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How Gmail Works

Gmail Features

­Gmail users can create their filters for sending and receiving e-mails.
­Gmail users can create their filters for sending and receiving e-mails.
Image courtesy of Google

Gmail features make e-mail easier and more convenient. Let's take a closer look at some like Gmail Notifier, which can alert you when you have a new message, and Mail Fetcher, which allows you to retrieve e-mail from other services, like Yahoo Mail or AOL.

Gmail Notifier

This downloadable application lets you know when you have new Gmail messages -- without opening your browser. The Notifier automatically checks for new messages every two minutes. With it, you can see a brief section of text from up to 30 messages and select a sound to indicate you have new mail.


Running Gmail Notifier requires Windows 2000, Windows XP or a newer version of Windows. Mac users need OS X 10.3.8 or later to run the Notifier, which can also alert them of upcoming events recorded on Google Calendar.

Mail Fetcher

This feature lets you fetch and download messages from up to five other e-mail accounts. Mail Fetcher will check all of the accounts regularly so that mail from them appears automatically in Gmail. Accounts that you want to access must be POP (Post Office Protocol) access enabled. POP allows users to download messages from Gmail's servers so e-mail can be accessed without an Internet connection.

Contact Groups

By creating a contact group, you can quickly send e-mails to everyone in the group. To create a group, click "Contacts" at the left and then "New Group" in the top left corner. Enter the name of the group and click "OK."

To fill the group with contacts, select the contacts you want in the Contacts list. Then open the Groups menu, and under "Add to . . .," select the group you want.

For later additions, enter the contact's name or e-mail address in the "Add this to group" box below the contact list.

To send a message to the group, go to the Compose window. After "To:" enter the first few letters of the contact group's name. Choose from the list that auto-complete suggests and write and send your message.

Security and Spam

Gmail is security conscious, starting with virus scans of every attachment you send. Every attachment you receive is scanned twice, when it's delivered and when you open the message. Questionable e-mails go directly into the spam folder. To remove spam from your inbox, select the unwanted message and click "Report Spam."

You also can send unwanted mail from specific addresses or domains directly to the trash by setting up a filter. Click "Create a filter" under the search box. Fill in fields with your criteria for the filter, and click "Next Step." Choose how you want the e-mails handled by checking a box such as "Delete it." Then click "Create Filter."

Parental Controls

Children under age 13 need parental permission to create a Gmail account. Parents also can use mail filters to block unwanted mail from reaching their children.

Gmail also recommends that parents:

  • Keep their child's computer in a public area of the house so they can monitor online activity.
  • Download parental control software or use browser settings that can block unwanted visits to inappropriate sites.
  • Discuss appropriate e-mail communication and behavior.
  • Advise children not to download attachments from unknown senders -- and to check with an adult if they're unsure.
  • Tell children not to give identifiable photos or information over e-mail or in chats, particularly to strangers.

Gmail continues to look at new ways to send and receive e-mail. Keep reading to learn how you can use Gmail for chat, instant messaging with AIM users, e-mailing from mobile devices and mail with voice.