June 20, 2015

Gmail Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

The topics below represent many of the most commonly posted questions to the Gmail Help Forum. If your question is not covered below then you should try the following steps:

Index of questions (by forum category)

Account Access and Safety
Composing and Sending Messages
Reading and Receiving Messages
Managing Settings and Mail
Contacts and Sync

Questions and Answers

How do I get help and support?

The best source of help is the Google Help Center for your e-mail product:  Gmail, Inbox, or Google Apps. This provides online articles and troubleshooters that cover most everything you might need to know about Gmail.

Next would be to enter your question in the search bar of the Google Help Forum for your e-mail product:  Gmail, Inbox, or Google Apps.  These are Google managed user-to-user forums.  Since most questions about Gmail have been asked before, the greatest value is using search to find a question like yours that has already been answered.

Blogs written by expert users is another source of detailed information about the product. A partial list of such blogs in included in the forum post: Gmail Support Options

Google does not make use of any third-party companies for support. Still, a web-search on "Gmail support" will generate a list of third-party support sites. None of these sites are officially endorsed by Google, even if they claim otherwise.

Help Centers
Help Forums
Gmail Forum: Gmail Support Options

My account was hacked, how do I get it back?
My password no longer works, how do I get a new one?

If you are unable to log into your account, you will need to go to https://accounts.google.com/signin/recovery (also accessible from the "Need help?" link on the sign in page).  There you will have one or more of the following options:
  1. Using a pre-configured recovery phone.
  2. Using a pre-configured recovery email.
  3. Prove ownership by answering questions about the Google account (last password, creation date), receiving a verification code to an e-mail or phone, or providing other information.
The message beginning “Google couldn’t verify it’s you…” means you have not been able to prove ownership of the account. Repeating the process will not help unless you can provide more accurate information or attempt it on a computer/device normally used to access the account.

There are no other options for account recovery, and Google will not return an account unless you can prove ownership of it. If all three of the above fail then the account is probably lost

Help Center:  Account recovery options
Expert Blog:  Gmail Account Recovery and Security
Gmail Forum:  I can not access my Gmail account

Why am I receiving e-mail to an address similar to my own?

Gmail ignores both dots "." and caps in both account creation and e-mail delivery.  That means first.last@, firstlast@, and First.Last@ all represent the same account.  If you receive e-mail intended for someone else then either the sender accidentally used the wrong e-mail address, or they were given the wrong e-mail address.

Help Center:  Receiving someone else's mail
Expert Blog:  Wrong email! The GMail "dots issue"

Why am I receiving e-mail addressed to an address different than mine?

If you receive e-mail intended for someone else using an address with different characters or numbers in the address, it could be because your address is in the BCC field (very common for spam) or because the receiver made an error in auto-forwarding sending them to the wrong account.

Gmail Forum:  E-mail with no similarity
Gmail Forum:  I'm getting someone else's emails

My account may have been accessed by someone else, how to I secure it?

In order to fully secure your account you must check both your Gmail account settings (Gmail Security Checklist) and your Google account settings (Account Security Checkup).

Help Center:  Gmail Security Checklist
Help Center:  Account Security Checkup
Expert Blog:  How To Secure Your Account

How do I change my Gmail account password?

To change your Gmail password, use a browser to log into the Gmail web interface at https://mail.google.com/ then go to:  Settings -> Accounts -> Change Account Settings -> Change Password.

Help Center:  Change or reset your Google Account password
Gmail Forum:  I want to change my Gmail password

How do I make a password no-one can hack?

Pick a strong password including letters, numbers and other allowed symbols, and keep it just for Gmail - don’t use it on other sites. 
Help Center:  Creating a strong password
Expert blog:  How NOT To Get Hacked

How do I sign into a different Gmail account?

To switch the account you are viewing, start by signing out of whatever account you are in,  then go to https://mail.google.com/ and sign into the account you want to access.

To signing into another account you own in addition to the current one, click on your picture/avatar in the upper/right and select “Add account” from the drop-down panel.

Help Center:  Sign out
Help Center:  Sign in to multiple accounts at once
Gmail Forum:  Signing in as different user

How do I recover deleted messages?

The answer to this is dependent on when (less or more than 30 days) and why (by you or due to a compromised account) the messages were deleted.

Help Center:  Recovering deleted messages
Help Center:  Delete messages
Gmail Forum:  Recover deleted emails in Gmail after 30 days

Google says I have violated the Terms of Service (ToS). What do I do?

