not make sense – from a user’s point of view – to reduce everything to the common denominator of the mobile device. Yet that is exactly what Windows 8 and this new Gmail are attempting to do.

As the younger generation would say – ‘Fail’





Gmail for Beginners, Part 4 – Composing emails & attaching a smiley

Part 1, Getting Started is here.
Part 2, Finding and Reading emails is here.
Part 3, Replying to an email & Saving a Contact is here.

Although replying to an email and composing one are very similar, the few small differences can be tricky, and they all involve your Contacts. If the email address of your Contact is already known to Gmail  – i.e. you have already saved it [as detailed in Part 3], composing an email will be easy. However, if you want to send an email to someone brand new, you will have to type their email address in from scratch, and that could cause problems if you do not do it properly.

Taking care with email addresses

One thing you have to remember at all times is that computers take things very literally. With a computer, close enough is not good enough, and this is especially true of email addresses. When you type in an email address from scratch, it has to be exactly right. For example, let’s look at the email address of Kenneth’s friend Single Pixel. It looks like this:


Typing in Singlepixel.soft@gmail.com will not work [the capital letter instead of a lowercase letter counts as a mistake]

Typing in single pixel.soft@gmail.com will not work  [the blank space counts as a mistake]

Typing in singlepixelsoft@gmail.com will not work [the lack of a ‘.’ also counts as a mistake]

The three examples shown are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of typos, but they do demonstrate how precise an email address must be. This is one very important reason for saving Contact details when you reply to emails.

[Note: you can also enter Contact details manually, but the process is more involved and will not be covered in this Beginners series. If you do want to know how to do it, you can find the Advanced how-to here.]

How to compose an email

Click on the big, red ‘Compose’ button located in your navigation pane [circled in blue below]:

6 gmail compose 1

You should now be looking at the ‘New Message’ pop-up. Notice how the blinking cursor is in the ‘To’ field? This means it is ready for you to type the email address.

After you have finished typing in the email address, click in the ‘Subject’ field and type in a short description of what the email is about. Leaving the Subject field blank could make some spam filters think your email is junk, or malware, so it is always a good idea to type something that makes sense.

Finally, click inside the big, blank text area and type the actual message. When you have finished, your message form should look something like this:

6 gmail compose 2B

Click the big blue ‘Send’ button down the bottom of the message form as shown above [circled in red]. You will get a bright yellow confirmation message from Gmail to let you know your message has been sent.

How to compose an email using saved Contact details

As always, Gmail provides more than one way of doing something, and entering the addressee of your email is no exception.

Method 1

Click the ‘Compose’ button. Once the ‘New Message’ form pops up, start typing the first few letters of the email address you wish to use.

As you type, Gmail checks all the email addresses you have saved, and it presents you with what it thinks you might want. For example, let’s say Kenneth wants to send an email to David Prosser. He starts typing and this is what happens:

6 gmail compose 3

The first match shows the email for David Prosser [because the letter ‘b’ is the first letter of the actual email address]. The second came up with Honie Briggs [because the letter ‘b’ appears in Honie’s surname].

To select one of the options provided by Gmail, you can either click on the correct addressee or, your can simply hit the Enter key on your keyboard. Either way, your chosen addressee will appear in the ‘To’ box like so:

6 gmail compose 4 Notice how Gmail inserts the name of the addressee rather than the actual email address? This is an easy way to check that you are, in fact, sending the email to the right person because ‘Barsetman@mail.com’ could be anyone.

Method 2

This method is particularly useful if you know someone is in your Contact list but you can’t remember anything about their email address – i.e. you can’t just start typing something and expect Gmail to come up with a reasonable match.

In the following example, Kenneth wants to send an interesting quote to one of the three new contacts he has made. He remembers that she liked quotes, but he can’t remember her name or email address.

After clicking on the ‘Compose’ button, Kenneth points the mouse at the word ‘To’ in the ‘New Message’ form. A small, context sensitive tooltip [help message] pops up. It says ‘Select Contacts’:

6 gmail compose 5

What that rather cryptic message means is that you should click on the word ‘To’ in order to select a contact[s] from the list of available contacts.

Kenneth clicks the word ‘To’ and the following list pops up:

6 gmail compose 6

When Kenneth looks at the list of Contacts, he sees the small graphic [picture] next to the name of Dale Newling and remembers that she is the one who sent him all those interesting quotes.

