Why Use Gmail (Googlemail) – Five Very Good Reasons

Why use Gmail? Deliverability, spam controls, labels, storage , aliases, multiple email addresses, filters – AND it’s free or very cheap.

At time of writing, I have 63,704 messages totalling 1.79GB and I pay all of $5 a year for an extra 20GB which gives me 36GB total storage for all my Google activities. My oldest message in one of my oldest accounts (I have several) is dated July 2006 (older messages were deleted) and reminds me that I bought a Nokia E70 cell phone (mobile) – which was state-of-the-art at the time. Ah, such memories. All sitting there for over 8 years! An even older email account goes back to 2001.


So, let’s take a look at five good reasons for using Gmail – or you can use it’s full name of Googlemail if you prefer – both work eg joeblogs@gmail.com is inter changeable with joeblogs@googlemail.com.

1. Deliverability. By this I mean your messages getting out to people and also you getting theirs. As with all email systems, you still need to frequently check your  spam box for ‘false-positives’, but most e-newsletters will accept Gmail accounts without question, whereas Hotmail, Yahoo and especially AOL may be banned from most simply because they all bounce too many messages.  This was happening 10 years ago too, when I ran a company newsletter – we had to stop people signing up with AOL accounts.

2. Collect messages from any number of your other accounts and have them all come into one. Use a filter on the other ones – which can be your own domain, another free account or other Gmail accounts. Have them all come into one central email reader. Gmail let’s you set it up so that when you reply it says it’s from the same account the sender wrote to. Very clever and saves a lots of time!

3. Labels are folders, but all in one place. When you want to keep messages of a certain subject, or from a certain person or company, all in one place, you used to have to set up folders and filters. Then go through each folder to read them. Well, Gmail is a bit more clever.  You can set up a label on an open message, then set up a filter for other messages to have that label as well. In your main inbox and All Mail box you will see the label at the top of the message, but you can also go directly to the folder of the same name to see them all. If you want to remove a message from that folder, just remove the label. I find this works very well if there are several members of staff who need to see a particular message, or it has information or questions which need answering by more than one of us. Add a label for each person. They see all their messages in one folder and when they have done their bit, they simply delete their label. Simple.

4. Inexpensive storage space. $5 for 20GB of extra storage space is brilliant. No need to worry about running out of room. The downside is that we all tend to forget to delete messages! My 63000+ can probably be cut down to several thousand if I took the time to go through them all. But it’s quite an historic record of my activities, so I think I’ll keep them there!

5. Integration with your Smartphone/cell phone. To get the most benefit on your Android device, you need to Register with a Gmail/Google account. This has several benefits. Firstly, it’s a continuous backup for your contacts – so no need to worry about transferring them all when you change phones. Register with Google Wallet and you can instantly by app upgrades without too much fuss. It’s great for looking after important documents, photos, music e-books too. In fact, the whole Google experience is a whole book in itself – and not the purpose of this blog post.

There are lots of things which having a Google account can do for you, but eMail is probably the first thing which comes to mind.

There have been reports of Google suddenly closing down accounts without warning. No idea why, but it happens from time to time. I use an email client (Thunderbird) on my pc and all my messages come down to that – as well as on my mobile. It’s a form of backup, so I shouldn’t lose everything if there is a hiccup but it’s also because I work in different ways depending what piece of equipment I’m using.

I’ll be looking at other aspects of email in my next post, but for now, let’s just say that I’m very happy with my 10 Gmail accounts and can’t imagine life without them.

Until next time.


All about email

For a long time, I’ve been wanting to do a series of mini posts to help people with their use of email. I don’t mean setting up or technical stuff, but rather the best way to use it as a tool – especially if you work in a non-tech environment, but don’t really know anything about how to use it.

Oh well, I know what I mean, so let’s see how it goes – just want to sort out this page and I’ll be back as soon as I can.

Here’s a tip to get started





Setting Up A New Computer – The Five Things I Always Do First

It’s great having a brand new computer (PC for short). You can set everything up just the way you would like it. When I set up a new computer, here are the five things I always do first. At the end of the post I will list the programs I currently use on my laptop. (BTW, when I speak of a PC I mean desktop, laptop, notebook – not tablets, and certainly not iPads. MACs or Linux machines).

laptop image

I just recently upgraded my laptop to an Asus X75V – so now is a good time to summarise how I set it up for real.

