Category Archives: Google

Get Gmail Tasks on your Desktop with Google Chrome

Gmail Labs Beaker I love Gmail Tasks. It’s my to-do list of choice for its simplicity, portability, and (of course) integration with Gmail. If you’re a fan of Google Chrome, you can also easily add Tasks as an application directly on your desktop.

Enable Gmail Tasks

First things first, if you have not already enabled Tasks in Gmail, it’s time to do so. Within Gmail, go to Settings –> Labs. Scroll down until you find Tasks, and switch it to Enable.

Gmail Tasks - Enable

You will now find a Tasks link near your Contacts. This is all fine and dandy, but now let’s see how you can quickly make it a stand-alone application.

Integration with Google Chrome

Google Chrome has the slick ability to turn any page or site into its own application, similar to Fluid on Mac OS X. With Chrome, we can turn Tasks into a standalone app with just a few clicks. I find it handy to have my to-do list separate so I don’t get distracted with e-mail or Google Chat while I’m working.

Here’s how to do it: Launch Chrome and go to https://mail.google.com/tasks/ig. If it asks for a username and password, check the box to remember it. You should now see a full-browser version of your Tasks, but we’re not finished yet!

Go to the Page Dropdown Menu and click Create application shortcuts.

Chrome - Create Application Shortcuts

A Google Gears window will spawn. Tell it where you would like the shortcuts placed, and hit OK.

Google Gears - Tasks

That’s it! Whenever you open your Tasks shortcut, it will take you directly to your to-do list, no distractions needed. I do suggest resizing the window to something more manageable.

Chrom - Brian Tasks

More about Gmail Tasks.

Get Google Chrome.

How To: Post to Blogger from Your Mobile Phone

One really cool feature of Google Blogger is the ability to quickly create a post directly from your mobile phone. With Mobile Blogging, all you have to do is send a text message from your cell, and Blogger will automatically post the text (and photos!) that you send. Neat!

With mobile blogging, imagine the possibilities:

  • Post photos from that amazing hiking or camping trip.
  • Quickly publish breaking news from an event while in attendance.
  • Post mood and gossip updates while in class (ugh, please don’t).
  • Snap a photo of Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, or a UFO before someone confiscates your phone.

Signing Up With Blogger Mobile

Getting started with Blogger Mobile is easy. The only real requirement is a phone with a text-messaging plan.

Step One – Register For Your Mobile Blog

To claim your mobile blog, first send a text message to go@blogger.com. In numerical terms (US only), you can also use 256447. Type REGISTER as the content of the message.

Within thirty seconds or so, you should receive a couple of reply text messages from Blogger. The first will contain a link to the Terms of Service, and the second will contain a link to your new mobile blog, plus a claim code.

The unique code identifies your mobile device so that posts are routed to the appropriate blog.

Note: instead of a text message, you can also send an e-mail from your phone. For it to work, the e-mail should not pass through another gateway (such as an IMAP account or your school account). The Gmail app and Yahoo! Go should work fine. You CAN use both text messages and e-mail to post to your blog, but you have to claim them separately.

Step Two – Claim Your Mobile Blog

Once you have your unique claim code, you can claim your new blog or attach your phone to an existing Blogger account.

On any computer, visit go.blogger.com. Enter your claim code (plus the captcha code).

Step Three – Configure Blog Settings

The final step before you can start posting from your phone is to tell Blogger where to direct your future posts. You can accept the new default blog, or if you already have an existing Blogger account, you can log in and choose an existing blog.

By default, Blogger assigned me the address of husbin147. As you can see in the screenshot above, I chose to direct my mobile posts to an existing blog.

Create a Mobile Post

Now that you have a mobile blog, it’s time to start posting. To create a new post, all you have to do is send a text or e-mail to go@blogger.com. The text that you write (and any pictures that you attach) will automatically show up as a new post. Neat, huh?

In the example above, I’m using Yahoo! Go instead of a text message because it supports a Subject line. The e-mail subject becomes the title of the post.

Within seconds of sending my message, Blogger responded with a Success reply. Sure enough, my new post was live.