If you are notified that your account has been disabled and you feel it is a mistake, a link will be provided under “Next steps for disabled accounts” where you may submit an appeal.

Help Center:  Account has been disabled
Help Center:  Google Terms of Service
Help Center:  Gmail Program Policies

I can’t set up a Send Mail As address in Gmail for my Google Apps account.

To set up a Google Apps for Work address for Send Mail As, you must use the Gmail outgoing mail server. So your settings need to read:
    SMTP Server: smtp.gmail.com (over-write any suggestion Gmail may have entered)
    Port number: 465 using SSL or 587 using TLS
    Username: the full Google Apps address you are trying to set up, including the domain
    Password: the Google Apps password for the account you are trying to set up.
Help Center: Send mail from a different address or alias

I can’t set up a Send Mail As address in Gmail for my non-Google email account.

For all non-Google email accounts you must ask your other provider for the SMTP Server name, port number and security setting they require you to use, and enter that information in the set-up boxes.
If your “other account” is only a forwarding address and has no entitlement to use an SMTP server, then you cannot set it up as a Send Mail As address in Gmail.

Help Center: Send mail from a different address or alias

How do I make sure that all contacts on my phone get synced to my Google account and can be recovered if I lose them from the phone?

To sync to your Google account when Sync Contacts is turned on, all contacts created on your phone must be tagged with the Google contact type. Some phones provide this as the default - others, notably Samsung, require you to select the Google contact type every time. If you do not do that, then the contact will only be saved on your phone, will not sync to your Google account, and will be lost if you reset your phone or change phones.

Help Center: Sync contacts with your phone
Help Center: Sync contacts with your Apple device
Help Center: Sync Gmail, Calendar and Contacts on your iPhone and iPad

Why can’t I get or send my Gmail messages with my Outlook/Thunderbird/Apple Mail/Windows Mail clients? I get an error message.

Gmail recently enforced a higher security sign in procedure no longer using OAuth as the default access method. While developers have received warning from Google, not all e-mail clients and apps have been updated to use the new protocol.

To allow your email client apps to continue to sign in to Gmail the old way, you need to turn on access for these “Less secure Apps” in your Gmail security settings.

Help article: Allowing less secure apps to access your account
Gmail Forum: Has your email app stopped working properly with Gmail?




Index Question.

October 21, 2014

Inbox by Gmail

Transitioning from Standard Gmail to Inbox by Gmail

The purpose of this article is to help Gmail users create a mental-map for the transition from Gmail to Inbox by Gmail as well as understand how some common Gmail actions translate to actions in Inbox by Gmail.

The first thing to understand about the new Inbox by Gmail (or just Inbox) is that it is not just a new user-interface slapped on top of the old Gmail.  It is a completely different way to manage one's e-mail account.  It is not intended to be equivalent to Gmail.  It is simpler, with less configurable options, and provides a more consistent look-and-feel across all supported browsers and mobile devices. But it also maintains the core functionality needed by an e-mail client.

People will tend to either love it, or hate it. And that's OK because Inbox by Gmail is not a replacement for Gmail. You are free to use it, or not.

There are of course some similarities to Gmail.  But even where there is overlap, Google will sometimes use a different name in Inbox to help break any preconceived ideas based on one's experience with Gmail.  So while Gmail's category tabs may be similar to Inbox's bundled-labels (labeled messages grouped together and displayed in the inbox), there are differences in how they work and how you use them.

If you approach Inbox by Gmail as a different type of Gmail, you will probably be confused and frustrated.  Similar things seem to have different names, and some of what you are accustomed to in Gmail is missing or works differently.  On the other hand, if you approach it as a totally new e-mail client (pretend it's made by a different company) learning it from the ground up, it will make more sense and probably be very usable. And there are features available in Inbox by Gmail that are not in Gmail. Many will even prefer it to standard Gmail.

But in the end, each individual will have to decide if they prefer the new use-model supported by Inbox or the more traditional e-mail client model supported by standard Gmail.

This article does not teach one how to use Inbox.  It just discusses some of the differences between Gmail and Inbox by Gmail.  To learn how to use Inbox by Gmail the following article is a must-read:   http://gmail-miscellany.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/inbox-by-gmail-101.html

And yes, the author is well aware of how confusing it is to have "Gmail inbox" (the location), "Inbox by Gmail" (the product), "Inbox by Gmail inbox" (the location), "the inbox" (the location) or just "Inbox" (the product). This is why the product names will italicized (Gmail and Inbox) to help differentiate them from the location (inbox).

