You’ve Got (Better) Mail

Of all the e-mail services available—Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL and a few others—Google’s Gmail is my favorite. It’s free, provides more storage than I’ll ever need and has been simple to access from every mobile phone I’ve tried. Plus, it is consistently improved. I’ve added two new features in recent weeks—one from Google, one from a third party—that have made Gmail even better.

The first is called Priority Inbox and it sorts your messages based on what’s most important to you. What’s more important: an e-mail from your spouse, or the weekly newsletter that tracks your industry? Both probably matter but Priority Inbox will put your spouse’s message into a section titled “important” and the newsletter into “everything else.”

Important information goes to the top, while everything else go in a section below. The decision is based on how frequently you open a message and how often you reply. Gmail predicts what’s important based on how you’ve responded to similar messages.

The more you use Priority Inbox, the better it gets at making predictions. I love how it has been sorting messages for me.

The second improvement is a service called Rapportive ( It is a browser plug-in (for Firefox, Safari and Chrome) that runs alongside Gmail. If you’re heavily into social media—or want to know the social networks your contacts have joined—you’ll love Rapportive.

Here’s how it works:

When you get an e-mail, Rapportive opens a box along the right side of the message that displays a host of information about the person who sent the e-mail. This includes links to their various online profiles—Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube and a few other places—plus biographical information, such as a current job title and past position. All this information is floating around on the Web and Rapportive brings it together in a simple display.

All that information can be alarming to see, as it is a reminder of how freely information flies around the Internet.

Frankly, you may want to keep Rapportive to yourself and not share with others. It is a pretty powerful tool.

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