How to use Gmail as a free and useful backup

By Geri L. Dreiling, Esq.

Email client down

A few weeks ago, my Outlook died. Technically, it didn’t die, it just wouldn’t open. Errors were detected in a file and I needed to run an inbox repair tool. Unfortunately, the repair tool was difficult to find.

In the interim, I still needed to respond to work emails. My firm email is through Go Daddy and I could log into Web mail to review my emails. I could also retrieve my emails using my Samsung Galaxy SIII and on my iPad. But I was having a hard time organizing the incoming messages.

That’s when I decided to use Gmail as a temporary fix. I already have a Gmail account but I haven’t used it for work. I didn’t want my clients to receive an email from a address. But Google offers a way around the issue. Gmail subscribers who own other email addresses may add them to Gmail and send an email using that outside address.

When you send from Gmail, your clients aren’t likely to notice. The “from” line has your work email address listed. There might be a “mailed by Gmail” header appearing after your work email address but it is not intrusive.

Adding an Outside Email Address to Gmail

If you want the flexibility of using a Gmail account but you don’t want to respond to clients using a Gmail address, here are the steps to follow for adding an outside email address to Gmail:

  1. Navigate to settings.

    Gmail settings

  2. Click on the “Accounts and Import” tab.Gmail accounts and import menu
  3. Scroll down to “Send mail as” and select “Add another email address you own.”Adding an external email address
  4. Add the email address when prompted by the pop-up window and hit next.Add another email address in Gmail
  5. You can choose whether to send your email through Gmail or the SMTP server of the email address you are adding. I chose the send through Gmail which activated an email to my law firm website account with an approval link. I clicked on the link by accessing my email account via Go Daddy’s Web mail.Send email through Gmail
  6. I then navigated back to the accounts and import tab and selected the option that allows me to automatically reply from the same email address as the message was sent.Reply from the same address in Gmail

I did eventually fix my Outlook. (For more, read here.) However, I haven’t made the switch back to the Microsoft program. Instead, I’m still relying on Gmail as my central email dashboard.

Organizing Emails in Gmail

I’m still experimenting with creating an organizing system in Gmail that is intuitive for me but here are a few quick tips.

  • If an email involves an action item that cannot be resolved with a quick response, I click the star option so I don’t lose track of the item.Starred email
  • I use Gmail labels as folders. For emails that contain information I might need to refer back to while working on a project, I attach the label and move them out of the inbox to reduce the clutter. You can even color-code labels by hovering the cursor over the label listing in the left margin of the page.using tags as email foldersselect Gmail label color
  • If you use keyboard shortcuts, try pressing the “?” key when your cursor is on the screen but not in any of the input fields. A Gmail shortcut reference card will appear on the screen. You can also check the full Gmail shortcut list here.
  • Use the search box at the top of the screen to track down emails. The search can be micro-targeted to specific tags.

Filter Emails

Finally, to reduce the clutter in your email inbox, you can create filters by following these steps:

  • Perform a search in the search box for an email address ( email from
  • If you are given the search results you desired, click the drop-down arrow at the right edge of the search box and the advanced search options appear. You can even refine your search using these options.
  • At the bottom right there’s a link with the text: “Create filter with this search.” Click it.Create a Gmail search to filter
  • The next square that appearing is intuitive. You can select “Apply the label” to file the email as well as “Never send it to spam” to prevent missing an important email from your trusted contacts. Then click “create filter” and apply to all previous matching conversations.Apply an email filter in Gmail
  • Another option to create, edit or disable filters is to select Gear icon > Settings > Filters.

For more tips on advanced search features in Gmail, Google has prepared this chart. And recently, Google announced that it has launched a field trial to preview improvements to Gmail search features.

Have you used Gmail for work? Do you have any tips you’d like to share? If so, we welcome your ideas and suggestions in the comments section below this post.