Monday, September 30, 2013

Google Mail: Changing Your Background Theme

Have you looked at a friends Gmail inbox and seen a nice/interesting background image?  Do you want to get away from the boring white background of GMail and spruce up your screen?  Let's face it, a lot of us spend way more time looking at our inbox screen than we would like.  Shouldn't what we are looking at appeal to us?  Well the good news is that it is very easy to change the background theme of your inbox.

Here is how...

Step 1: Click on the settings gear in the top right corner of your Gmail inbox.
Step 2: Select Themes from the drop down menu.

Step 3: Choose the Theme that fits your style, or create your own custom theme (more on that later).

All Done!  No saving required.  When you select your theme it will automatically change.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Brain Pop: Beginning of the Year Training Available Online

Back to School With BrainPOP: An Overview

Perfect for newbies and veterans alike, this overview webinar covers the ins and outs of our resources. They'll discuss best practices for using BrainPOP and BrainPOP Jr. in the classroom and highlight BrainPOP Educators’ newest features. Leave this webinar with a toolkit of tips and tricks for getting the most out of your subscription.

When:Wednesday, October 2 at 3:30 pm
Sign Up: Pre-register and Join
Event Password: moby

Chrome: Adding shortcuts to your taskbar or desktop

Do you want an easy way to create shortcuts for your Google Apps (Gmail, Blogger, Docs, etc.)?  It is as easy as a couple clicks.

Step 1:
Right-click on a Chrome application from your new tab screen:
Step 2:
Select Create shortcuts...

Step 3: 
Choose Desktop, Pin to Taskbar, or both.  Click Create.

Here is what your choices would look like
New desktop icon:

...or taskbar icon:

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Google Mail: Spell Check

There are a couple ways to check your spelling in Google mail.

Spell Check in the Chrome Browser

The first is the simplest.  If you are in Google Chrome, their is an automatic spell check in the browser.
If you spell something incorrectly, it will be underlined in red.
You would then just right click on the misspelled word and select the correct spelling.

Spell Check in GMail

You can also spell check in the compose window.
Click on the triangle by the trash can in the bottom right corner.
Select "Check spelling"
The misspelled words will be highlighted.
Click on the misspelled word and select the correct spelling.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Publisher: Saving files as PDFs so everyone can open it

Do you create your newsletters in Publisher?  This is a great tool for creating newsletters, but unfortunately many of our parents do not have access to MS Publisher and therefore cannot view our awesome newsletters.

An easy solution to this problem is to save your Publisher files as PDFs.  This allows anyone who receives your document the ability to open it, regardless of the device they are using.  This is a big deal.  Last year, my husband received my son's first kindergarten newsletter on his phone.  Unfortunately it was in .pub format and he was unable to open it.  The following week the teacher sent it as a PDF and he was a happy daddy because he could now access and read the newsletter no matter where he was located.

After you create your document and save it normally, go to the File menu again and click on Save As.
In the window that opens, change the file type to PDF.  Click Save.
ALL DONE!  Really, that's it.

It gets better...
This works for word, powerpoint, and other Microsoft Office 2010 products!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Google Mail: Search your Google Mail inbox for a person/message/or subject

I frequently get asked....
In Outlook I used to be able to sort by the "from" to find a message by a particular person.  How do I do that in Gmail?

Bad News: You can't sort by the from in Google Mail
Good News: You CAN search by the from in Google Mail.  Here is how...

Step 1: While in your inbox, click on the triangle in search bar at the top of the screen.

Step 2: In the From box, type the email address for the person you are searching for.
Step 3: Click the Blue magnifying class.

Step 4: You will now see all your emails that particular person sent you.

Note: You can also search by To, Subject, Has the Words, and Doesn't Have.

Happy Searching!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Google Mail: Automatically opening mail to: links in Gmail instead of Outlook

Chrome allows web services to ask if you’d like to use them to open certain links. While most links generally take you to another page, some links can open programs and perform other actions. For example, mailto: links can open your email program.

In order to make email links open in Gmail instead of Outlook, you will need to do the following.  

