For this week’s TIME.com Technologizer column, I wrote about Gmail–a service which I find both indispensable and frustrating. In that story, I didn’t account for all of Gmail’s pros and cons, though. And one major pro is that there are an array of third-party tools that teach Gmail new tricks.
Here are four of my favorites:
1. Rapportive. Add this plug-in to Firefox, Chrome, or Safari, and Gmail’s ads go away. But that’s not the cool part–what the ads get replaced with are social profiles of the people who send you e-mail, with photos, bios, and other info pulled in from sources such as Twitter and Facebook.
2. 0Boxer. Some of us need a little encouragement when it comes to tending to our e-mail. 0Boxer turns it into a game, by rewarding you with points as you manage your Gmail–and keeping track of the top scorers in a leaderboard.
3. Mailplane. If you use Gmail on a Mac, this utility lets it run like a standalone app rather than a Web site. It’s particularly handy if you have more than one Gmail account. $24.95 (after a free trial) and worth it.
4. Gmail for Mobile. The version of Gmail you get in your browser on iPhones and Android handsets is one of the best Web-based apps for smartphones to date. It’s quite powerful but without all the clutter of full-blown Gmail–which is why I sometimes trick desktop browsers into thinking they’re mobile so I can run it on a laptop.
Got any favorite Gmail tools or tips of your own to share?