I’ve been using G-Suite for a long time at this point.
Long enough that I still occasionally catch myself referring to it as Google Apps.
There are many G-Suite hacks and tricks that I need to document — although I’m certain that quite a few of them likely expressly violate that provider’s Terms of Service.
But to get things going, here are a couple of things you can do with Google Groups (besides the obvious and intended function of, you know, actually creating email lists).
1. Set up a newsletter “inbox”
I’ve always been extremely particular about my inbox management — and communication platforms in general.
I strongly favor one-to-one, rather than one-to-many, digital communication — at least to the extent that it is practicable (clearly, a subordinate might be contractually required to receive group communications and reports by email from middle management, for example). It’s my main bone of contention with WhatsApp groups, among other fora.
In fact, I believe that most people would be far closer to that illustrious goal of zero inbox than they might imagine if they only found a way to segregate their group subscriptions from their actual person-to-person email correspondence.
Their inboxes, they may find, might in fact be surprisingly manageable were it not drowned out by the noise of a daily torrent of email marketing and the egregious over-use of the carbon copy function that has overtaken the corporate world (unfortunately, I do not have a technical remedy for this).
Before you point it out, dear reader, yes I am aware that Gmail offers inbox categories including one for just this purpose: newsletters. Unfortunately, in addition to being highly particular about inbox management, I am also a contrarian.
I have my own system for determining the content of messages (shown below), based primarily on some simple Boolean queries that Gmail’s filter creator allows its users to deploy. This does everything from sorting voicemails to putting all utility bills in the right inbox folder — and I even have some residual client archiving rules on my personal inbox.
Additionally, I try to avoid duplicating messages and notifications from other platforms where possible (which is my issue with the idea of a “social” inbox — although ideally I would backup these social “inboxes” just to protect the data).
Although channeling mass newsletters into a separate sub-inbox is a step in the right direction, I’d rather keep these communications in a separate system altogether such that clicking the most broad Gmail button, “All Mail” will still show as many personal emails as possible and all archives and backups of email will show only, well, email correspondence.
Regrettably, up until very recently, I simply maintained a very strict zero newsletter policy to make this preference a reality.
In practice, this wasn’t actually quite the case and I subscribed to a few particularly good newsletters as well as HARO Alerts — an essential notification for anybody walking either side of the journalist / publicist tandem.
But it still meant clicking the “unsubscribe” button multiple times a day — for (literally) years in order to avoid the vast majority of automatic and stealth opt-ins that occurred every time I tried out a new online service or connected with somebody on LinkedIn (a lot!).
Clearly this was undesirable — although my inbox has been quite delightfully streamlined for years, I was almost certainly missing out on a world of information conveyed only by email.
Enter stage: the group newsletter inbox.
After the lengthy preamble, it may come as a disappointment (but no surprise) to learn that my first hack is merely to set up a Google Groups address to serve as a sort of newsletter-only inbox.
Above is my group notification page for the first such inbox I created.
I recently signed up for former CIA agent Andrew Bustamante’sEveryday Spy newsletter. I also updated the subscription address on my friend Peter Duffy’s newsletter, How Curious, As a result, neither of these subscriptions touch my inbox at all. I have bookmarked this page next to my main Gmail bookmark and can simply check into it once every few days — without fearing that my once clutter-free inbox will suddenly be overcome with notifications.
Two configuration changes are important for this to work properly (I’m using the “old”, non-Gsuite UI to demonstrate these as the question of which will reign supreme seems to remain perpetually unanswered).
2. Under Settings -> Moderation ensure that all options to moderate messages are disabled. Until I did this, the spam filter was flagging a significant amount of legitimate newsletters as spam.
Perfectly good email marked as spam by Gmail prior to moderation setting edit:
Finally, don’t forget to set your update preferences to “don’t send email updates” to ensure that the newsletters don’t, in fact, continue to touch your inbox.
Here’s what my HARO Alerts Google Group looks like. It’s great to have these in a separate area as I try to go through them at least once in a while.
2. Forward your mail to backup inboxes
I use Two Factor Authentication (2FA) on virtually all my accounts and suggest that anybody do the same. As we all know, strong passwords no longer cut the mustard when it comes to keeping the bad guys out.
However, 2FA obviously has its downsides.
For one, I can no longer rely on simply memorizing my password to have access to my inbox from any internet-connected device anywhere in the world. (I carry a Thetis key on my keychain, but, you know).
As a result, I created a group called “Email Duplicator” with the sole purpose of creating backup copies of my mail from more easily accessible programs.
Yes this sort of defeats one of the benefits of 2FA — securing your data behind a stronger authentication method. But viewed otherwise, you get the advantage of keeping the most important benefit of second factor authentication — preventing access to the account itself — while giving yourself a couple of backup access options for your email if you’re in a pinch.
I opted to send the relay to:
- My ProtonMail address (for end-to-end PGP encryption)
- A Gmail with regular security
- Another address I operate at GMX.com
To finish setup, go into your Gmail settings and under “Forwarding and POP/IMAP” set up a forward for all your inbound mail to this Google Group address.
Naturally, you will need to wait for and click the verification code.
3. Add “free” extra email addresses by spoofing them elsewhere
Gmail’s own security for authenticating additional sender addresses has improved substantially in recent months.
However, other services have not caught up quite so quickly.
- If you need another address, [email protected], simply set up a Google Group with yourself as the sole member.
- Sign up for a Mailchimp account, or another email provider whose authentication method relies upon you confirming a verification email to that address. Note: this can also be achieved by simply setting up a catchall if you are the only user on the G-Suite domain. As shown below, the process is incredibly straightforward.
- You now have an additional account you can “send as” which is not billed as an additional G Suite user.
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Daniel Rosehill is a technology writer and marketing communications (MarCom) professional based in Jerusalem. Originally from Cork, in Ireland, Daniel’s diverse set of interests include Linux and open source technology; backups and disaster recovery (and naturally, digital prepping); and language-learning and travelling.