To select Dale Newling as his addressee, Kenneth clicks her entry [anywhere on the line will do]. The line is highlighted in pale yellow and a tick appears in the checkbox next to Dale Newling’s name:

6 gmail compose 7

Before Gmail will accept this Contact as the addressee, however, Kenneth must click the blue ‘Select’ button at the bottom of the pop-up. [This is because Gmail does not know whether you want to ‘Select’ the Contact or save it to a Group.]

Once Kenneth clicks on ‘Select’, the email address for Dale Newling is inserted into the ‘To’ area of his email and he is ready to type a message.

Before Kenneth hits the blue ‘Send’ button, however, he wants to insert something into the email, something fun, like a smiley face.

How to insert a smiley face [emoticon]

With the cursor positioned at the spot where he wants the smiley face to appear, he points the mouse at the emoticon button displayed at the bottom of the ‘New Message’ form:

6 gmail compose 9Clicking the emoticon button causes the following set of options to pop up:

6 gmail compose emoticons

To insert an emoticon into your email, simply click on the image you want and it will immediately appear at the spot where you left your cursor [or as close to it as possible, space permitting]. As the following screenshot shows, you can insert as many emoticons as you wish.

6 gmail compose emoticons 2

When you are finished with the emoticons, simply click on the ‘X’ button as shown above. Last, but not least, click the blue ‘Send’ button to actually send your new email to its recipient. Then sit back and wait for them to reply. 🙂

In Gmail for Beginners, Part 5, we will be looking at how to insert something more serious than a smiley face into an email. We will be attaching files and pictures located on your own PC, so you will need to have some knowledge of how to find your way around the files and folders of a PC. If you need some help, my post about basic folders in Windows 7 can be found here.

You can find Part 5 – opening an attachment & attaching a picture [Windows 7], here.



Gmail Advanced – How to manually add a Contact

One of the things I dislike intensely about the Gmail ‘Inbox’ interface is how it hides important functions behind layers of unintuitive forms. God forbid there should be a menu anywhere. No, instead you have to learn to look for tiny down arrows that lead to lists that may or may not lead to something you know you should be able to do….


One of the best hidden functions is something we used to take for granted – the ability to enter Contact details in one place and edit them in the same place. It’s still there, but boy do you have to dig to find it. So here goes.

Step 1 – Go to Contacts

6 gmail contacts manual 1I know, you’ve tried this before and got nowhere, right? Well, just trust me and click ‘Contacts’ one more time.

Gmail will take you to something called ‘Contacts Preview’, but don’t expect to see that name anywhere obvious.

Instead, you will see a screen that looks as if it should be a Contacts screen …but isn’t. There is a button for creating a new Contact but all it will let you do is type in a name. There is also an icon for editing a Contact. That will let you see all the available fields…but you can’t actually do anything with most of them.

Step 2 – click ‘More’

No, if you want to really add a new Contact, you have to click on the ‘More’ option [as shown below]:

6 gmail contacts manual 2

Do you see that option near the bottom of the ‘More’ features? The one that says ‘Leave the Contacts preview’? That, my friends, is the key to sanity.

Step 3 – click ‘Leave the Contacts preview’

Clicking the ‘Leave the Contacts preview’ option takes you to, ta dah, this:

6 gmail contacts manual 3

Does this screen look more hopeful? Of course it does.

Step 4 – click the ‘New Contact’ button

Clicking ‘New Contact’ will take you to this:

6 gmail contacts manual 4If you’ve used Gmail Contacts before, the layout and format of this screen should be a snap. Things are where they are supposed to be and the labels make sense. Better still, this view is now permanent. It will not change back when you log out of Gmail. Yay!

You can change the view back to the ‘Contacts preview’ by clicking on the ‘Try Contacts preview’ option, but for my money I never want to see it again. I don’t know what it is meant to do because just playing around with it tells me nothing, i.e. it’s about as intuitive as mud.

If anyone knows what the Contacts preview is good for, I’d be interested in finding out.



Gmail for Beginners, Part 3 – Replying to emails & saving Contacts

Part 1, Getting Started is here.
Part 2, Find and Reading emails is here.

