27 February 2009

Taking Gmail to Task [Lessons]

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I use my Gmail account as a customized, searchable archive for the many Rootsweb mailing lists to which I subscribe. While perusing these emails, I often find myself meandering through different lists, picking up tidbits of information I want to follow up on. I may jot down the name of a book I want to check out, the name of a web site I want to visit, or the name and email of a potential contact that I want to email later on. Often I jot these items down on a small piece of paper on my desk, which promptly ends up in the recycling thanks to my own foggy tidying, or the burgeoning green habits of my toddler.

I was searching for a method to organize the madness in this case, and a December post in Lifehacker gave me the answer to my problems! Easy to install, easy to use, and very VERY handy for managing tasks associated with, or originating in, your Gmail, the Gmail Task feature from Gmail Labs is a godsend for organizational freaks like me.

A warning though: the task feature, like all Labs stuff, is not promised to be entirely stable. Use of this feature is for those who don't mind spending some time out on the electronic frontier, away from the comforts of things like absolute dependability and guaranteed stability. Be wary and stay away, or be bold and grab the future! [And, as always, if a feature screws up your gmail or locks you out, you can always go to http://mail.google.com/mail/?labs=0, and the nightmare will be washed away.]

Dare to proceed? Then let's go!

Getting Started

Truly simple. Log in to your Gmail account and click on "Settings" in the upper-right hand corner. This will take you to (Tada!) your Settings page. Once there, click on the "Labs" link along the top of the Settings panel:

As the page says, the Labs section features a slew of experimental and beta features for Gmail. With the caveat mentioned above, scroll down to the "Tasks" feature, and click the "Enable" button:

Once enabled, if you return to your Gmail inbox, you'll see a "Tasks" link underneath your Contacts link, in the right-hand sidebar:

Clicking this link will open your tasks pane:

The task list is very simple click-and-type format, with the ability to do one level of indented nesting. I use this feature to create a "READ" list for emails that I want to return to when I have more time (I find this to be more useful than merely "starring" a message, which I use for very important messages I want to save.)

To add a message directly to your Task list, use the "More Actions" pulldown menu at the top of the email pane, and select "Add to Tasks":

Once added to the tasks list, you can edit the title by clicking on it, and move/indent the task by using the "Actions" menu at the bottom of the tasks pane.

Hope you find the tasks feature helpful!

25 February 2009

Primary Sources Again [Tidbit]

The LOC has a page up that allows you to view primary source materials by state. Very helpful for when you get lost in the matrix that is any government website!

[Via ResourceShelf]

24 February 2009

Primary Schooling [Tidbits]

If you're interested in what your ancestors were forced to study in school, you may be interested in the 19th Century Schoolbook Collection hosted by the University of Pittsburgh.

What child isn't immediately captivated by such works as "Analytical fourth reader : containing practical directions for reading, a thorough method of thought-analysis, a critical phonic analysis of English words, and a large number of new and valuable selections in reading"?

23 February 2009

Reading Women [Tidbit]

Middle Tennessee University hosts Discovering American Women's History, which contains links to digitized primary source and transcription collections around the web. You can browse by subject or time period, and all collections provide insight into various facets of women's lives throughout American history.

Cool random collections include:

* Fraktur Art

* Salem Witch Trial Documentary Archive

* The Historic American Cookbook Collection

20 February 2009

Best Map Resources [Roundup]

I've been map-centric in my research lately. Cartogeeking, really. Here are the sites that have really sucked me in of late:

* Panoramic Maps Collection from the LOC.

* Cultural Landscapes, also from the LOC. Waterway, resource and topographical maps, even some illustrated atlases!

* Rumsey Map Collection

* Perry Castaneda Map Collection


* Historic California Topographical Maps

* Bay Area Historical Topo Maps

18 February 2009

(Almost) Wordless Wednesdays: Mapping the Migrations

An experiment in visualizing the movement of ancestral surnames through GG-Grandparents. Some locations approximated. End points are mostly grandmothers. Makes me feel very English!

View Larger Map

17 February 2009

A Moving Experience [Personal]

Well, the housing crisis really came home for our family when we found out our former landlord was losing his house to foreclosure. I had been happy that as renters, our stake in the current mess would be limited to matters of home economics, and not to our place of residence. Unfortunately, that turned out to not be the case, and a rather impromptu and unplanned move soon followed.

We're getting settled in now, and as often happens, I see a lot of possibility and happiness in our new home and neighborhood. It was just an expensive and exhausting adventure to get us here! Follow the chaos of boxes, boxes, boxes with the recent (much-needed) waterlogging of our area (paired with an outdoorsy toddler) and things have been a mite rough. I'm glad to say, though, that my files are unpacked, the number of boxes are dwindling, and things are getting back on course. I hope to be posting regularly again by the end of the week. Thanks everyone for your patience!