I’m pretty amazed by the Blogger Mobile service. I don’t see myself using it every day, but for certain situations, it’s a dream come true.

Other Stuff

A couple other details: You can manage which devices post to your mobile blog by looking near the bottom of your Blogger Dashboard. This is handy in case you get a new phone.

Also, my only complaint about Blogger Mobile is that I have not yet found a way to attach labels to a post. As of now, you have to log in post-factum with a computer and manually add labels. It’s a small price to pay, but if anyone knows an easier way to add labels to mobile posts, please share.

New Year Resolution – Clean Up Your Gmail Account with Labels and Filters

A new year is upon us, and once the hangover and the food coma have worn off, it’s time to start working on those resolutions for the fresh new year. Instead of the traditional desires to lose weight and stop smoking, I propose a more realistic and achievable goal – clean up your Gmail account.

Gmail makes it easy to keep your Inbox organized, but those tools are of no use unless you harness them. Perhaps you already know about these tools, so consider this post your wake-up call to start using them more effectively.

Labels

Labels are the equivalent to folders in other e-mail services, but they offer an additional benefit. You can apply multiple labels to a single conversation in Gmail.

To create new labels or edit your existing ones, click the Edit Labels link on the left.

From there, you can rename, remove, or create new labels at will. I suggest creating labels based on sender names, or create an overarching category such as Bills or Services. To apply a label to existing mail, just check the box next to the conversation and look under the More Actions drop-down list.

Once your labels are set, move on to Filters.

Filters

Filters are one of Gmail’s most powerful features. By setting a filter, you can automatically perform any number of actions to incoming messages. Filters are incredibly helpful for dealing with recurring e-mail from the same sender. Example: If you get a lot of e-mail from NewEgg, you can set a filter to automatically label incoming NewEgg messages. You could also archive, delete, star, or forward incoming e-mail. The organizational possibilities are practically endless.

To start applying filters, first go to Settings at the top of your Gmail page, then switch to the Filters tab.

Click Create a new filter to begin the process.

Enter any criteria, such as a Subject or specific e-mail address. Hint: you can also use a wildcard (*) to capture all e-mail from a specific domain, such as *@newegg.com. Hit the Test Search button what existing messages in your inbox match the filter, then hit Next Step.

(Tip – if a friend often uses multiple e-mail accounts, you can still use just one filter to categorize incoming mail from that person. For the From criteria, just use the OR operator. Example: email1@gmail.com OR email2@gmail.com).

Now you can specify any and all actions that you wish to perform. In the example below, I’m choosing to apply a label and archive incoming messages from NewEgg. I highly recommend also checking the box to apply the filter to the existing conversations in your Inbox.

You can create an unlimited number of filters in Gmail. I just counted, and I currently have 49 filters running in my primary Gmail account. Am I a fanatic, or does anyone have me beat?

Archive

Once you’ve set a bunch of filters, most of the e-mail in your Inbox should have one or more labels. You can tidy up your Inbox now by using Gmail’s Archive feature. Archiving essentially just moves conversations from your Inbox to All Mail. You can retrieve those conversations at any point by clicking the relevant label, going through All Mail, or by using the Search box.

If you’re feeling daring, select all the messages in your Inbox and click the Archive button. Voila! You now have a clean Inbox! Doesn’t that look great?

Don’t worry, you can get them all back if you want by switching to All Mail, selecting all conversations, and clicking Move to Inbox.

So, while losing weight and quitting smoking are great goals, cleaning up your Gmail Inbox is a goal you can accomplish right now. I have two Gmail accounts that I use regularly, and I took an hour to set labels and filters in each. You, too, can enjoy that clean Inbox feeling by taking a few minutes to label, filter, and archive your messages.

When you’re finished, at least you can say that you didn’t break ALL your New Year’s resolutions this year. 🙂

Sync Your Phone’s Contacts and Calendar with Google for Free with NuevaSync

Many moons ago I wrote a beefy article on Sycing Your Windows Mobile Contacts and Calendar with Plaxo, Thunderbird, and Google for FREE.

