Over the past few weeks I had been working on a presentation for the Wellington Regional Primary (school) Principals Association. One of the surprising facts that came out of the preconference online survey I conducted was that 89 per cent of the principals (thus schools) used Gmail and Google Docs.

Therefore of course I had to update my skills and knowledge of these two programs.

While I'm an avid Outlook fan because of the stunning integration with the other Microsoft software - such as calendar, Excel and Word, you could have blown me away with a feather with the new Gmail features I discovered.

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As with any other software program, they're all hidden these gems, and in this day and age, who has the time to snoop around your software and try to eke out time saving features. In Gmail, many of them are hiding in labs.

Here's an example.

Problem: To save time, previewing your emails without having to open each one to see what is inside.

In Outlook, you have two options.

First the preview- which can be one, two or three lines. Then you have the Reading Pane which will show the content of the email either vertically (1/3 of your inbox on the right) or horizontally - the bottom half of your inbox shows the email.

Screenshot / Debbie Mayo-Smith
Screenshot / Debbie Mayo-Smith

You'll find that Gmail has this Preview Pane feature ( thought it's like the Outlook Reading pane showing the email both vertically and horizontally). You'll find it in LABS and has to be activated.

"LABS"you say? Where's that:

Click the gear box (settings) select Labs and scroll down for Preview Pane. Click enable.

If you don't have LABS, that means the administrator of your account hasn't enabled it.

Ask them to do so as there are a heap of goodies there waiting to save you time.