When you open Gmail in Chrome, a protocol handler icon  appears in the omnibox/webaddress line next to the star bookmarks icon. 
Click it to show the following options:
  • If you'd like to allow Gmail to open all email links, select the Use Gmail radio button. When you click a hyperlinked email address on a page, Gmail's compose window will open.
  • Select No to keep how your computer opens email links the same way as before (ex: Outlook).
  • Choose Ignore to prevent the request from appearing again when you visit Gmail.
You will want to select the first option. Then select Done.
Now your email links should open in GMail instead of Outlook.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Google Mail: Renaming Labels

When your "folders" transferred over from Outlook, they all were labeled with "inbox/..." because all your folders were in your inbox in Outlook. Many of you have asked how to rename your labels/folders so they no longer say "inbox" on them. Well here you go...

  1. To rename your label, hover over your label you want to change. 
  2. A little down pointing triangle will appear next to the label. Click on that. 
  3. Select Edit. 
  4. Rename your label. 
  5. Click Save.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Google Mail: Oops, I deleted my contact - Restoring Contacts

If you make changes to your contacts that you want to undo, you can restore your full contacts list to an earlier saved version. This allows you to undo changes like:
  • Recovering contacts that have been accidentally deleted
  • Restoring contacts after an unsuccessful sync
  • Undoing a recent import
  • Undoing a recent merge
  • To restore your contacts to a previous version
Follow these steps:
  1. Click Gmail at the top-left corner of your Gmail page, then choose Contacts.
  2. From the More actions drop-down menu, choose Restore contacts.
  3. Choose the time you'd like to revert your contacts list to (e.g. 10 minutes ago, one hour ago, one week ago, etc). We suggest that you also make a note of the time that you restore your contacts, in case you'd like to return to where you started.
  4. Click Restore. You'll see a confirmation at the top of the screen when the rollback is complete.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

PowerPoint: How to Annotate your Slides during a Presentation

Have you ever wanted to annotate right on a PowerPoint slide while you were giving a presentation?  Need to call attention to a particular part of your slide?  Good News!  You are only a click away from being able to do this in PowerPoint 2010.

Choosing Your Pen

While playing your presentation/slide show...
Step 1: Right click on your slide.
Step 2: Select Pointer Options

Step 3: Select Pen or Highlighter
Step 4: You can also change the color of your ink from this same menu

To Keep or Discard Annotations

When you exit your presentation, it will ask you if you want to Keep or Discard your ink annotations.

Keyboard Shortcuts

There are also some keyboard shortcuts you can use to access your pens during a presentation.

  • ctrl+p during a presentation will turn your pen on
  • ctrl+a during a presentation will turn your mouse back in to an arrow

Turn Annotations On or Off

You can also choose to turn your saved annotations on or off.  While in the normal view of PowerPoint, click on the Review tab and select "Show Markup" to toggle back and forth between turning the annotations on and off.

YouTube: Embedding YouTube Videos in PowerPoint 2010

Sometimes you want to embed a YouTube video directly into your PowerPoint instead of having to leave the presentation to view the video.  This can be a challenge, but here are the steps to make it happen.

Like with 2003 you do have to edit parts of the is what you need to do:

Step 1: Go to YouTube and click on Share, then Embed.  Make sure you check the box that says, "Use Old Embed Code"
Step 2: Copy the code
Step 3: Open your powerpoint.  Go to Insert.  Click on Video, then Video from Website.
Step 4: Paste the embed code in the box.
Step 5: In the code: find where it says "// and change it to "  You will need to do this twice.
Step 6: In the code: find where it says version=3... and change it to version=2.  You will have to do this twice as well.
Step 7: Click Insert.

Now your video should play inside your PowerPoint.

Google Mail: Formatting an Email and Attaching Documents

Have you wondered lately how to format the emails you are composing?  How about attaching a document to your email?  In Outlook, the formatting options were at the top.  In Google Mail, the formatting and attaching options are located at the bottom of the compose window.

Let's start with formatting...
To begin, open a new message, or reply to a message.
To open the formatting tool box, click on the "A" next to the send button in the bottom left corner.
Here you will find many useful tools, like:

  • Fonts (there are 11 fonts to choose from)
  • Text size (small, normal, large, or huge)
  • Font color and highlighting/background color
  • Alignment (left, center or right)
  • Numbering and Bulleting
  • Increase or Decrease indent
  • And my personal favorite = Tx which removes formatting from text you have copied.

