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Getting-Along-With-Your-Computer

Snooze Your Gmail

Gmail just got an extreme makeover, and there’s more to come.

New look

Does your Gmail look a little different today?

The new version is rolling out to everyone… eventually. It looks cleaner and bolder and includes some useful features. G-Suite users will see these changes first, but you can get the new design and some of the features now if you want to.

  • Open Gmail
  • Click on the Gear icon to expand Settings
  • Click on Try the new Gmail

The page will reload, and you’ll have the new Gmail.

If you hate the new Gmail:

  • Open Gmail
  • Click on the Gear icon to expand Settings
  • Click on Go back to Classic Gmail

New features that are available now

The Compose button is enormous and colourful. (If you only see a colourful plus sign, expand that column by clicking on the three bars at the top of the screen. You can toggle that column to hide or reveal your folders.)

Smart Reply, until now only available in the Gmail mobile app, made its way into the new version.

Gmail uses machine learning to determine how you might want to reply to a message and presents you with three choices. Or, you can ignore those choices. Wouldn’t it be great if real life were like that?

There’s a Right Sidebar with links to Google Keep, Google Tasks, and Google Calendar. I’ve been using the Calendar link to view my schedule, and completely by accident discovered that dragging an email into the Calendar pane schedules an event!

Now you can Snooze an email. Hover over the subject line of an email and look to the right.

You’ll notice several icons over there, which means now you can deal with an email right there instead of having to select it and move to the top of the screen to get rid of it or archive it.

There’s a new Snooze icon there now, so if you want to get the email out of your In box but not lose track of it, Snooze it for an hour or a day, or a custom amount of time. Make it come back into your In box “Someday.”

Attachments can now be opened without first having to open an email. Be a little cautious with this! It’s a very bad idea to open attachments without thinking.

New features that don’t seem to be here yet

Even though I clicked on the Try button and got the new layout, not all the features showed up for me. According to Google, here’s what’s coming:

Use Confidential Mode to send “self-destructing” emails. That is, you can set an expiration date/time for the email to vanish. You’ll also be able to restrict forwarding and printing an email message you send. (Surely there are ways around this? Like a screenshot?)

On mobile devices, Gmail will give us easier ways to Unsubscribe to lists and more granular control over Notifications, but I haven’t seen that yet, either.

What’s not to like?

I like the new Gmail, especially Snooze. And I’m looking forward to getting the features I don’t have yet. But I was disappointed that there wasn’t any obvious way to switch between Gmail and Contacts in the same browser tab like you can in the old Gmail.

But, although not terribly obvious, the integration is even better. Click on Compose to open a new message, and then click on the To, bcc, or cc field.

Wow. You get a pop-up with all your contacts. Use the Search box there to find someone, sort by group, or make a new group. Awesome.

Have you tried then new Gmail? What do you think?



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Now what?

You just got a new computer, or you upgraded to the new version of Windows 10.

Now what?

This week, I’ll show you a few things you should do to make your computing experience a good one.

Protect yourself at all times

If you got a new computer, it probably came with a trial version of an antivirus product installed. That product is going to expire in a short time, usually a month, leaving your computer unprotected.

You have some choices.

  • Pay for the product, which is by far the easiest choice. Pay for it now or wait until it expires and pay for it then. Trust me, it will remind you.
  • Uninstall the product and replace it with a different product, which is more complicated, but you end up with the product you want.
  • Uninstall the product and don’t replace it, relying on the built-in Windows Defender. This is not a good option because Windows Defender on its own is not an effective anti-virus product. But it is a choice.

Once you’ve decided on a product and it’s installed, make sure to check the settings, so you know it’s set up properly.

You want it to do daily scans, you want the real-time protection on, and the rest is up to you to decide.

If you don’t have a new computer, but instead have completed a major update to the new version of Windows, all you need to do is remember to turn your anti-virus product back on and check the settings so you know it’s working.

