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If you got 100 new messages, how long would it take you to get through them all? An hour? Five minutes? How would you find the important ones, reply to the ones that require an immediate reply, and mark the ones that you needed to take care of later? Would you use stars, filters, keyboard shortcuts, labels? What about Gmail Labs like tasks or canned responses?

Everybody has their own system for managing email, but some are definitely more efficient than others. Even if you only get a few messages a day, there are probably some simple things you can do to make it easier to get through your inbox and maybe even have a little fun along the way. We know time is valuable, so we asked lots of Googlers for their tips and tricks on how they make the most of Gmail, and we combined the best of these into a guide at www.gmail.com/tips, cheekily entitled "Become a Gmail Ninja." The tips are categorized into ninja belts (white, green, black and master ) based on how much mail you get each day.



For a handy reference that you can pin to your wall or keep on your desk, we even made a printable version of the guide where all the tips fit on one page front and back. And for the first 1024 of you who want them, we'll send a limited-edition, laminated guide for free. Just fill out this form with your address. Sorry, we can only ship to addresses in the US. If you're not one of the lucky 1024, you can still buy a laminated guide at www.barcharts.com.



If you're already a Gmail ninja and have your own tips you'd like to share, let us know and we'll add the best ones to the online guide.

*Our lawyers asked us to make sure it was clear that your contact information won't be maintained longer than necessary to send you the laminated guide and that this offer is "void where prohibited and only while supplies last."

Update (11:59am): Well, that was fast. We've run out of the free laminated guides, but if you weren't part of the first 1024 people to sign up, you can still can buy them for $1.25 at www.barcharts.com/gmail.

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Up until now, Gmail only supported some contact fields. Whenever someone imported their contacts from apps like Outlook and OS X Address Book, we used to put fields Gmail didn't recognize into the contact's notes section. Based on feedback from you, we added support for more contact fields (like birthday and website) and now store each of these fields separately, which makes syncing and round-tripping your data work better. We updated the standalone contact manager with this improvement last month and now it's available in Gmail too, with support for Outlook, Outlook Express, Hotmail and Yahoo in CSV format, and OS X Address Book in vCard format.

With all your contact info in Gmail, you can access it from anywhere, sync your contacts to your mobile phone or other devices, and more easily collaborate on Google Docs and invite people to Calendar events. We're working hard to make Gmail contacts even more useful, so please keep the feedback coming.

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It's that time of year when students are graduating, and in many cases getting yet another email address to check — an alumni account — as a graduation present.

Whether you have an alumni address, a work account, or your own domain that you like to use, rather than logging in and out of multiple accounts, you can set yourself up so all your mail ends up in your Gmail inbox. And you can send mail from any of the other addresses you own right from Gmail as well.

There are two steps to make this happen:

1. Set up mail forwarding or fetching

Many email providers offer free auto-forwarding to other accounts. Log into your non-Gmail account and set your Gmail address as the forwarding target. If your other account doesn't offer forwarding but supports POP3 access, you can use Mail Fetcher in Gmail to automatically check your other account for new mail and download it to Gmail.

2. Set up custom "From:"

Gmail's custom "From:" feature lets you send mail with one of your other email addresses listed as the sender in place of your Gmail address. There's a good step-by-step for how to set this up in the Help Center, but the basics are adding the address you want to use and then verifying that it belongs to you. Once you have your custom "From:" set up, you can pick which address you want to reply from in the "From:" address drop down while composing messages.

P.S. If you're a recent grad and want more tips on how to use Google during this transition period, check out the Google for Students Blog, where we'll be posting more tips like this weekly for the next couple months.

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Flying 500 miles per hour at a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet, it always seemed odd that I could use approved electronic devices, but I couldn't get online to chat or send an email. Luckily, the Wright brothers have been catching up with the cloud, and airlines like Virgin America have rolled out in-flight WiFi across their fleet.

To celebrate, we've teamed up with Virgin America to provide complimentary WiFi on all flights on June 24th, and we're co-hosting a timed online scavenger hunt called the Day in the Cloud Challenge. Whether you're going to be in the air or on the ground on that day, you're invited to participate in the challenge and can sign up at www.dayinthecloud.com.

If you use Gmail, there's a good chance you already have a leg up because some of the questions will involve your knowledge of Gmail (plus, you'll need a Google Account to play). To give you a little practice, we've just revealed some practice questions.

Curious how some people are getting ready for the challenge? Check out this video:

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My friends email me all the time with ideas for improving Gmail. Just this weekend, my friend Dave said he wanted a way to select all of his messages with a certain label (like "urgent"). Two weeks ago, Adam came up with the idea of a button that would filter his inbox to only show unread items. Good ideas, but it turns out that doing stuff like this (and much more) is already possible using search operators.

For example, Dave would just need to search for "in:urgent" to get all items labeled "urgent," and Adam would just search for "is:unread in:inbox" to see all the unread messages in his inbox.

Here are a few other useful ways to filter your inbox:
  • "to:me is:starred" shows all messages sent directly to you that are starred
  • "is:chat from:heather" shows all chat conversations you had with Heather
  • "is:starred -in:inbox" shows all your starred messages that aren't in your inbox (a good way to find anything important that you might have accidentally archived)
  • "from:elliot filename:pdf" shows all messages from Elliot that have a pdf attachment

We've written about search operators here before, but lots of people find them hard to remember. That's why we built Search Autocomplete in Gmail Labs, designed to make searching in Gmail much easier. Instead of having to remember the exact syntax for advanced searches, you can just start typing, and search autocomplete will help you fill in the rest. If you find yourself doing some of the same searches over and over again, consider creating a permanent link to them using Quick Links in Labs.

Update (6/10): Revised the example about searching for a label to use "urgent" instead of "important."