12. Gmail as a Database (from 13 Gmail hacks for teachers – http://u.eduk8.me/13gmailhacks)

This is part 12 of 13 Gmail hacks for teachers.

We can take the same idea of journaling with Gmail and use it to save almost anything in our Gmail account. The advantage to using Gmail for data storage is the fact that email is ubiquitous and Google makes it really easy to search.

Setup

Follow the steps in setting up journaling, except the database email address will be an alias with +db instead of +journal and the label will be Database instead of Journal. To add information to your database, you’ll email it to [email protected]. The information will be filed under the Database label and skip the inbox.

Using

So where do you use it? For any piece of information that you would like to save for future use, you email it to [email protected]. Examples include:

  • Website addresses (the Chrome extension Send from Gmail makes this easy).
  • Pictures of flyers, handouts, etc. (Use with an app like Camscanner for the best results.)
  • Emails that contain information you want to save. Add the label Database to those emails

I would not use this for time sensitive information or for tasks that need to be completed. Your To Do label would make more sense. For non-textual information like pictures, you will want to include information in the subject and/or the body of the email message so you can search for the information later. Unlike Google Drive, Gmail can’t look inside of pictures for text.

Searching

But why would you set this up instead of dumping everything into Gmail? The first reason is to keep these emails out of your inbox. You could simply email everything to yourself, but then you’re stuck archiving it or, worse, leaving everything in your inbox. A bigger reason is to use label:Database as a search term when trying to retrieve information from your database. Sure, you could always search your whole mailbox, but sometimes its hard to separate the wheat from the chaff (you know, I don’t use farming metaphors enough in these posts).

To find information in your database, search for your item and include label:database in the search field. This will limit your searches to only those emails labeled with databases, cutting down on the number of results returned.

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