  1. First and foremost I get my Anti Virus or Security Suite loaded up and running. The two are different, by the way. Anti Virus, is usually just that, whereas a Security Suite does more. Which you get depends on how much you want to pay. I’ll go into details in another post. For this purpose, I really want to stress that getting your AV sorted out as quickly as possible is a must.
  2. Updating Windows and setting it to update automatically. As soon as they leave the factory, PCs are out of date. For security reasons, you must install all the updates which have come through since. Sometimes there will be a lot. The AV program may well prompt for you to do this anyway – DON’T SKIP IT! I just let the system do it’s job before I go on to the next step.
  3. Keeping in touch with the outside world is important to me, so I like to download my email messages to my PC so that I can sort and move them around however I want. Also means that even with our very slow broadband connection, I can do my messages at my leisure. I use Thunderbird as my email client and download from 5 accounts a the moment. So, setting up my email client is number two on my list.
  4. Browser comes next. It may be that this will jumpt to the top of my list, depending on when I do what, but my favorite browser and the one I am most comfortable using is Firefox. I’ll set this as my default and pop on the add-ons I need asap.
  5. The absolutely essential piece of software I must have avaialble straight away is OneNote. This is my project book and comes into my Top Five things I always do first simply because it is so easy to use. 90% of my online biz and non-biz information is stored in OneNote. It’s my personal assistant and has been for years.

So, that’s about it. I would then go on to add all my programs and set up my screens and taskbar, but these five items have top priority every time.

I usually upgrade my PC every two or three years. It provides a good opportunity for me to have a clear out, not install again those programs I have never used, and ring the changes with colour schemes and themes. My desktop looks very different now to what it did five years ago, let alone 30 when I first started using computers in the 1980s!

Do add a comment if you would like to – or if you would like to ask a question or make a suggestion as to what you would like me to cover in future posts. Keep it short so other readers will take an interest too.

Here’s my list:

  1.     Currently using BitDefender Total Security Suite 2014. bitdefender imageThey have a free AV option, but the whole suite is a good price on Amazon. I’ve   tried lots of the freebies, but they all seem to nag me to upgrade too much, or slow my pc down. MS Defender/Security Essentials was also a favourite, but MS are not keeping them updated as they used to,m so not a good choice these days.



  1. I used to have Windows download the updates and just tell me they were there, but then I’d skip running them. Not a good idea. The hackers like to look for PCs which are out-of-date. Better to let the system do it all automatically. The last thing you want is hackers coming in!
  2. Thunderbird is almost as good as Eudora was! Most of my accounts are with Gmail (googlemail), thunderbird logobut I also have some domains which I send to my gmail accounts. My main three I also access on my mobile. Thunderbird is an email ‘client’. I have set it up so that I can reply as from the address the message was sent to (gmail does that too). I don’t like hotmail or yahoo – far too nosey and intrusive with ads.
  3. If you don’t have a favourite browser, do try out some of the alternatives like Chrome. Opera, Firefox. Internet Explorer comes as standard, but with a new pc you are given a choice of which one you want to set as your default.
  4. OneNote (from Microsoft) is bundled with the Office Suites, but you can also buy it separately. onenote logoIt’s very similar to Evernote and Springpad – the latter I use on my mobile as it’s a great way to make quick notes. I’ll be honest – I do have OneNote on my mobile now, but have yet to set it up – the main reason I haven’t is because of the mass of info I keep on it, which I don’t need when I’m out and about.

In a future post I will introduce some of the other bits and pieces I use on my computer which you may find useful too, but for now at least you know the five things I always do first when I’m setting up my computer!


Top Ten Android SmartPhone Apps

[Update September 2014 – I still use all of these apps and consider them must-haves!]

OK, so these will be ‘in my humble opinion’, but here my top ten android smartphone apps which I will not do without – and I’m even going to put them in priority order! These are the less common apps – I haven’t included GMail, Facebook, Twitter and other social sites, or Google Maps, iPlayers, News apps, games etc as these you know about already and will find very easily. Most of my Top Ten Android Smartphone Apps are free, but some have more options when you upgrade (and they lose the ads too).