Don’t forget to create a recovery drive and a backup.

Check your network properties

Windows 10 includes two types of networks, Public and Private. For a good discussion of the characteristics, check this article.

All you really need to know is that if your computer is in your home, you probably want your network set to Private, and if your computer is in a coffee shop or other public place, you certainly want it set to Public.

To change this:

  • Click on Start | Settings (or, press the Windows Key and the I key simultaneously)
  • Click on Network & Internet | Status | Change connection properties
  • Under Network profile, choose Public or Private

(Yes, there is a third type called Domain. If you have that, check with your IT person at work for more information.)

Check your privacy settings

This will get a lot easier when the spring update rolls out (It’s — finally — starting now), but in the meantime:

  • Click on Start | Settings (or, press the Windows Key and the I key simultaneously)
  • Click on Privacy
  • Review and/or change the settings for every link down the left side of the page.

Install your stuff

If this is a new computer, you’ll need to install your printer/scanner software, your Microsoft Office (or alternative) program, maybe an email program, and whatever else you need.

Just because you had it on your old computer doesn’t mean “it comes with” your new one. It probably doesn’t.

If you’ve upgraded your Windows 10, you’ll need to make sure your printer/scanner is still working. Sometimes, they need to be nudged with a reinstall of the software or drivers.

Still want to play those Windows 7 games like Solitaire and Mahjong Tiles?

Me too, but you won’t find them on a new Windows 10 machine and so far, every Windows 10 upgrade has managed to break them. Reinstall them from here.

Have fun!

Enjoy your computer!

And while you’re at it, how about sponsoring my ride for the Canadian Mental Health Association? Here’s the link.

Thank you!



Get Ready

Are you getting a new computer? Things will go smoother if you do a little prep work.

How good is your connection?

You are not going to have a good computing experience unless you have a good connection. A slow, unreliable connection is especially frustrating when setting up a new computer.

Your computer is new to you, but who knows how long it’s been in the box before you brought it home? You’re going to need to download Windows Update, software for your printers, and maybe Microsoft Office.

What else? An antivirus product? An email program? A decent browser like Google Chrome or Firefox?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started to set up a new computer and found Internet Connection from Hell. You really want to get this squared away before you bring home that shiny new computer.

Start by discovering what speed you’re paying for.

“High speed” is not a speed, it is the name of a family of products. To find out what you’re paying for, look at your bill.

It depends on who your provider is, but generally there is a number after the word Internet on the bill and that’s the speed.

If you’re not paying for at least 15 MBps, you have a slow connection. Consider contacting your provider and checking what it would cost to increase your speed.

To discover if you’re actually getting what you’re paying for, run a speed test as described here. If there’s consistently a disparity between what you get and what you pay for, contact your provider to get it sorted out.

To learn more about all this, check this beautifully written explanation over at The Gateway website.

You’ll discover how to figure out what you actually need based on what devices you have, and you’ll see some helpful guidelines about where to place your router to get the best coverage.

How good is your memory?

Passwords are irritating and confusing. To lessen the irritation and confusion, write down your passwords.

  • All your passwords.
  • For everything.
  • In one place.
  • Remember where you put the thing with your passwords in it.

Do you know your email password?

A great thing about email programs is that they remember our email passwords so we don’t have to enter the password every time we want to send or receive email. Same thing with browsers.

We can teach them to remember our banking passwords, our Facebook logins, and our library cards.

That’s super convenient until you move to a new email program, browser, or new computer. Want to get that new laptop onto your wireless network? Easy peasy. Just enter your Wi-Fi password.

We can easily set up your wireless printer with that password, too. All we need is the password.

I’ve spent many hours with my fingers hovering over the keyboard while my customers sort through piles of Post-It notes, scraps of paper, and cocktail napkins. (Yes. Really.)

People, please write down your passwords, and write down what they’re for!

Some of those scraps of paper just had passwords on them, but no indication as to what the password was for.

