07.4-Google’s recent Gmail, Contacts and Calendars updates offer unsurpassed functionality and ease of use for multi device users.-2015-04-02

Achieving instant access to a single copy and representation of ALL your data across ALL your devices (PC, tablet, smartphone, Chromebook …) and Apps is the optimum goal for a worry free multi computing devices environment (Windows, Android, Chrome and possibly Apple’s iOS). Recently, Google has achieved important steps to further integrate several of its products, with the use of its Cloud, to provide unparalleled functionality and ease of use. If you are an active multi device user, using the integrated Google products has become a must, in my opinion.

This article presents the benefits of using multiple integrated Google products versus using anything else. If you have read several articles on this web site you have noticed that I have been recommending the use of Google products for their superior functionality. Now, I am urging you to use these integrated products because few alternative offers such worry free synchronization, in my opinion. Please read the following articles to familiarize yourself with the Google products: 07.2 – The Google Universe-2013-06-24 and 07.1–How to configure Gmail?-2012/01/19.

Years ago, synchronization of your data between devices and Apps was mostly achieved by updating your data for each App and copying this data on each of your devices. If you were using multiple PCs, you had to manually copy your data from one to the other using multiple diskettes initially, than portable hard drives. It was not elegant but it provided an initial level of synchronization. In the past few years, with the advent of the Cloud, this has been simplified and is now mostly done for you, usually.

Integrated Google products

Before I get into each of the integrated Google products let me show you the main benefits. Personally, I currently use the Chrome browser, Gmail, Contacts, Calendar, and several other Google products.

What’s new?

Google has further segmented and improved the presentation of your data into logical files: Contacts, Bookmarks, Emails … It maintains these files on its Cloud for easy access by different Google Apps running on different operating systems (Windows, Android…) and different devises (PCs, smartphones, tablets…).

For example: when you use Chrome as your browser on all your devices, on whatever device you use it on and at any one time, if configured properly, Chrome will automatically present you with the same list of “Bookmarks” (Equivalent to Explorer “Favorites”). In my case, I maintain my list of “Bookmarks” on my PC and use the same list on all my devices. On your mobile devices, you have the choice of: Desktop bookmarks, Mobile bookmarks or Other bookmarks. I use Desktop bookmarks.

Chrome

Google’s products integration starts with the Chrome browser. Chrome is considered in the industry as one of the top fast powerful multi device browser. It has long surpassed Microsoft Explorer which will soon be replaced by Microsoft. If Microsoft feels its Explorer is not up to par and needs to be replaced, why should you continue using it?

In addition to being fast, Chrome supports a multitude of powerful Extensions. Chrome Extensions are small software programs that modify and enhance the functionality of the Chrome browser. Once added to the Chrome browser, they perform useful tasks that need to be executed as part of the Chrome browser. Here is a list of the Chrome extensions that I use:

  • 1Password: Password Manager and Secure Wallet – The extension allows 1Password to automatically fill-in your username and password when requested to access a Web site.
  • Application Launcher for Drive (by Google) – To access the Google Drive Cloud.
  • AVG PrivacyFixTo monitor the privacy settings of various Apps.
  • Chrome Remote DesktopTo access your desktop PC from anywhere.
  • Google Cast – Send content to your Chromecast and other devices that support Google Cast – To use Chromecast to access Netflix for example.
  • Google DictionaryProvides a one click access to an online dictionary.
  • Google DocsTo create and edit Word like documents.
  • Google Play MusicTo play music from your Google Play Music library.
  • Google SheetsTo create and edit Excel like spreadsheets.
  • Google SlidesTo create and edit PowerPoint like presentations.
  • Google VoiceTo make calls, send SMS, preview Inbox, and get notified of new messages (US only).

There is a full library of google extension to suit most every need. You can access these on the Chrome Web Store.

NOTE: Please make sure that you understand and use common Bookmarks on ALL your devices, as covered above.

Gmail

Gmail is the back bone of the recently updated Google products. Up to now it integrated your Contacts. Lately, Google Contacts have been moved to their own App that I will review below. Since Gmail has been well covered in other articles, I invite you to read the following articles to learn about implementing and using Gmail and other Google Apps: 07.2 – The Google Universe-2013-06-24 and 07.1–How to configure Gmail?-2012/01/19.

How to save a Gmail email into a file folder? 2015-06-25 – UPDATE

Gmail running under Chrome and Windows 8.1

NOTE: This procedure works using Windows 8.1 and Google Chrome as the web browser. I have not tested it with other web browsers.

If you are using Gmail with Google Chrome and would like to save an email into a file folder, here an easy way to do it:

  1. In Gmail, open the email you want to save into a file folder.
  2. In the upper right corner, Click the down arrow to open “MORE”.
  3. Select “Print”. A new Chrome tab will open and display the formatted email.
  4. In the upper left corner, Click “Change” under “Destination” and select “Save to Google Drive”.
  5. Then, Click “Save” in the upper left corner. Your email will be saved as a PDF in Google Drive and the window will be refreshed.
  6. To save this email somewhere else, Right Click on this refreshed window and select “Save as”.
  7. Edit the document title, if need be, and Click “Save”. The email will then be saved at the destination you have specified.
  8. If the email you just saved has attachments that you also want to save, open the attachment.
  9. Once the attachment is opened, Right Click on the attachment and select the file folder you want to save it into.