Next up, attaching items to your emails...
Also in the Send bar line you will see a paper clip and a plus sign.  Hovering over the plus sign will open up several attachment options.  To add the item, simply click on the icon.  Let's take a look at what is available.

  • Paperclip: Attach documents from your computer/U: drive/ etc.  Great for any documents or pictures you have saved on your computer.
  • Google Drive Triangle: Use for attaching documents you have saved in your Google drive.  Make sure the documents sharing settings are adjusted appropriately otherwise the receiver will not be able to view the document.
  • Camera: Attach a picture from your computer or a website.
  • Chain link: Attach a link to a website or email
  • Smiley face: Attach emoticons (ex: smileys, frowns, little pictures, etc.)
  • Box w/ a 31: Insert a calendar invitation 

Now you can make your emails express your personality and attach important files.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Google Mail: Creating New "Folders"/Labels

In my previous post I explained the differences between Outlook Folders and Google Mail Labels.  I also explained how to add a label to an email.

In this post, we will go over how to create new labels.

Here's how to create a label that you can add to any of your messages:

Method 1:

On the left side of the page, click More at the bottom of your labels list. (If you don't see "More," grab the gray dividing line with your cursor and drag it down to show more labels.)
Click Create new label.
Type the name of your new label and click Create.

Method 2: 

You can also create a new label for a message in your Inbox by selecting the box next to the message, clicking the Label button above your message list, and then clicking Create new.

If you are unsure if you have that label already, you can type the name of the label in the search box at the top of the menu.  If the label is not already created, it will give you the option to create new.

Happy Labeling!

Google Mail: Folders vs. Labels

In Outlook, we filed our emails in Folders.  Then when our inboxes got too full, we would archive our messages, which were then saved on our U: drives.  This wasn't a perfect process, but we all got used to it.  Now with the new email system, many people are wondering how they organize their emails.  The answer is Labels.

Here are some basics on Google Labels vs. Outlook Folders

Google Labels
  • An email can have more than one Label
  • If you delete a Label, it doesn't delete all the messages with the label
  • An email can have many Labels at once (ex - inbox, reading, 2013-2014, assessments) making it easy to find it later.
  • You can search emails by Label (ex - label:tech-tips)
Outlook Folders
  • You can only put messages in one Folder
  • If you delete the Folder everything in the folder is deleted as well
  • You have to remember which folder you put the message in so you can retrieve it later
  • You can't always do folder specific searches
So, how do you label your emails????

Step 1: Select the email you want to label, either by opening the email, or clicking the check box in front of the email.  NOTE: you can select multiple emails with the checkbox method if you are looking to add the same label to multiple emails.

Step 2: Now you have a choice.  
LABEL and Leave in Inbox
If all you want to do is add a label/s to the message, then select the icon that looks like a tag.  You can select multiple labels by holding down the ctrl key while selecting labels.

LABEL and Move out of Inbox
If you want to add labels and remove it from your inbox, then select the icon that looks like a folder.  You can select multiple "folders" by holding down the ctrl key while selecting folders.

If you just added labels and left your message in your inbox, but decided later you want to only have it in the "folders" then you simply need to click the Archive button.  This will take away the "inbox" label so the message will only be "in" the other labels you had designated.

If you trash an email, it will go in to the Trash label.  Once a message has been in the Trash for 30 days, it will be automatically deleted.  DO NOT STORE FILES IN YOUR TRASH!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Google Mail: Electronic Signature

One of the most commonly asked questions I get about Google Mail is, "How do I create a signature?".  This is a very simple process and only takes a couple clicks.

Step 1: In Gmail, open up the settings by clicking on the gear, then choosing Settings.

Step 2: Scroll 2/3 of the way down the page until you see the word "Signature".  Type in your signature.  I usually check the box that says, "Insert this signature before quoted text..."

Step 3: Scroll down to the bottom of the page and select "Save Change".

ALL DONE!  Now your electronic signature will appear at the bottom of all your emails sent from your PPS account.

Google Mail: Compose Window

The compose window in Google Mail is traditionally locked to the bottom of your screen.  This works fine most of the time, but there are some instances when in would be beneficial to have a compose window that you can move around so you can minimize your browser.  There is a very simple way to make this happen.
All you need to do in order to have a movable compose window is to hold down the shift key while you are clicking compose with your mouse....Tada!  Movable compose window.