Since I wrote that article, NuevaSync, the free synchronization hub, has added a few features. Notably, NuevaSync now supports syncing directly with Google for Contacts, thus eliminating the need for Plaxo.

Today, I’m going to show you how to simply sync your phone’s Contacts and Calendar with your Google account. Since I have a MOTO Q, this tutorial will be from a Windows Mobile perspective, but NuevaSync also works with iPhone and iPod Touch 2.0.

Tools Required

That’s it. There’s nothing to install on your phone or your computer.

As always, please back up your current mobile data before you proceed. This tutorial should work flawlessly for you, or it may drink all the eggnog in your refrigerator. Always keep a backup.

Step One – Configure NuevaSync

To get started, first create an account with NuevaSync. The main NuevaSync configuration area is quite spartan. All you need to do is click the change button next to Contacts and Calendar and select Google for each of them.

The Contacts area now offers Google in addition to Plaxo. Note: NuevaSync will sync with your real Google contacts, not your suggested contacts.

When you click setup, NuevaSync will ask you to enter your Google ID and request authorization for access to your account. You do not need to give NuevaSync your Google password.

Step Two – Configure Your Phone

Now that NuevaSync is configured, let’s move on to setting up your phone. On Windows Mobile:

1. Launch ActiveSync (Go to Start → ActiveSync)

2. Go to Menu → Add Server Source (or Configure Server)

3. Configure your Server Settings. For the Server Address, enter www.nuevasync.com. Check the box to enable SSL encryption.

4. Next, add your user information. Enter your NuevaSync user name (full Gmail address) and your NuevaSync password (NOT your Gmail password, unless they are the same. If they are, shame on you).

Under Domain, enter nuevasync.com. My phone automatically added the www, but it still works fine. Be sure to check the box to remember your password.

5. On the Options page, only check the boxes next to Contacts and Calendar. NuevaSync does not yet support E-mail and Tasks.

Hit Finish, and you’re done. To start the sync process, go back to ActiveSync and hit the Sync button. If you configured everything properly, your phone should connect to Google through NuevaSync and update your Contacts and Calendar accordingly.

Hint: You can adjust the scheduling frequency in ActiveSync by going to Menu → Schedule.

Final Thoughts

I really like NuevaSync. Though it’s still in Beta, it works surprisingly well, and I appreciate that there’s nothing to install. Of course, I’m patiently waiting for them to support IMAP e-mail and Tasks. With the recent inclusion of a Tasks To-Do list by Gmail labs, it seems like a logical inclusion for NuevaSync to support Gmail Tasks. I would love to see this happen.

Happy syncing! I don’t have an iPhone, but maybe one of my iPhone-toting co-authors could provide iPhone-specific instructions. Stay tuned.

Defeat the ‘Oops. An unknown error occurred’ Message When Importing Contacts to Gmail

Lately I’ve been working on consolidating all my Contacts into Gmail. During this process I ran into this maddening error message:

Oops. An unknown error occurred while importing your contacts.

Grrr! It’s enough to make a pacifist like myself want to pummel baby penguins! Just kidding, PETA.

All I want to do is import a CSV full of contact information, and that error message drove me crazy until I figured out a workaround. Here are two possible ways that I’ve found to work around this problem:

1. Try Google Chrome

After my first dozen, error-prone attempts to import the CSV from Firefox, I decided to simply try another browser. What better browser to communicate with Gmail than Google’s own browser – Chrome!

I have no conclusive evidence to prove that this method works, other than it worked for me. Simply switching from Firefox to Chrome to import the CSV into Gmail worked the first time. It may be a bug with Gmail (or Firefox), or it may be the alignment of the stars in the heavens, but it worked for me.

If it works for anyone else, let me know in the comments.

2. Switch to the Older Gmail

If method one does not work, try this: click the Older version link at the top of your Gmail window.

Now go back to Contacts and try to import your CSV file again.

The older version of the importer worked for me without that @*%^ error message. Hopefully it will work for you, too!

An Introduction to Podcasting with Blogger and iTunes

Podcasting is the practice of distributing media files online for subscribers to view. Since it is Internet-based, it is similar to simply posting on a website. Many podcasts are distributed as episodic content – such as weekly radio or television shows.