That’s it! From this point on, you can do whatever you want with these email copies and their attachments.

Gmail running under Android Lollypop 5.0

NOTE: This procedure works using Gmail running under Android Lollypop 5.0 and should work with previous Android versions. I have not tested it with previous Android versions.

If you are using Gmail on an Android device and would like to save an email into a file folder, here is the way to do it:

  1. In Gmail, open the email you want to save into a file folder.
  2. Open the main menu, left of the Home key, and select “Print”.
  3. A new window will open and display the email.
  4. In the upper right, Click on a yellow “PDF” dot.
  5. My Drive will open displaying the email title that you can edit if you wish.
  6. Click “SAVE” by the email title to save it into Google Drive. When you open Google’s My Drive, it will be filed as a PDF.

That’s it! From this point on, it’s available to all your devices.

Contacts

The new Google Contacts App is an improvement over the previous Gmail Contacts function but has lost the field name customization feature which was very useful to identify different entries of the same type. It seems that the new Google Contacts App assumes that you will have one Contact entry per person versus, in my case, I have one entry per family. In this case, it is useful to identify which phone number belongs to whom, for example. You can get around this by adding an ID after the phone number.

Every time your data is electronically converted into a new App the result may be different then what you had before. Therefore, after such a conversion, you have to review and adjust all your contacts to make sure that the identification field sorts them in accordance with your needs. In my case, I sort by Family name. I have noticed a comma after the Family name which prevented proper sorting. Please follow exactly the “Sort options” described below to make sure your contacts are sorted properly.

Sort options

First, you need to decide the sort order you want. I find that sorting by family name is more convenient for me. You can also put a company name instead of the family name and it will sort by both family name and company. You also have the option of adding a “name used for sorting” which may be better suited for specific requirements. The following instructions are for sorting by family name and company:

  1. First, open the Windows Google Contacts’ settings by clicking on “AZ”, above right,
  2. Then, check “First Name” for sorting by the first name that is entered in the Contact name field for a person or company record.
  3. Then, on each Android device, click “Contacts”, upper right corner, then click the Menu, bottom left of the device, open Settings and click “Display contacts by”, then select “Given name first”. It seems that in Android, the first name in a person’s record is assumed to be the given name. In this case, it will be the family name. NOTE: I don’t know if or how it works on Apple iOS. You can send me your comments if you know how and I will incorporate them.
  4. Then review all your contacts to make sure that the “Name” field is enteredexactlyas follow:
    1. The first word must be the “Family” name or the name of a corporation,
    2. Followed by ONE space (Very important),
    3. Then, enter the first Name(s) for a person.

If you follow exactly the above instructions, all your Contacts records will get sorted by family names and companies, the exact same way on all your devices.

Groups

If you have many contacts, as in my case I have over 1,200, the best way, in my opinion, to organize your Contacts records for easy retrieval is to classify them by Groups. For a good Group classification, you have to define it on paper first. Here are some suggestions:

  1. First determine super groups. For example: Friends, Investments, Professionals, Suppliers, Travel,…
  2. Then, add specifics to the super groups. For example: Friend-Canada, Friend-Bahamas, Friend-France,… / Prof-Dentist, Prof-Doctor, Prof-Accountant,… / Supl-Austin, Supl-Bahamas, Supl-Boat,…
  3. Then, add the single Groups. For example: Computer, Golf & Tennis,…

Once your Group classification structure is completed you have to enter it into your Google Contacts App. To do so in Windows:

  1. Click and open one contact record (any contact, it does not matter).
  2. At the bottom left, click on the Group entry to open Groups.
  3. Click on New group and enter a new group name.
  4. Then click Create group.

To do so in Android (if you have not done this in Windows):

  1. Open Contacts.
  2. Highlight Groups at the top.
  3. Click Menu, bottom left.
  4. Choose Create.
  5. Enter a Group name and click Save, upper right.

Once you have entered all your groups, you will be able to classify your contacts by Group. To classify your contacts by Group in Windows:

  1. Open a contact record.
  2. At the bottom left, click on the Group entry to open Groups.
  3. Then, click on the left side of the Group you want to assigned and a check mark should appear. One person can be in several Groups as needed.
  4. Click on the upper left arrow to get out of the record and repeat the same for all your contacts.

To classify your contacts by group in Android (if you have not done this in Windows):

  1. Open Contacts.
  2. Highlight Contacts at the top.
  3. Click on a Contact you want to assign to a Group.
  4. Click Menu, bottom left.
  5. Choose Edit.
  6. Scroll down and click on Groups.
  7. Add a check mark where you want to classify this Contact to that Group.
  8. Click Save, upper right.