Initially Inbox by Gmail is by invitation only. The fastest way to get an invite is for someone who already has Inbox to invite you (each person will get 3 invites). Users can also email inbox@google.com to request an invite. Initially it will require: Android phone (4.1 and up), iPhone (iOS 7 and up), or the Google Chrome browser (v38 and up) on a computer.  If your account has it enabled, you can access Inbox or log into your account using it at: https://inbox.google.com

Overview of Inbox by Gmail

As stated above, this article is not intended to teach one how to use Inbox By Gmail. But a quick overview of the components of Inbox will be helpful in understanding the discussion that follows. The image below is of a representative inbox with a variety of messages and all the component parts labeled. The key to the labels follows the image.

Hint: right-click on the image and "Open link in new window". You can then position the image and the annotation key side-by-side for easier reference.

  1. Open/Close the the main menu which includes a scrolling list of: Labels, Create new (label), Settings, and Help & Feedback.
  2. The currently displayed label.
  3. The messages search bar.
  4. Toggle to display only the messages pinned to the inbox.
  5. Toggle to display/hide recent hangout and chat history. The panel can also be pinned in the right column.
  6. Google product selection panel.
  7. Google+ notifications.
  8. Google account control panel.
  9. Primary labels. Snooze contains all the pending snoozed messages and reminders.
  10. System labels.
  11. User defined bundled labels.
  12. System defined bundled labels.
  13. Unbundled user labels.
  14. Time subsections.
  15. System bundled label with unread messages. System bundled labels each have a unique Icon. Senders with unread messages are bold. The "1 new" indicator shows that there are new messages since the last time the bundle was expanded (some of the unread messages could be old).
  16. A displayed reminder. The "Snoozed..." indicates it is a newly displayed reminder and will go away if the reminder is viewed.
  17. Individual conversation with some unread messages. Senders with unread messages are bold.
  18. Trip notification. Part of the Travel system bundled label which is turned off (you'll notice it's not listed in section "L") so the message shows as unbundled in the inbox. Senders with no picture/avatar use the first letter of their name.
  19. Individual conversation that contains images/attachments. It is part of the Forum system bundle, but it is pinned to the inbox so it appears unbundled.
  20. Purchase notification. Part of the Purchases system bundle, but pinned to the inbox so it shows as unbundled in the inbox.
  21. Bulk sweep icon which will mark all un-pinned conversations as Done. Sweeping can be performed on a bundled label, or on a time subsection in the inbox.
  22. Some frequently used contacts. Hover the mouse over the picture/avatar to see their name pop-up.
  23. Create a new Reminder.
  24. Compose a new message.

Functional Mappings

This table compares some common items, actions and functions between Gmail and Inbox by Gmail. It is not exhaustive, but it should help a Gmail user understand how actions they are familiar with in Gmail map to Inbox. This is especially important because there are a number of things in Gmail that just don't have an equivalent in Inbox. Understanding the differences will save one some frustration looking for something in Inbox that doesn't exist.