At time of writing the apps are either FREE or FREE + PAY which means you can try them for free then stay free with ads or upgrade to get more options and no ads. PAY means there is no free option – but you do have 15 minutes to test it and ask for a refund.

To find the app in Google Play (Store) search for the words in CAPITAL LETTERS.

  1. GO LAUNCHER and some of the other Go apps. Go Launcher lets you have more 5 screens, so I have set mine up by categories ie Main has the programs I use most – GMail, Alarm, Camera, Calculator etc, one screen has mostly games, another news and similar topical stuff and so on. I also have them set to scroll round, so that when I get to the last one it starts again at the first without me having to scroll back. through them all. Also, pinching two fingers from top to bottom shows all the screens so I can quickly go to the one I want. Go Launcher gives you lots of other features and you need it to run the other Go apps. It’s free, but some of the themes you need to pay for, but don’t have to unless you really like them. FREE + PAY for some of the other Go Store apps.
  2. SPEEDVIEW is one for car drivers as well as walkers – but in your car you must use a phone holder because you need to see the display! It shows your current speed by using GPS satellites which it asks to be enabled when it starts up (used to do this itself, but Android won’t let it do that now – I have my phone’s gps on all the time anyway). Car speedos are by law (at least here in the UK), designed to read slightly high. When your speedo reads 30mph, you are actually doing anything from 26-29. The GPS speed is more accurate so when that shows as 32mph, my speedo shows 30mph. It has other useful settings too, but the speed reading is the one I use it for on my daily commute and most of my other journeys. Oh, and if you want to experiment, try the HUD (Heads Up Display). You will need a sticky mat to place the phone on top of your dashboard so that it reflects in the windscreen. Clever. FREE + PAY
  3. BRIGHTEST FLASH is a nice and simple torch app. Has some simple settings which go beyond the ones usually included in the phone software. FREE
  4. RISE UP! is an amazing alarm clock radio on your android phone. It’s a recent addition for me, (thanks to my SOs recommendation) and the only thing it doesn’t do is have a time projector. It has so many different settings to play with – wake up to tones, music, radio, vibrate as well as the option to have two or more different alarms on the same day for different times. The display can be dimmed down and it’s ideal if you have a phone stand and want to see the time all night as you can keep the display set to ‘on’. A new addition to my Top Ten Android Apps. FREE
  5. BARCODE SCANNER – a very simple app which sits on my front screen. Scan the barcode or QRcode and you can even go directly to the website it links to. PAY
  6. SPRINGPAD is a notebook on your phone which is stored in the ‘Cloud’ so can be accessed from any computer as well. Very useful for saving notes, check lists, special photos – all kinds of things. I tried other similar apps like various To-Do lists, Evernote etc, but Springpad works well for me. You can set up all kinds of categories. FREE
  7. ES FILE EXPLORER is not something I need to use very often, but it proves very useful from time to time. It links to my home network as well, so I can find music on our server and move it across to my phone (and vice versa). Let’s me look at my SD card contents more easily too. FREE
  8. XE CURRENCY is a great app for checking different currencies. I needed it to check Euros against GBP, but have ended up using it for work where I need USD, CDN$, AUS$, NZD$, HKD$ as well. I can have my main currency at the top and all the others underneath and be able to switch between them all and see the different rates when I change just one. FREE
  9. EASY PROFILER or PROFILE SCHEDULER (only one at a time!) are both excellent for setting up your mobile to change things at certain times of the day or under certain conditions. PAY.
  10. UTILITAS is another of my SOs recommendations. Has 16 useful gadgets on it including a spirit level, ruler, plumb line, and sunrise/sunset calculator. FREE


So there you are. My Top Ten Android Smartphone Apps which I won’t do without. Of them all, I would say the profilers at no 9 are the most complex to set up, which is why I have them both shown here. They work in slightly different ways and I can’t make up my mind which one I prefer!

I also use some of them on my Android Tablet, but I’ll save writing about that for another day.



Tuff-Luv British Racing Green Case for Amazon Kindle Keyboard with Light – Review

Tuff-Luv British Racing Green Case for Amazon Kindle Keyboard with Light

Time for a product review. I already have a cover & light for my Kindle Keyboard, so when I was sent this one to review I thought I would go to town on a direct comparison. So here you are:

Tuff-Luv Case with light

This is a very well designed case/cover for the Amazon Kindle Keyboard in a lovely British Racing Green colour and with the gorgeous smell of real leather. The whole case has a soft padded feel to it which gives the impression that my Kindle will be well protected by this Kindle Cover.