This brief tutorial is focused toward people who have never created an audio podcast before. I put it together for an electronic music class that I teach, and thought it could be of use here on TipsFor.us.

Required Tools

Software

  • Digital Audio Workstation Software

If you’re only recording speech with little or no music, you likely won’t need software like this. Something like Audacity will suffice. For more complicated editing and mixing, you’re going to need digital audio workstation (DAW) software.

The big-boy software titles include Cubase, Sonar, Digital Performer, Pro Tools, Logic, and Samplitude. They also come with a big-boy price. For more modest uses, consider Tracktion or even FREE offerings such as MU.LAB. Use Linux? Try Ardour.

  • Audio Compression Software

You’re going to need to compress that audio file for the Web, and free tools such as Audacity, iTunes, and BonkEnc will do the job with aplomb.

  • FTP Client

Use a free FTP client such as Filezilla or Cyberduck to store your files online on a file/web host of choice (more on that below).

  • Podcast Catcher

To take a look/listen at your newly created podcast, subscribe to it with a tool such as iTunes or Google Reader.

Web

  • Online Web Space

You need a place to store your files on the Web that allows for direct linking. If you already own web space, fantastic. If you do not, don’t worry. There are free workarounds.

  • A Publisher

Though not absolutely required, a free publishing account with a service such as Blogger or WordPress is highly recommended. Podcasts require an RSS Feed (allows podcast catchers to subscribe), and services such as Blogger generate the feed for you automatically. The other option is to write the XML file yourself… tedious.

Create Your Audio File

When you have finished composing and mixing your masterpiece, you need to prepare it for the web. The issue here is to make the file small enough without sacrificing too much quality. You will need to to compress your hi-res audio mix (*.aif) into a lossy format. Most podcasts use either MP3 or AAC. See our digital audio primer.

I suggest using Audacity to compress your audio. No matter what software you use, set the bitrate to at least 128/k (up to about 192/k). Make sure the resulting file has all lowercase letters and no spaces or special characters. Also, make sure your file has an extension (*.mp3).

The compressed audio file is what your subscribers will hear, naturally.

Storing Your File on the Web

The next step is to upload your file to a storage host. The aforementioned free services such as Blogger and WordPress do not currently allow for storage of audio files (legal/piracy reasons). Instead, I suggest using some web space to store your files.

If you do not pay for any webspace, don’t fret. Take a look at our article on overcoming Blogger’s upload limitations. Though the article mentions Blogger specifically, the solutions can apply to any other service.

Publish your Podcast

Now it’s time to publish your podcast so that the world can listen. This section of the tutorial is specific to the Google Blogger service. If you use a different service, please consult their Help section for podcast-specific tips.

The site that my class used is: http://ku-electronic.blogspot.com

To set up a Blogger account for podcasting, do the following:

In your Blogger dashboard, go to Settings → Formatting. Enable the Link Field to enclose audio in your posts.

Now, when you create a New Post, you will see a field for Enclosures.

Add the full link to your hosted audio file (including the http://).

Voila! When you publish your post, it will instantly become a podcast. All RSS Feed requirements are handled automatically.

Subscribe to the Podcast

If you want to subscribe to the newly created podcast, just enter the full URL to your Blogger site in your podcast-catching software.

Example (Google Reader):

Subscribe with iTunes

iTunes is slightly different. To subscribe to a Blogger feed in iTunes, go to the Advanced menu, then click Subscribe to Podcast.

Add the full URL to your site, plus /feeds/posts/default

Click OK, and your podcast subscription will show up like this:

Anytime you write a new post on the site, it will show up in the feed reader.

This concludes the tutorial. Happy podcasting!

Fed Up with Blogger’s Upload Limitations?

Update: There’s now a third, very simple method available – who.hasfiles.com – see more info.

Google Blogger is a great and easy way to create your own blog, but one nagging problem is the limitations on uploads. Sure you can upload images and video, but not other common file types such as MP3, DOC, ZIP, and PDF.