To make this section feel a little more realistic, I called for help from the blogging community, and they responded by sending Kenneth Wu, [Gmail username kenzomuramasa] the fictional character I have been using in all my examples, lots of mail! This is what Kenneth’s Inbox looks like now:

1 new Inbox list

You can tell at a glance that Kenneth has received five new emails because the number (5) now appears next to the Inbox. 😉

Now have a look at the ‘date received’ column. All the emails are displayed in date order with the most recent one [from Honie Briggs] at the top of the list. Notice that Honie’s email does not have a date next to it. Instead, it has a time-stamp. This indicates the email arrived during the current day, hence no need for a date. By tomorrow, it will show a date like all the others.

And now to the emails themselves. As Kenneth looks at the sender of each email, he realises that he only knows two of the people who have written to him – Single Pixel and David Prosser. Single Pixel is an old friend from university days while David Prosser is both friend and mentor.

Unable to face the sympathy of an old friend, Kenneth reads the email from Single Pixel and then ‘stars’ it for later.

Another way to ‘star’ an email

In Part 2 you learned how to star an email while it was sitting in the Inbox list. Now you will learn a more intuitive way of starring an email – from within the email itself.

With the email open, click on the ‘More’ option as shown:

1 new Inbox more and star

A drop-down list will appear. Click the ‘Add star’ option as shown above.

Gmail will display a bright yellow confirmation message like this:

1 new Inbox star confirmed

After starring the email from Single Pixel, Kenneth returns to the list of emails by clicking ‘Inbox (4)‘ in the navigation pane. The (4) indicates that there are only four unread emails left.  From those emails, Kenneth clicks on the one from David Prosser who, along with his team of dedicated researchers, is working to make Kenneth’s dream a reality.

It’s a long email and Kenneth has two ways of replying to it. The first is circled in red on the screenshot below:

2 david prosser long read

Clicking the ‘Reply’ button takes you to the very end of the email and displays a text box [for typing in your reply].

The second method is to manually scroll to the end of the email until you see:

2 david prosser long reply to box

You cannot actually type anything into this text box. It is there only as a visual cue. Instead, you have to click the Reply link shown inside the box. [The Forward link is used when you want to send the email on to someone else. For example, you might receive a funny joke from one of your friends. Using the Forward link, you could send it on to one of your other friends]

Whichever method you use, you will be presented with the following reply-to form:

2 david prosser long reply to form

Notice that the cursor is already inside the form, ready for you to start typing.

When you have finished typing, click the bright blue ‘Send’ button as shown above.

Gmail will display a bright yellow message confirming that the reply was sent:

1 new Inbox reply confirmation

Kenneth now has three more emails to deal with. All three are from friends of his friend Meeka and are clearly from kind, generous people, exactly the sort of people he would want to keep in contact with. He decides to add all three to his contact list.

How to add Contacts

By a strange coincidence, Kenneth discovers that Gmail provides a different way of saving the contact details of each of his new friends.

Method 1

Opening the email from Honie Briggs, Kenneth hovers the mouse over her name as shown:

3 save contact honie briggs

Gmail displays a small pop-up with information about Honie Briggs as well as some options down the bottom. One of those options is ‘Add to contacts’ [circled in the screenshot above].

Clicking ‘Add to contacts’ will save the Honie Briggs’ name and email address to Kenneth’s contact list. When it’s done, Gmail displays another bright yellow confirmation message:

3 save contact honie briggs confirmation

Method 2

The next email came from Dale Newling. After opening it up, Kenneth clicked the small arrow next to the ‘Reply’ button [as shown below]:

4 save contact dale newlingClicking the down arrow causes Gmail to display another small pop-up. This one contains a long list of options, but the one of interest to us is about half way down – ‘Add Dale Newling to Contacts list’.

After clicking the option, Kenneth is presented with yet another yellow, confirmation message.

Method 3

The last email in Kenneth’s list belongs to Carrie Rubin. This time he decides to save her to Contacts directly from the Inbox list. He hovers the mouse over her name in the list until a pop-up appears:

5 save contact carrie rubin

This is exactly the same pop-up that appeared when Kenneth saved Honie Briggs to Contacts. Clicking on the ‘Add to contacts’ option [circled in red], Kenneth saves Carrie Rubin’s details to Contacts and is presented with the same, yellow confirmation message as before.

