Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Choose the Gmail inbox that suits you

Gmail has several options for displaying your inbox. Each inbox type sorts and displays your mail differently. You can use either an inbox style, or inbox tabs and categories (you cannot use both). Experiment until you find the one that suits you best!

Inbox styles

Use Inbox styles to display your unread, important or starred emails at the top of the inbox. You can also display all three sections using the Priority Inbox style. The screenshots below give you a preview of what you can achieve with Inbox styles.

Important first

Gmail Important first inbox style

Unread first

Gmail Unread first inbox style

Starred first

Gmail Starred first inbox style

Priority Inbox

Gmail Priority Inbox

To change the style of your Inbox:
1. Hover your mouse over the Inbox label until a drop-down arrow appears to the right. Click the arrow.
2. Hover over the different inbox styles to learn more about them.
3. Click the style you want to use to select it.
Learn more about inbox styles here.

Note: To achieve an inbox sorted only by date, select the Default inbox style and turn off all the tabs and categories (see instructions in the next section).

Inbox tabs and categories

The default look for new Google Apps accounts is tabs and categories. This sorts your mail into tabs called Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates and Forums. Google then automatically sorts email into each tab based on the content. You can educate Google on how to sort your mail by moving messages between tabs. An example of a inbox using tabs and categories is shown below:

Gmail categories inbox style

If you do not like using Inbox tabs and categories, you can turn it off by disabling all the tabs (refer to the steps below).

To configure inbox tabs and categories
1. Click the Cog button > Configure inbox.
2. Tick the categories you want to use as tabs in your inbox (untick them all to remove the tabs completely).
3. Click Save.

Learn more about inbox tabs and category labels, including how to move messages between tabs, here.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

5 tips for getting started on a new Google Site

Google Sites are a quick way to create, share and publish private or public websites. They have a huge number of uses in the classroom and wider school. When creating a new site, there are a few things that are good to know how to do.

Tip 1: Choose your URL (web address) carefully

The URL (web address) of your site cannot be changed after it is created. If you are planning on re-using your site over different school years, avoid including a year in the URL. However, the site name can be edited, so you can include a year in this and change it when required.

For example, your site name might be ‘Year 12 2014’ and your URL<yourschool>/year-12

Tip 2: Change the location of your navigation menu

Google Sites can display the navigation menu on the sidebar (vertical) or top (horizontal) of the screen - or both. A horizontal navigation helps give your site a more professional look, and provides more space for content. Check out the difference below.

Sidebar navigation

Google Site with sidebar navigation

Horizontal navigation

Google Site with horizontal navigation

To change the location of your site’s navigation:

1. Click the Cog button > Edit site layout.
2. Click Sidebar to turn it off.
3. Click Horizontal navigation to turn it on.

Google Sites edit site layout options

4. Click Close to exit editing the site’s layout.

Don’t panic if some of your menu items do not immediately show in the new horizontal menu. See tip 3 below to get them back!

Tip 3: Edit the contents of the navigation menu

When you add a new page to your site, you also need to add it to the navigation menu. Follow the steps below to add pages.

1. Click the Cog button > Edit site layout.
2. Click the area where the horizontal navigation menu is to edit. The Configure navigation box opens.

Google Sites area to edit horizontal navigation

3. Click Add page.
4. Select the page you want to add to the menu.
5. Click OK.
6. Use the arrows on the right to move the position of the page in the menu. You can also make a page a sub-menu item of another.
7. Repeat steps 3-6 for each page you want to add.
8. Click OK when you are done.

Tip: You can also change the style of the navigation buttons in the Configure navigation box.

Learn more in the Add and edit the horizontal navigation bar help article from Google.

Tip 4: Remove the page name on the home page

By default, the name of each page is displayed at the top of the page. While this may be useful on some pages, it is usually unnecessary on the home page. Follow the steps below to remove the page name.

1. Click the Cog button > Page settings.
2. Untick Show page title.
3. Click Save.

You can repeat the steps above on any page that you do not want to page name to display. See the before and after pictures below to see the difference.


Google Site with page name


Google Site with no page name

Tip 5: Change the theme, colours and fonts

The look and feel of a Google Site can be customised completely using themes, colours and fonts. Follow the steps below to make changes to your site:

1. Click the Cog button > Manage Site.
2. Click Themes, Colors and Fonts in the left-hand menu.

Google Sites themes, colours and fonts menu

If you want to change the overall theme of the site, select a new theme from the Base theme drop-down. You can see a preview of the theme before clicking save, so feel free to experiment until you find one you like.

You can also customise the look of individual site elements by changing colours, fonts and adding images. Click the name of the element (such as Content area) on the left and then select the item you want to adjust (such as background, page title, headers and text).

Learn more in the Change your site's layout, theme, colors or fonts help article from Google.

These five tips should help you make a great start with Google Sites. If you want to dig deeper, Simplify Solutions offer a range of training options for schools.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Perform a mail merge using Google Apps

Mail merge allows you to create and send personalised emails and documents to lists of people. Google Apps does not have its own mail merge feature. However, there are several add-ons that provide this functionality. In this blog post, we’ll look at how you can use Yet Another Mail Merge or xsMerge to perform a mail merge using Google Apps. These two tools will help you eliminate the need to revert to using traditional desktop office applications for mail merging!

Yet Another Mail Merge

This Add-on to Google Sheets allows you to compose your templated message directly in Gmail, and then send a customised copy to each recipient. The details of recipients (such as names and email addresses) are stored in a Google Sheet. They can be imported from a contact group, or entered manually.

Yet Another Mail Merge is easy to use and is great for simple emails. Note that at the time of writing, it was unable to merge emails with images due to a recent change by Google.

Learn how to install and use Yet Another Mail Merge.


xsMerge is a Chrome Web Store app that also allows you to compose and send customised messages from Gmail. However, it can also be used to create letters, certificates and other documents by merging Google Docs into PDF files. In addition, these merged PDF files can also be added as attachments to customised emails. Another feature is the ability to insert content from a Google Site as the body of a merged email message.

xsMerge is a great tool for those who want to perform more advanced merge functions. Note that it does require you to be using the Google Chrome web browser (but you’re already using this, aren’t you?!)

Learn how to install and use xsMerge.

We suggest taking a look at both tools to determine which one will work best for you. Let us know what you prefer!

Popular Posts