Gadgets and Games

How To Switch To Gmail

A Google sign at the company's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.

A Google sign at the company's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.  (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

It's time to clean up your e-mail in-box, shave hours off of your work week, and start living life again. Like the man in the infomercial says, it worked for me -- and it can work for you!

I'm talking about Google's Gmail service, of course, but if you're like millions of Americans you're probably still holding onto that old Hotmail or AOL account for dear life. It's time to make the jump. It's better and more efficient than ever before, and some recent changes have left the competition in the dust.

A recent study of businesses found e-mail clutter to be one of the leading causes of productivity loss. Gmail has some incredibly powerful tools to make you more productive by eliminating clutter, prioritizing messages and filtering spam.

One of the newest additions to Gmail prompted me to write this column -- Priority Inbox. Imagine opening your e-mail and finding only the most important messages -- not the zany forwards from Grandma, not the newsletters from some shoe-company mailing list, none of the clutter. Turning on Priority Inbox lets you regain control by telling Gmail which senders are a priority and which ones can wait or be trashed.

Priority in-box also grows more intelligent over time as you click the little plus/minus sign next to a new message; clicking plus makes the sender a priority in the future, and vice versa for minus.

Google also gives you a ridiculous amount of storage space, so there's no need to delete e-mails -- but you'll want to keep them organized. Labels (basically Google's name for folders) are a powerful tool to do this is. For instance, create a label such as "family" or "travel plans" and then give it a custom color with the handy color wheel. This will give you an organized, searchable archive of all your important mails in that category. 

Simple, right?

Spam is worse than ever, in fact it's estimated that nearly 200 million spam e-mails are sent each day. Gmail helps cut the spam with a series of fantastic filters. Filters are different than Priority Inbox, because you can designate where you wants messages to go. 

Remember that "travel plans" label we set up earlier? Well you can filter any messages from your favorite airline right into that folder so they don't clutter your main in-box. Get a ton of spam? Just filter it into the trash -- no more clicking and deleting. To set up filters simply head to Settings, then click on Filters.

What about that old e-mail account you're worried about losing? Have no fear, Gmail makes it easy to import all of your old e-mails right into your new account. First create the new Gmail account, then click Settings, then Accounts and Import. Once you're in this menu setting you can import all of your old mail messages and contacts from any account. 

Google also lets you forward messages from your old account right into Gmail so you don't have to miss any messages that are still sent to an old account. I still receive messages from an old MSN account I stopped using years ago.

Spend a few minutes with these settings in Gmail and you'll save hours in productivity. I've made these changes ... and now I have more hours in my week to play Farmville.

Clayton Morris is a Fox and Friends host and the tech host behind the Gadgets and Games show -- and a lifetime Gmailer. Follow Clayton's adventures online on Twitter @ClaytonMorris and by reading his daily updates at his blog.