Using Groups in other ways. There are many other productive things you can do with Google Contacts. For example, you can:

  1. Create mailing lists: for example, if you create a group called “Christmas Cards”, as described above, then to send the same Christmas card to the persons you want to, you only have to type “Christmas Cards” in “To” of a Gmail email and all the email addresses of the persons in this group will be copied automatically. I use a similar group to email new Article notices to the people I know.
  2. Products lists: for example, if you want to remember the wines you like or want to try, you can create a Wines group and add a Contact (WINE-wine name) for every wine you want with your comments. At the wine store, you only have to access this list to pick the wines you want to buy.
  3. Notice lists: when you leave your home for a summer at the cottage or a winter in the Bahamas, you may need to contact several suppliers to cancel services or other purposes. By creating a Notice group you will gain direct access to these Contacts coordinates all in one place and not forget anyone.
  4. Credit Cards repetitive payments: most of us use credit cards to buy on-line, for automatic renewal of certain subscriptions or services and various other uses. If you happen to have to replace a lost or stolen card, you will need to update your Credit Card info with the suppliers that use this card. By creating a Credit Cards group you will gain direct access these Contacts coordinates all in one place and not forget anyone.
  5. I could go on but I think you get the point.

As you can see from the above, the Google Contact App can be quite useful for a variety of purposes. You can use it for storing and easily accessing a variety of information other than Contacts, as shown above.

Google’s Calendars

Google Calendars is full of very useful features. First, it provides Calendars functionality to record all your appointments over time. You can add useful Calendars features. For example, you can add a Birthdays calendar that will automatically display birthdays of people in Google Contacts and optionally “Your Circles” from Google+. It will also display anniversary and other event dates from Google Contacts, if applicable. You can add other Calendars such as the Holidays in your country, the Phases of the moon that I use to determine the best days for going fishing, the Weather forecast for your location…

Calendars events recording

Once you click on a date in a calendar to record an event, Calendars will open an event screen to enter the event and customize each entry to make it more relevant using few or many of the following features:

  1. The event description.
  2. Today or over several days.
  3. All day or at a specific time of the day.
  4. You can automatically repeat the event: daily, weekly, monthly or yearly, and assign an end date.
  5. You can specify a location.
  6. You can add a video call.
  7. Since you can have multiple Calendars, you can chose on which Calendars you want this event recorded.
  8. You can add a detailed description or notes.
  9. You can add several guests to this event by adding there email address.
  10. You can specify if your Guests can: Modify the event, Invite others and/or See the Guest list.
  11. You can assign a color to distinguish the importance or other purposes.
  12. You can add how and when you want Notifications. The defaults are a Pop-up in Calendars and an email the day before. But you can specify whatever you want.
  13. You can show if you are busy or available during the event.
  14. You can specify to whom you want to make this calendar event visible.
  15. Using Calendars’ settings you can customize other Calendar features and add Labs Apps. For example, you can enable having attachments to a Calendars event.

From Google Tasks to Samsung’s S Note with the S Pen

You can choose to use Google Tasks and display Tasks on Calendars. It’s does a good job for TO DO lists and notes. Personally, after being introduced to Samsung’s Action Memo and later Samsung’s S Note using the S Pen, I moved my TO DO Lists from Google Tasks to Samsung’s Action Memo initially, and later to Samsung’s S Note. This is not to say that Google Tasks or Samsung’s Action Memo do not do a good job.

Since I wanted to function in a paperless environment (getting rid of TO DO lists and notes scribbled on little pieces of paper), the S Note with the S Pen was better suited because I could handwrite my TO DOs and notes, which was more natural for me. Therefore, I was more inclined to put everything in S Note and was able to get rid of scribbled little pieces of paper. I initially used Samsung’s Action Memo with the S Pen to accomplish the same, but after a while I found that S Note with the S Pen made it easier for me to organize and retrieve different types of TO DOs and notes. If you are interested, you can find more info on Action Memo in the following article: 12.01-Part 1-Introduction on the unparalleled functionality of the Samsung Galaxy Note products-2014-11-30

Google Drive and Google+

Pursuing its products reorganization and integration program, Google has just announced the transfer of photos and videos displayed on Google+ to Google Drive. This allows us to withness the central role that Google Drive will play in the integration of many of the Google products. This change is welcome and timely.

How to make sure you will see the same Gmail, Contacts and Calendars on all your devices?

Even though your Android and possibly your Apple devices have features to incorporate your emails, contacts and calendars into their equivalent Apps, I don’t like this conversion of my data and I prefer to get my data from the horse’s mouth (Google). To avoid any complication coming from the translation of your Google data, only use the native Google Apps: Gmail, Contacts, Calendars and others.

To do this, download Google’s Gmail, Contacts, Calendars, and other Apps on your smartphone and/or tablet. Then use these Apps instead of using the custom device Apps providing similar services. This way will ensure that your data will come directly from Google and will be identical on all your devices.

I hope the above info will help you learn and productively use the Google Gmail, Contacts and Calendars Apps and features, which I huge you to use. It may require some changes but the benefits are worth the effort.

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