Function Gmail Inbox by GMail Comments
Auto-Organization Social, Promotions, Updates, Forums (1) Travel, Purchases, Finances,
Social, Updates, Forums, Promos, Low Priority (2)
As conversations are a collection of related messages, system categories are a collection of related conversations.
User-Defined Organization n/a Bundles (label+filter) (3) Gmail does not have user-defined categories although the Priority Inbox allows for the display of a label which could be assigned with a filter (like a user-defined bundle).
Organization Display Tabs in the inbox Labels bundled in the inbox Bundled labels can be system categories or user-defined.
Saving Messages Archive Done Both result in the message being removed from the inbox.
Marking Messages Unread, Stars, Important Pin Marking messages that need further attention.
Delaying Messages n/a Snooze Snooze hides a message until a specified date/time when it appears at the top of the inbox.
Inbox Format Classic, Important / Unread / Stared-First, Priority, Tabbed Unified (plus bundled labels) The Inbox by Gmail inbox is functionally similar to the Gmail classic inbox, with optional bundled labels, although it looks very different.
Spam Messages Report Spam Move to Spam There is no one-click report spam in Inbox.
Deleting Messages Delete Move to Trash There is no one-click delete in Inbox.
Labels To tag and collect messages To collect messages Labels are not displayed on messages in Inbox so they don't work as visual tags.
Add Label Label menu n/a Inbox does not have a label command to assign multiple labels to a message. (4)
Move to Label Move-To menu Move-To menu Removes current label (including inbox), adds new label, does not modify other labels. Inbox also marks the message as Done.
Filter Creation Settings->Filters, "filter messages like this" (from a message) from a message, from a label In Inbox filters are used to create bundles (label+filter). (5)
Filter Actions Archive, Mark as Read, Star, Label, Forward, Delete, Not Spam, Always/Never Mark Important, Categorize Bundle, Mark as Done Most Gmail actions (like add a star) don't apply in Inbox (which doesn't have stars). In Inbox this creates a user-defined bundle (label+filter) although displaying it in the inbox is optional.
Versions Standard, Basic html, mobile/browser, mobile/app Inbox Inbox has only one version for all platforms.
Formatting Font, Size, Bold / Italic / Underline, Foreground / Background-Color, Justification, Lists, Indent, Quoted Text, links Bold/Italic/Underline, Lists, Links Inbox simple replies (not poped-out) have limited formatting using keyboard short-cuts.
Attachments Local file upload, Drive, Image, Link, Emoticon Local file upload, Link Both support drag-and-drop: single image inline, multiple images or other file types attached.


(1) Settings->Labs->SmartLabels adds: Travel, Purchases and Finance.

(2) Low Priority in Inbox roughly corresponds to "not important" in Gmail.

(3) Any label can be bundled (that is displayed) in the inbox by adding a no-op or null filter (one that does nothing). If the label is named Pending (for example), enter "label:Pending" in the "has the words" field to create the filter. In Gmail, under Settings->Filters, the filter would look like
Matches: label:Pending
Do this: Apply label "Pending"
It is trying to add the label "Pending" to messages that have the label "Pending" on them, so effectively doing nothing. But a label with a filter applying that label is an Inbox bundled label, and can be displayed in the inbox.

(4) It is possible to assign multiple labels to a message with the following trick:
  1. If the messages is in the inbox, use Move To label (assigns the label and marks the message as Done). If it's in any other label, mark it as Done.
  2. Find the message in Done, and use Move To label (assigned the new label without removing any existing labels, and marks the message as Done).
  3. Repeat #2 as desired.

(5) In Inbox Filters can be created for a label or for a sender. You can also create as well as view/edit all filters in Gmail under Settings->Filters.

While viewing most labels there will be a gear icon in the top row (to the right of the search field) that will open the label's settings. There you can add new filters or click existing filters to edit them.

While viewing a message, if you use the Move To command to move it to a label, will will be given the option to "Always Do This". If you click that link it will create a filter that will always apply that label to messages from that sender.

Bundled Labels

So just what is a label bundled into the inbox in Inbox by Gmail? One way to think about it is to take a subset of the conversations in a label (those not pinned or marked as done) and bundling them together under a single entry in the inbox. Expanding the bundled label lets you see all the conversations it contains. Expanding a conversation lets you see all the messages it contains.

There are a couple inbox formats in Gmail which, to a degree, are replaced by bundled labels in Inbox.
  • Tabbed Inbox - The system-defined categories displayed in the inbox tabs are almost identical to the system-defined categories bundled in the inbox. They both represent system-define filters, who's behavior you can modify, which collect similar messages into a specific label. But the filtering is more complex than what a regular user-defined filter can achieve with address or keyword searches.

    They are of course displayed differently as tabs in the Gmail inbox versus bundled labels in the inbox list of Inbox. And as noted in the table above, there are more pre-defined system categories in Inbox than in Gmail.

    Tabs allow one to ignore low-priority categories until a later time. The problem is that you have to remember to check them eventually as they do contain unread inbox messages. Bundled labels can optionally be set to automatically delay appearing at the top of the inbox to either once a day or once a week (for less important categories). They are harder to miss as they appear more prominently in the inbox.

  • Priority Inbox - Gmail's Priority Inbox allows any of the four sections to display the contents of a label (in addition to some pre-defined options like Unread or Stared). And that label could be manually added to messages or assigned with a filter. This makes them similar to bundled labels which is simply a filter assigned label displayed in the inbox.

    A simple label can not be bundled in the inbox. A filter assigned label can be bundled into the inbox. And as noted above, you can add a null-filter to any label thus allowing it to also be bundled into the inbox.

