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Tools for Transparency: Take Control of Your Gmail Inbox

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In an ideal world we would quickly respond to emails, keep the clutter to a minimum and access the information needed to communicate effectively. Unfortunately for most of us, this is almost never the case.

Where do you begin to address a messy inbox?

These two rules apply whether you use Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo or another email client:

  1. Always aim for ZERO emails in your inbox - respond, delete, archive, unsubscribe.  It's not impossible, but with that as your goal, it will help you cut the clutter.
  2. Archive everything - unless it's spam, archive it.  Archiving messages under a corresponding label helps you quickly find those emails later on.
Now for Gmail specifically, there are a number of additional tools for your fight toward a zero inbox.

My first suggestion is to access the Gmail Labs feature.  You can find this by heading to Settings (the gear icon in the right corner) then to Labs and turn on any of the experimental features you find useful.  Personally I use Create a Document, Flickr and YouTube Previews, Google Calendar, Docs & Maps gadgets, Send & Archive and Undo Send, amongst others.

Here's a list of third-party tools you can use.

Note: Any service must use OAuth, the Google Authentication method, to ensure your privacy is intact. All of these services do.

In a recent Noupe.com post, they list a number of additional services to help you clean up your inbox while staying on top emails as they come in.  Here are a few from their list -
  • Find Big Mail - for locating very large files, useful for discovery or deleting files eating up space.
  • Google Mail Checkers for Chrome & Firefox - alerts you to new messages
  • Better Gmail for Chrome & Firefox - adds useful features to your inbox like "hierarchical labels, an unread message icon on your browser tab, file attachment icons" and others.
  • Rapportive - this add on compliments your account by adding context to the people you are emailing, like LinkedIn and Twitter account information, Lanyard profile and so on.
  • Boomerang - this service allows you to schedule when you send and receive emails.
I would love to hear about any other useful tools or ideas you use to keep your inbox trimmed down.