Exhausted from his labours, Kenneth decides to take a nap while I thank my friends – Honie Briggs, Single Pixel aka George, David Prosser, Dale Newling aka EllaDee, and Carrie Rubin – for their time and generosity!

In Gmail for Beginners, Part 4, we will explore how to write an email from scratch by:

  • using Contact details we have already saved,
  • typing in the email address of someone not in our Contact list, and
  • inserting a smiley face into the email




Please send an email to kenzomuramasa@gmail.com!

gmail contacts begging picI was working on Gmail for Beginners, Part 3, when I realised I needed a bunch of emails to properly illustrate how Gmail deals with new Contacts. I already have a couple of email addresses [for characters out of Innerscape] but Gmail recognizes that they are all ‘me’ so I need some emails from strangers [so to speak].

The email address in the title of this post ‘belongs’ to Kenneth Wu, one of the main characters out of Innerscape, and it is his Inbox that needs filling.

Can you help?

And no, I don’t expect you to make your real email addresses public! By help I mean, can you create a new email address [using any email client you like, it doesn’t have to be Gmail] and use that to write to Kenneth?

I know this is asking a lot, but I really could use the help so… please? Pretty please with sprinkles on top?

If you can help, could you please email Kenneth direct on:


And to show my appreciation, you can all enjoy this cute animal video. 🙂

Thank you. 🙂


Gmail for Beginners, Part 2 – Finding and Reading emails

If you missed Part 1, Getting Started, you can find it here.

Finding your emails

In the past, when you received emails they would all be lumped into one place – the Inbox. From there, you, the user, would have to sort through all kinds of unwanted emails to find the few gems, i.e. the  ones from friends, family, work or personal interests. Then spam filters came along, whisking away the most obvious ‘junk’, but this still left your inbox full of things that were not quite junk – like newsletters that you might read once in a blue moon, or notifications from online retailers confirming things you had bought, or advertising material from websites you once visited – but not high priority either. And you still had to sort through it all yourself.

Now, Gmail has attempted to change all that by automating the sorting process. Instead of lumping everything into the one Inbox, it automatically sorts incoming email into preset categories which are then displayed in separate pages called ‘tabs’.

But what are tabs?

gmail cardboard tabsLike the cardboard dividers in a physical folder, Gmail tabs organize information into logical groups, but unlike ordinary dividers, you do not have to lift a finger.

In the example shown below, the three welcome emails from the Gmail Team are located in a tab called ‘Primary’. The other two tabs shown are Social and Promotions respectively:

gmail the middle bit

Unfortunately, the tabs are not that easy to see when you do not know what you are looking at. To make them stand out a bit more, I have outlined the Primary and Social tabs as shown:

gmail tab appearance 1

gmail social tab

To move from tab to tab, simply click on the name.

What is in each tab?

Although only three tabs are shown, there are in fact five Gmail tabs – Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates and Forum.

Forum contains emails from online groups, discussion boards and mailing lists.

Updates contains emails that may include confirmations, receipts, bills and statements.

Promotions contains emails from commercial websites you have visited. It can also include paid advertisements.

Social contains email notifications from social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter etc.

Primary contains emails from friends and family etc., as well as anything that does not belong to any of the other tabs.

How can I see the other tabs?

By default, only the Primary, Social and Promotions tabs are displayed when you first start using Gmail, but it is very easy to change which tabs you see. You can even choose to see all of them at once.

To change which tabs you see, click on the small + sign to the right of the last tab:

gmail tabs display moreYou should now see the pop-up window shown below:

gmail tabs display more B

Customising the Gmail tabs

As you can see, only three of the five tabs have been ticked, but you could have all five displayed at once. If you did, Gmail would automatically sort all incoming emails into those five categories, and you would not see those emails unless you opened the relevant tab.

This level of automation would certainly make your Primary tab less cluttered, but it would also mean that bills and other important notifications would be hidden away in the Updates tab – out of sight and out of mind. If you forgot to check that tab regularly, you could easily miss paying an important bill. Of course, having all your bills grouped in the one location might also make them easier to pay.

At the other end of the scale, if you de-selected every tab except Primary [which cannot be de-selected], Gmail would stop sorting your emails entirely. Instead, every incoming email would be displayed in the Primary tab. Now, this might not sound too bad when you receive only a few emails each day, but when the flood of promotional material finally begins, important emails could easily get lost, hidden in full view like a needle in a haystack.

