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Elmer Thomas Jr.
Lucky Gmail users have been able to use these features for some time now, while us Google Apps (www.google.com/a)  users have been quietly waiting. Personally, I'm glad Google took the time to get the features working flawlessly before deploying for business use. After spending some time understanding the new features, I have found some great new productivity enhancements to share.

Bookmark Emails and Searches

This is by far my favorite feature. Granted, you can usually find the email you need with a well crafted search or label. However, being able to bookmark a message is much faster when combined with RememberTheMilk.com.  Now, I can attach that well crafted search or an individual email directly to an item in my to do list, making it much easier to put that to do item in the proper context.

Colored Message Labels

Ever since I have been using a filter (Gmail allows you to create email filters) + label (you can attach a label to emails rather than put them in a folder) solution, I have accumulated a massive amount of labels. Using label color coding I can now assign the key labels I need to check regularly, bright red. That helps save time when scanning through hundreds of labels.

Updated Contact Manager

If Google would create a reliable synchronization tool that works with my Pocket PC, as well as an import tool from other popular networks, I just might dump Plaxo.com and keep it "Google simple". Until then, Plaxo.com is my preferred contact management solution.

Chat From the Browser

With this feature you can chat instantly with other Gmail users directly from your inbox. This adds convenience to instant messaging. I like not having to leave my inbox to hold a chat (or chats).

Google Sites

At first I thought this was just an update to their web builder tool. I was pleasantly surprised to find a cool intranet building tool. This will serve as a better central gateway for our team, instead of the Google Apps start page (I prefer using .com with my personal account because of greater flexibility).

The best feature of Google Sites for me, is the ability to share uploaded files. So now I can finally store all my documents in one place and Google will take care of managing the various versions.

Best of all... these services are all free!

Elmer Thomas Jr. is Co-founder of IER Solutions, Inc., an award winning web and software development company dedicated to bridging the digital divide and ATL Innovations, Inc., an online innovation company. You can find out more about Mr. Thomas at ThinkingSerious.com.

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