Fixed window:

Movable window:

Friday, September 13, 2013

Google Mail: Desktop Notification

It is possible to have Google Mail send a notification on new mail to appear on your desktop.

It's in the settings. Click on the Gear. Choose Settings from the list. 

Scroll down until you see "Desktop Notifications". Select "New mail notifications on". Scroll down to the bottom of the page and select, "Save Changes".

Google Mail: Distribution Groups

Tech Tip: Distribution Groups in Gmail

Begin in your chrome browser while visiting your PortagePS Gmail.

At the upper-left corner of your gmail, you will see the compose button and above that the "Mail" title.

Click on "Mail" and you will see this drop down menu, select "Contacts".

Now under contacts you will see "New Group". Click there...

Enter a name for your new group in the dialog box that pops up. Click OK

Now that the group has been created, there are a couple of different ways to add contacts to your new list.

Method 1: Go to your new list and add contacts directly from there.

At the top of your contacts, click on the person with the "+" sign. Click in the text box. Begin typing a name and choose from the selections available. Then click "Add".

Note: You can type and select multiple contacts prior to clicking "Add".

Method 2: Go to the individual contact who wish to add to a list.

Click on the "body" button with three heads. 

Select the group you wish that person to belong to and click "Apply". This contact has now been added to your list.

To Send and Email to this Group...

Method 1: Compose an email and in the "Recipients" (or To:) field type the name of your group. It should appear as a selection.

Method 2: Navigate to your contacts, locate your group, and select the members of that group you wish to email.

Note: To select all members of the group at once, click on the "Select All" box at the top of the list.

Compose your email and then hit send. Done!

Great work! Now you can create any number of distribution groups you need in order to make your use of gmail that much more efficient.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Google Mail: The Adventure Begins

Over the next couple weeks, I am going to be writing several blog posts/tech tips about GMail.  Hopefully these tips will help you to better understand our new Google Mail system and become more comfortable with its features.  Below you will find some Important Facts, along with some FAQs, including how to set up GMail on your mobile device.

Let's start with a couple notes about GMail...

Important Facts
Your email address is the same as it has always been, usually your first initial and your last name followed by For example:

To access the new system, visit and log in with the same ID and password you use to login to your computer at school.

When we switched over from outlook, you did not lose anything!!!  If you can't find an email/folder, please let us know.  It is probably in your outlook archive on your U: Drive.  You may use outlook to access these archive emails. You will not be able to use outlook to send/receive mail.

The following items did NOT migrate and will need to be recreated on the Gmail system: custom distribution groups you created and color coding system for appointments.

Gmail is very easy to use, however it does take some getting used to. We have and will continue to provide multiple opportunities for group and one-to-one training.


Frequently Asked Questions

Tell me again, why Portage is doing this?
Quite simply, Gmail is a better fit for PPS - it has a larger storage capacity for email and attachments, is more reliable with fewer outages, it integrates with our Google Apps for Education platform and ultimately will save PPS money over the long haul.

Why aren't my old messages appearing in Gmail?
They are probably in your archive on your U: drive.  You can access these by using outlook, but you cannot send and receive emails in outlook any longer.

Will I ever be able to use outlook again?
We are not supporting outlook for day-to-day use after the switch. It does not completely integrate with the Gmail suite of services.

Did all of my mail migrate?
All of your mail, save items in archive folders or the trash, did migrate with the folder assignments they had in Outlook. If you need to access your archives, outlook will still be available for that.

Will I still be able to play my voicemail messages from my email?

Setting up your mobile device
For the most part, you'll find Gmail to be a much more pleasant experience on your mobile device than our old system. As devices differ in set-up and software, it isn't feasible to release a step-by-step guide. Please use the general guidelines below. If you need assistance, stop by the administration offices.

Android Devices
Go to your settings on your phone and add a new google account, using your portage email address and password. That's it!

iOS Devices (Apple)
You actually set up Gmail using the exchange option in the apple device. Visit for step by step instructions. Remember to use your portageps email address and password.
After this step, you may want to download the official gmail application from the app store. It's a better email client for gmail than the stock apple one.

Instructions for other devices can be found at