There are a number of ways around this limitation. I’m going to show you two of them today.

I had three requirements in mind when finding a solution:

  1. None of the methods should cost a single penny!
  2. The method should allow for direct linking to files, not going through a middle-man.
  3. The process should be as simple as possible.

Method One – Google Sites

The simplest solution that I have found is to use another Google service – Sites. To enable Sites, just log in with your Google account and create a name for your site. Make sure to make your site Public.

Sites offers 100 MB of extra storage space where you can link directly to MP3s, PDFs, or any other type of file you wish.

Now let’s make a page where you can add some files. In Sites, click Create a New Page at the top.

Choose File Cabinet as your page type. Once you’re done, all you have to do is add a file on the page you created.

Once your file uploads, the last step is to simply right-click your file and Copy Link Location (Firefox – other browsers may say something like Copy Shortcut).

Paste that link into Blogger, and voila! You now have a direct link to your file! If you find that you cannot link directly to your file, make sure your Site is listed as Public.

This is the easiest method I’ve found, and I like that it’s tied directly to your Google account. If you run out of your 100 MB, you can create another Google Site, or consider method two below.

Method Two – DriveHQ

This solution is slightly more complicated, but offers much more storage space. DriveHQ has been around for many years, and they offer 1 GB of free space accessible by FTP. You can link directly to files provided that you create a True account – still free, essentially just requires verification of what they call a trustable, non-mainstream e-mail address. Accounts like Hotmail, Yahoo, and Gmail do not count. I just used my university e-mail.

Though there are other free FTP hosts, I recommend DriveHQ because they have been around for many years, and because your files never expire due to inactivity. I created an account with them four years ago, and I went for over two years without logging in. My files were still just as I left them.

DriveHQ Web Share

Once you create a free account with DriveHQ and upgrade to True status (free), you will have access to a website root folder (wwwhome). Anything you place in your wwwhome folder is accessible online (YOUR-USERNAME.drivehq.com).

Feel free to create folders, but for simplicity’s sake I strongly suggest sticking to all lowercase letters and omitting special characters in your folders and file-names.

Example 1 – If you put a file called sample-file.mp3 in your wwwhome folder, the web path is:

  • http://YOUR-USERNAME.drivehq.com/sample-file.mp3

Example 2 – If you create a folder in wwwhome called music and put your sample-file.mp3 in there, the path is:

  • http://YOUR-USERNAME.drivehq.com/music/sample-file.mp3

Adjust your links accordingly and paste into Blogger. Voila! You have direct links.

FTP Access

Once you’ve registered, you can use FTP to upload files if you do not feel like bothering with their web interface. Just connect to ftp.drivehq.com with your favorite FTP client (such as Filezilla or Cyberduck).

DriveHQ offers 1 GB of storage space, but one catch here is that free accounts only have 1 GB of download bandwidth per month. For most people, this is likely sufficient, but if you know your files will get tons of hits, this is not the best option. Or, you could use a combination of these two methods – use Google Sites for files that will see big traffic and save DriveHQ for seldom-accessed files.

Other Thoughts

Of course, the two methods I present here are not the only possible ways to host files for inclusion with Blogger. There are literally hundreds of free web hosts and file storage services out there. Finding a place to store your files is easy. Finding a good and reliable place to store your files is amazingly difficult.

The vast majority of online storage services either:

  1. Do not allow for direct linking, or…
  2. Expire and delete your files after a certain amount of time or inactivity, or…
  3. Have not been around long enough to be considered tried and true, or…
  4. Try to spam you to death with ads and optional services.

Concerning free web hosts, yes, many of them offer free FTP access. While I applaud this, you need to be careful. The vast majority of free web hosts have a clause in their Terms of Service stating that they are not to be used as file storage. Any accounts found breaching this clause will have their files mercilessly deleted without warning. These companies make the bulk of their money by putting ads on your free site, and file storage/direct linking is simply not profitable for them. You don’t want your files disappearing, do you?

That’s why I chose Google Sites and DriveHQ for this article. If you know of any other solutions that are free, reliable, simple to use, and allow for direct file linking, please let us know in the comments.