    And similar to how a sub-section of the Priority Inbox can be set to "Hide section when empty", Bundles will tend to sink down in the inbox until a new messages forces it to the top again. But unlike Priority Inbox sub-sections, Inbox Bundles can be also be set to only appear once a day, or once a week making them less intrusive.
If you did not use the Priority or Tabbed Inbox in Gmail, then Inbox bundles may seem confusing or unnecessary. If so, you can turn them off so they are no longer displayed in the inbox. That allows the message to be listed individually in the inbox. This makes the Inbox by Gmail inbox similar to the classic or default inbox in Gmail - a simple collection of all your messages.

Unfortunately the Important/Unread/Starred-first inbox formats do not have an equivalent in Inbox.


We are going to define the use-model as how one views and manages new messages when they arrive in the account. One's activities in an account extend well beyond just dealing with new messages, but for the goal of understanding how Gmail and Inbox compare, this one aspect is sufficient.


There are a variety of options for the Gmail inbox format. This provides a lot of flexibility in the way one can organize and manage both new and old messages in the inbox. This also contributes to Gmail's complexity as it may not be obvious what all the choices are, how to use them, and the ramifications of those choices. The confusion can be greatly increased when changes are forced upon users as the Tabbed Inbox was. The Gmail inbox can be any of the following.
  • Classic (single unified inbox)
  • Tabbed Categories (system-define organization)
  • Priority Inbox (user-define organization)
  • Important/Unread/Starred First
In contrast Inbox provides a relatively simple inbox that really only has one optional component: the inclusion of labels bundled in the inbox.
  • Unified Inbox (with a very different appearance compared to Gmail)
  • Bundled labels (optional)
In effect, Inbox only has one inbox format which can include or exclude one or more bundled labels. If the lack of inbox formats is too restrictive, you may want to keep using Gmail. If you are relieved by the simplification it brings, Inbox may be the perfect choice.

Message Attributes

Gmail provides a wide range of automatic and manual ways to mark messages with various attributes. Most of these can be simultaneously added to an e-mail making its exact status very complex (a given message can show up in multiple locations).
  • Categories:  Social, Promotions, Updates, Forums (automatically applied)
  • Importance markers (automatically applied)
  • Stars (manually added or with filters, multiple colors and shapes)
  • Labels (manually added or with filters)
  • Archive (remove the inbox label)
  • Personal level indicators (enabled in Settings->General)
Inbox provides a smaller set of attributes creating fewer "buckets" to put messages in resulting in less complexity.
  • Categories:  Travel, Purchases, Finances, Social, Updates, Forums, Promos, Low Priority, and user-defined
  • Pin (keeps the message in the inbox)
  • Labels (manually added or added with filters)
  • Done (remove the inbox label)

Message Actions

Considering the above, the options available in managing new messages in Gmail are almost infinite. The inbox may be organized in one of several formats, and then there is a long list of actions you can perform on any specific message.
  • Mark as read/unread
  • Mark as important/unimportant
  • Move to a different category
  • Label (add or change)
  • Move to label (label + archive)
  • Star (multiple colors and shapes)
  • Archive
  • Delete
  • Report Spam
On the other hand, Inbox has basically a single inbox format and a shorter list of actions which can be performed.
  • Move to label (or bundle)
  • Pin (flags the message in the inbox)
  • Snooze (causes the message to reappear as new at a specified date/time)
  • Done (remove the inbox label)
  • Move to Trash
  • Move to Spam
With the exception of Snooze, everything listed for Inbox has an equivalent option in Gmail. But several of the Gmail options do not exist in Inbox.

Gmail or Inbox by Gmail?

So, which one should you use? Most of the above can be reduced to just a couple key points for each product. But remember the comment made at the start of this article: Inbox is not simply a user-interface change to Gmail, it as an entirely new product.
  • Gmail
    • Customizable - multiple inbox formats and message organization options
    • Flexible - many message attributes to manage e-mail
  • Inbox by Gmail
    • Simple - easy to learn and use
    • Consistent - the same user-interface on all platforms
Of course there's no reason you can't use both. You could use Inbox on a day-to-day basis, or on mobile devices, and then use Standard Gmail for more complex activity like creating non-labeling filters, multiple message selection, emptying Trash and Spam, etc. Gmail and Inbox by Gmail are just tools and you should use whatever helps you manage your e-mail the best.