Luckily, the Gmail tabs do not have to be all or nothing. You could, for example, select only the Promotions tab. This would mean that all advertising material would be taken out of the Primary tab and placed in the Promotions tab where you could read it or ignore it with impunity. Everything else would be displayed in your Primary tab.

This solution would be perfect for those who know they are likely to forget to check the other tabs, or those who prefer to remain in control of their emails. Given the amount of promotional material that I receive every day, I would strongly recommend keeping the Promotions tab at the very least.

How to select or de-select a tab

To de-select one of the existing tabs, simply click inside the tickbox next to its name.

To select one of the other tabs, again, simply click inside the tickbox next to its name. The tickboxes toggle on and off like a light switch.

[Note: Starred emails are emails that you have manually marked as important in some way. There are no starred emails as yet, however if there were, they would appear in the Primary tab.]

Once you have selected which tabs to use, click the ‘Save’ button.

Reading emails

Now that you know where to find your emails, you can finally read them! gmail mouse pointer HANDPoint the mouse at the first email from the Gmail Team.When the mouse pointer changes to a ‘hand’, click the left mouse button. The email will open up as shown:

gmail email body all

The body of the email, i.e. the actual content, is in the middle of the screen. You can scroll up and down to read the entire email. But now what?

The two most important things you need to know after you read an email are:

– how to reply to it [detailed in Part 3], and

– how to get out of it so you can read the rest of your emails

How do I get out of an email?

gmail email body 2The easiest way of getting out of an email is to click the Inbox option on the navigation pane [shown with a big blue arrow next to it].

Or…you could click on the ‘Back to Inbox’ button [circled in red].

Either method will return you to the Primary tab where the email you have just read will be shown as grey. The remaining unread emails will still show as white.

Once all the emails have been read, they will look like this:

gmail emails all read

Despite showing as grey, all the emails are still active. They can be replied to and, amongst other things, they can be ‘starred’ to show they are important in some way. Starring also makes them more visible.

To mark an email with a star, simply click the small, empty star shape next to the entry for that email:

gmail email unstarred

The first screenshot below shows the same email after it has been starred. The second shows all the emails in the Primary tab, including the starred one:

gmail starred

gmail read and starred

Another way of looking at your starred emails [and only your starred emails] is to click the Starred option in the navigation pane to the left of your screen:

gmail starred only

The Starred option changes colour to red [to show it is the active option] and the tabs disappear. In their place you will see only a list of emails that have been starred. In this example there is only one starred email on display because we only marked one with a star. If we marked all three emails with stars, this is what the Starred list would look like:

gmail all starred only

To return to the normal, tabbed display, click on the Inbox option in the navigation pane.

In Part 3 we will look at:

  1. how to Reply to emails,
  2. how to save email addresses to Contacts, and
  3. how to do some very basic housekeeping.

You can find Part 3 here.



Shame, Gmail, shame!

Gmail has never been my favourite webmail client, but the ‘new’ gmail makes me want to break things. Have a look at the screenshot below:

gmail ads 1Rather than sending obvious spam to the spam folder, or not displaying it in the first place, Gmail now sends it to the top of the list in the Promotions tab. But there is no way to deal with these ads from the list. No, to get rid of them, you have to open the advert. and ‘dismiss’ them. One. By. One.

I only had two of the bloody things to get rid of today, but what about tomorrow? My only option is to write the promotions tab off as just another spam folder. But wait….

…Gmail decides what to put into that Promotions tab, not me. This is a sample of what gets stuffed into the Promotions tab by the Gmail algorithms:

gmail promotions tabMost of this stuff is ‘promotional’, including the political emails, but sometimes important notifications do end up in the wrong place [one of my big gripes about the new Inbox] so I can’t just shut the door on the Promotions tab and its PAID advertisements completely.

There are workarounds, of course. For example, I could manually create labels for the few important emails that do end up in the Promotions tab, which would allow me to never see that particular tab again. But I shouldn’t have to, even to pay for a ‘free’ email client.

Unfortunately, I suspect paid ads like this are just the start of an avalanche. Once other ‘free’ email clients see the money Google will rake in from these paid ads, they’ll jump on the bandwagon too, and the rise of ads will continue until people stop using free email clients. Inevitable but revolting.

Most unhappy,


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