There are plenty of systems for keeping track of passwords. The easiest one is a pen or pencil, a piece of paper, and a place to put the piece of paper.

WHAT FOR?               SIGN IN                           PASSWORD                NOTES

Email                       [email protected]               Perfectstorm                 Changed May 2015

Facebook                [email protected]                IllNeverTell

Wi-Fi                        My_Network                         Ph0neh0me4$$$$        Home network

Apple ID                   [email protected]               AbbeyR0ad!

You can get as fancy as you want but simple is better. Whatever you use, keep it up to date!

How good is your backup?

Holy smokes, folks. Please backup your stuff regularly. Last month recent backups saved the day for more than one of my customers who had to unexpectedly get a new computer. Years of email survived the catastrophe. Read more here.

Finally…

Yes. I am retiring from fixing computer at the end of June. I will almost certainly continue writing about technology. Still figuring out the details.

Thank you all for your messages of congratulations and kind words about the column.

Yes! You can still sponsor me in the June 24 Ride Don’t Hide event. Here’s the link. We exceeded expectations and moved the bar higher.

Thank you all!



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Odds and the end

Did you know you can create a Google Calendar event without opening Google Calendar?

Well, sure you did on an Android phone or tablet, right? You can use the Google Assistant or train your device to listen when you say, “Hey, Google.”

I knew that, too, and I do it all the time. But I found out that you can do this from your computer.

I don’t know why you would want to, but maybe your situation is such that opening one more browser tab to put an appointment in Google Calendar is just too much.

This is for the folks who wishes to appear incredibly productive and geeky at the same time:

  • Open your browser to the Google search page
  • Begin typing create appointment or make appointment for and continue typing the details
  • Press Enter to see what the event would look like
  • If you’re happy with what you see, click on Create event
  • If you want to change or edit something, click on Edit event

The event will show up on your calendar. I don’t know why it says it was created from an email, but leaving that aside, everything is just as you asked. (I believe you would need to be signed in to your Google account in your browser and in your Google Calendar.)

I’m not sure I’ll ever use this, but I am sure it will come in handy for some of you!

Was your data slurped up in the Facebook Cambridge Analytica debacle?

As I mentioned several weeks ago, at least 87 million Facebook users’ data was collected and sold without the users’ knowledge. Facebook, in addressing the scandal, says they intend to notify everyone affected.

I’m guessing that will take some time.

Meanwhile, if you want to see if your information was shared with Cambridge Analytica, Facebook is sending you here.

Are we there yet?

Last week’s column discussed the rollout of Spring Creators Update for Windows 10. This would have been a timely column except that Microsoft delayed the rollout.

It doesn't exactly give reasons, but sometimes offers clues, and this appears to be related to a couple of things that cause the update to fail catastrophically for a significant number of computers.

So, save the article for when you need it, sometime soon. They also don’t give exact dates. And apparently, they don’t care about MY deadlines! I’ll try to keep you posted.

A couple more things…

A giant THANK YOU to all who have already sponsored me in the Ride Don’t Hide event.

We’ve exceeded our original goal of $500 and are nearing the revised goal of $750. If you’d like to sponsor me in this June 24 event, you can make a secure online donation.

The ride raises money for the Canadian Mental Health Association.

And … I’m announcing my retirement effective June 30.

I’ve enjoyed writing this column since 2005 (!) and I’ve enjoyed corresponding with and working with so many of you.

There may be an opportunity to continue writing about technology, so watch for updates on that. Thank you for the awesome journey.



More Getting Along With Your Computer articles

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About the Author

The Technology Shaman, Cate Eales, has been helping people make online computing safe, accessible, and fun for over 30 years.

Cate lives in Kelowna with her husband, Eric. She owns and operates Computer Care Kelowna, a mobile computer business providing on-site service for home and small business customers.

Cate is here to help you and your home or business computer get along.

E-mail Cate at [email protected] with comments, suggestions, or questions.

Computer Care Kelowna

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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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