So feel free to continue to use Gmail, switch to Inbox, use both as appropriate, or use neither if you prefer your installed e-mail client. The choice is totally yours.

July 4, 2014

E-mail addressed to me intended for someone else

So you are receiving e-mail in your account that is intended for someone else.  It's bothersome if it was sent to your exact e-mail address.  It's confusing if they are using an address similar to yours differing only by a single character or perhaps capitalization.  It's scary if it was sent to a totally different e-mail address.

So why are you receiving this person's private e-mail, and what can you do about it?

This article is going to explore some of the reasons why you might be receiving e-mail intended for someone else from a slightly more technical point of view.  For Google's simpler overview on the subject you can see:  https://support.google.com/mail/answer/10313?hl=en and for another excellent article see:   http://gmail-miscellany.blogspot.com/2012/08/wrong-email-gmail-dots-issue.html

We will somewhat arbitrarily divide this problem into two cases:  that of receiving e-mail to a similar address as yours, and that of receiving e-mail to a totally different address.

Messages sent to an address similar to your own.

Question:  What's the difference between the following US phone numbers?
  • (123) 456-7890
  • 123-456-7890
  • 123.456.7890
  • 1234567890
Answer:  Nothing.  While the syntax is different, they each represent the same unique phone number owned by a specific individual.

Question:  What's the different between the following Gmail account names?
  • first.last@gmail.com
  • firstlast@gmail.com
  • First.Last@gmail.com
  • firstlast@googlemail.com
Answer:  Nothing.  While the syntax is different, they each represent the same unique e-mail account owned by a specific individual.

There are several differences allowed in the format of a Gmail address that do not actually represent a different account.  This means that an e-mail address can contain any of these syntax differences and it still represents the same unique account.

Gmail ignores dots (periods, full-stops, ".")

Gmail does not treat dots in a GMail address as significant.  That is, first.last@gmail.com is the same address as firstlast@gmail.com or any other combination like f.i.r.s.t.l.a.s.t@gmail.com.  Gmail simply allows users to enter a dot as a convenient word separator, like you add dashes or dots when writing your phone number.  And since Gmail does not allow the creation of duplicate addresses, it's physically impossible for both first.last@gmail.com and firstlast@gmail.com to exist as unique accounts.  Once one form of the address has been created, all other forms will be rejected as a duplicate (the account already exists).

This has always been true since Gmail first was introduced in 2004.  And even then, people were posting about it.
April 30, 2004:  http://www.errorik.com/archive/2004-04.htm
July 17, 2004:  http://itsmygmail.blogspot.com/2004/07/gmail-address-variations.html

Here's the current Gmail help article on the topic of dots in Gmail account names: https://support.google.com/mail/answer/10313?hl=en

Gmail ignores capitalization

Similar to the above, the case of the characters in a Gmail address is not significant.  That is, first.last@gmail.com, First.Last@gmail.com and FIRST.LAST@gmail.com all represent the same account.

As stated in the "Username" section of the article at:  https://support.google.com/accounts/answer/1733224
Username. You will use your username, which will also be your new Gmail address, to sign in to your Google Account. Your username isn’t case sensitive, and you can use letters, numbers, or periods.
Gmail treats @googlemail.com as equivalent to @gmail.com

The domain googlemail.com was used in a few countries (like the United Kingdom and Germany) in the first few years of Gmail.  But no matter which of the two domain names is used in an address, it still represents the same account.  In fact all mail addressed to a @googlemail.com address is delivered to the matching @gmail.com account.

More information about googlemail.com can be found here:  https://support.google.com/mail/answer/159001?hl=en

Why am I getting their e-mail?

So if you own all forms of your address (ignoring dots and case) then why is someone else using your e-mail address?  To start with, they absolutely do not own a duplicate copy of your account using a dot/case variation of your account name.  You already own it and duplicate accounts are not allowed.  They created a different and unique e-mail address.  They probably started with first.last@ and discovered that account was taken.  So they might have added a middle initial giving them first.m.last, or perhaps a number at the end like first.last.56@.  Whatever they added, it resulted in an account with a different name than yours of first.last@.

The problem came when it was time to give someone else their address or use it to register at a web-site.  They remember what they wanted (first.last@) not what they actually created (first.m.last@) and give out or use the wrong address.  The result is that any e-mail sent using that address, is correctly sent to where it was addressed (you).  This means you are receiving those messages which are addressed to you (first.last@) but actually intended for someone else (first.m.last@).

