Google's Gmail is one of the best email solutions for your small business — and it could be even better.
On its face, the service offers free accounts, tons of space, advanced security features and more. But beneath Gmail's minimalist interface are dozens of hidden features that can boost your productivity.
Here are seven tricks to turn your basic Gmail account into the ultimate email service for business.
1. Let Gmail prioritize your inbox
Unimportant emails can bog you down during the workday. However, you can help Gmail help you by teaching it which messages are most important. By choosing Priority Inbox from the Settings menu, Gmail will intelligently select the most pressing messages in your inbox and bring them to the top.
The feature uses information gathered from your everyday use to evaluate the importance of each incoming email, including who you've emailed and chatted with most, or which words appear in the messages you tend to read first.
If Gmail gets it wrong, you can flag messages as important so Google knows better next time. The more feedback you give it, the smarter Priority Inbox gets.
Don't worry — messages deemed unimportant are simply moved to a separate low-priority folder, not erased.
2. Manage your calendar and to-do list
Running a business means juggling dozens of responsibilities every day.
Instead of reaching for a scrap of paper, use Gmail's built-in task manager to help you remember to place that order or make that important phone call.
To get started, just click the down arrow near the top-left corner of your Gmail inbox, and select Tasks. The task manager lets you easily add items to a to-do list and check them off as they're completed.
And by setting a deadline for a task, it will be automatically added to your Google Calendar. When the deadline nears, Gmail will send you a reminder message.
Unlike a traditional pen-and-paper to-do list, your Gmail tasks will never get lost as long as you have Internet access.
3. Get a professional address
You work hard to appear professional, so get an email address that complements your efforts.
By subscribing to Google Apps for Business, you can customize your email address into something that reflects your brand. Instead of email@example.com, your Gmail address can be firstname.lastname@example.org.
With a professional email address, every message you send will appear more professional and more trustworthy.
But this feature doesn't come for free. Only businesses that subscribe to Google Apps for Business can get customized email addresses, among other perks. The service costs $50 per year for each user.
You will also have to prove you own the domain name used in your new email address before Google will allow the change.
4. Send very large files
Sometimes, you need to send a large file in a hurry, whether it's a video presentation for your next meeting or a large PDF containing your company's most recent expense report.
Your options are limited. Most free email services — including Gmail — cap email attachments at 25MB.
But Gmail works in tandem with Google Drive to allow you to send files that are much, much bigger. Gmail lets you attach files up to 10GB, as long as they've first been uploaded to Google Drive, Google's cloud storage platform.
To use the feature, simply click the Drive icon in Gmail's compose window, and select the right file. The feature works by granting another user download privileges for a file uploaded to your Google Drive account.
5. Send prewritten responses to frequently asked questions
Owning your own business means getting feedback — and lots of it. But busy entrepreneurs don't always have time to craft a personalized response to each email.
By enabling the Canned Responses feature in Gmail, you can store prewritten messages and then select one from the Compose window. It could save you tons of time replying to similar queries or concerns throughout your day.
To activate the feature, navigate to the Labs tab in the Gmail Settings menu, and then enable Canned Responses.
When you're ready to create a custom message, simply type it into Gmail's Compose pane, select the down directional arrow in the lower-right corner and save it under Canned Responses.
Select a message from the same window when you're ready to send a canned response.
6. Delegate email duties to an assistant
If you're out of town or particularly busy, you can grant an employee access to your Gmail account.
Just navigate to the Account tab in Gmail's Settings menu, click Add Another Account and then enter the email address of the user to whom you're granting access.
Any email sent from your account by another user will show the sender as: Your Name (sent by Delegate).
Once granted, access to your inbox can be revoked at any time. The feature is a good way to maintain your inbox with the help of an assistant.
7. Manage multiple inboxes from one Gmail account
Business owners routinely juggle multiple email addresses. You might switch frequently among your personal address and several different company addresses.
Gmail streamlines the process by letting you manage multiple accounts from within a single interface.
To activate the feature, navigate to the Account tab under Settings, and click "Check mail from other accounts." After that, Gmail will automatically fetch mail from your other accounts so you only have to check one.
Fetched messages can be read and replied to from your primary account.
Tom Samph, director of content for Grovo Learning, Inc., contributed Gmail tips to this article.