There is a magnetic clip tab which fastens on the bag to keep the cover closed and another small tab which folds over the top Kindle once it is in place and fastens neatly with Velcro to stop it falling out at the top. This is not at all intrusive.

Looking from left to right at the open case, on the inside of the front (left) cover is a slip pocket which would be ideal for thin papers (not too much so as not to risk scratching the Kindle’s screen) and this incorporates a credit card size clear-fronted pocket which could hold your business card, perhaps to show who it belongs to.

Tuff-Luv Case back view

There’s an elastic loop flush with the spine which will hold a pen or the light if you want to keep the two together.

Having extricated the cardboard protection from the right hand side (no mean feat) it did take quite a bit of strength to slide my Kindle Keyboard right down to the bottom as it is a very tight fit. Once in place it all looks very neat and all the buttons and sockets are available to use. The stitching is very neat and there is only a very slight looseness with the top-most piece which may be seen as the beauty of having real leather. I’m not sure how well the little Velcro tab at the top will last if I keep taking my Kindle in and out. Altogether it adds136g (4.7 ounces) to the weight of the reader for a combined weight of 365g (12.8 ounces) – without the light.

Turning it over, there are two very neat cut-outs with silver coloured grills for the Kindle Keyboard’s rear speakers. The whole cover closes with a very succinct ‘click’ when fastened.

Now for the light. This is a Tuff-Luv Spark light and it comes in a clear plastic display case which easily comes apart without needing scissors. It includes three minute button cell batteries which it says will last up to 72 hours. The batteries are small and a bit fiddly and you need to be careful to open the packet over a tray or table so that they don’t fall out onto the floor.

Tuff-Luv Spark light

There are no instructions for installing the batteries, but it was easy enough to work out that they make a little stack inside the base of the light – once you’ve been able to open it! However, having installed the batteries with the plus side to the top, there is no way to keep it  switched on – I assume mine was broken and I had to hold the strange switch at the bottom all the time.

Now, at first I supposed this light is designed to clip into the elastic loop on the inside spine of the cover, but it was really difficult to put it in place. There is also a leather loop on the outside right of the cover and it seems to fit nicely there – as per the photo. Unfortunately the clip has too thin a gap to clip over the sides of the cover itself and I wouldn’t want to risk tearing or scratching the leather by forcing it or using it in the same place every time, even if it were to work well.

Tuff-Luv case with light on right

When storing the light by wrapping it over the top and under the top tab from the spine loop, it doesn’t allow the cover to close properly; if mounted on the right side loop, it does look a lot neater and can be rolled over the top and can still be held in place by the top velcro tab, but then the magnetic cover clip doesn’t fit well. (Also more potential strain on the velcro tab.)

On to the light. The problem with lights for any Kindle is the spread and brightness of the light itself. A single bulb, LED or other, is not going to be able to span the width and length of the reader all at once, so you will need to adjust it as you read. Kindles not being the same size as books, this means that you will need to adjust it every few seconds if you are a fast reader.

With the Tuff-Luv Spark Light mounted either side, and even though it has a bendy stem which is not too stiff, there is no way it illuminates the ‘page’ adequately from either, or in fact any, position.

Located so that it does its best to illuminate the whole screen, there is an awful glare spot which is only out of site if the Kindle is held at the sort of angle which requires you to move your head up and down when reading – so not at all relaxing.  Even mounted exactly as per the photo, it is so flimsy that it takes forever to set up, will move on you and still hurts the eyes.

I found the light coverage to be poor and the strength of light was not as good as I would like. Having used it for just a few seconds I still have spots in front of my eyes and I don’t think I could read for any length of time with this light. I much prefer the Kindle Kandle style light which fits so much better, has three LEDs and doesn’t give out any annoying glare.

My favourite Kindle light

I love this really excellent quality leather Tuff-Luv Kindle Cover but it is really let down by the addition of the dreadful light. For that reason I would recommend buying the cover separately. But I would like it even better if it had a back-stand so that I didn’t always have to hold it.

Bottom Line: Love the cover – HATE the light! Buy them separately.