So how do I fix it?

The only way to resolve this problem is to get the other person to realize their error and start using or giving out their correct address.  But given that you don't know who they are or their actual e-mail address this can be hard to accomplish.

Contacting the web-site they used your address on is seldom effective because they typically don't understand the problem and don't want to get involved.  Contacting individual senders may only be helpful if they understand the problem and have another way to contact this other person.

The best option is if one of the messages you receive intended for them has some contact information like a phone number.  You can then call them.  Here are some tips for trying to resolve the issue.
  • Start by expressing concern for their privacy because you have been receiving e-mail that was intended for them.  Listing some senders or web-site names can help prove you really are getting some of their e-mail.
  • Do not be confrontational.  They probably aren't doing this on purpose because most people want to receive the e-mail that is intended for them.
  • The problem started because they don't know their actual e-mail address.  So if you ask them what their address is expect them to say it's the same as yours (perhaps with dot/case differences).  But that doesn't mean it is the same as yours (since that's impossible).  That's the whole problem, they don't know their actual address and are using the wrong one.
  • The easiest way to show them their actual address is to have them click on their picture/avatar and have them read the address from the top/right of the drop-down panel.
  • You can also have them send you an e-mail (yes, they may believe they are sending it to their own address).  The From and Reply-To header fields should contain their actual e-mail address.
With a little patience you can help them figure out their correct e-mail address.  Be sure to remind them to update any web-sites with the correct address as well as notify any contact that may have the wrong address saved.

Messages sent to an address totally different than your own.

The other case is when you receive e-mail addressed to a totally different account than yours.  It may be just slightly different with an extra/missing character or two (for example first.last@ and first.last.56@), or it may be a completely different name which shares nothing in common.

The simplest situation is when your address is in the Bcc field (which means it is hidden) and another address is in the To field.  This is most common for spam messages which are often sent in groups addressed to similar addresses.  One address is in the To field, and the rest in Bcc.  So if you receive spam addressed to someone else, your address was also included but in the Bcc and you can't see it listed.  Receiving such a message does not indicate any sort of delivery problem.

The more complex situation is when someone mistakenly setup forwarding from their account to another account, but much like the dot/case problem above, they forwarded it to an address they thought they owned (but are wrong).  You will often need to look at the full message headers to identify this situation.

To see the full headers of a message, click next to the Reply button and select "Show original" from the drop-down menu.  A new tab will open that will include the full headers of the message.

We will now look at a number of actual headers collected from Gmail help forum posts that demonstrate some of the ways one might get a messages addressed to someone else.  In these examples the actual e-mail addresses have been changed to protect privacy.  We'll use first.last@gmail.com to represent your address, and first.m.last@gmail.com or someone@blahmail.com to represent the address the message was actually sent to.  We'll also throw in a fake sender address and server names to complete the headers.  To save space and simplify the examples, most of the header content will be excluded retaining only the significant parts that prove the forwarding.

Gmail Forwarded To Gmail

Perhaps the simplest and easiest to spot case is when a Gmail account is forwarding to another Gmail account.  This is obvious because Gmail adds X-Forwarded entries to the header documenting the forwarding.
Delivered-To: first.last@gmail.com
X-Forwarded-To: first.last@gmail.com
X-Forwarded-For: first.m.last@gmail.com first.last@gmail.com
Delivered-To: first.m.last@gmail.com
To: <first.m.last@gmail.com>
From: <sender@sourcemail.com>
Headers are read from the bottom (where the To, From, and Subject lines appear) up to the top (where the finally Delivered-To line appears).  So these headers show the message being delivered to the address specified in the To line, then forwarded on to the final destination.

These cases are interesting because Gmail requires e-mail verification while setting up the forwarding.  That means someone with access to the receiver's account had to click a link to accept the forwarding (whether anyone remembers doing it or not).

Other Provider Forwarded To Gmail

Sometimes other providers will insert a record into the headers to show forwarding, but they can be a bit harder to spot that Gmail's X-Forwarding records.  For example:
X-Get-Message-Sender-Via: root.blahmail.com: redirect/forwarder owner someone@blahmail.com -> first.last@gmail.com
But generally, forwarding from other providers to Gmail can be a lot harder to identify because often there is no clear forwarding record added to the headers.  Sometimes the only way to tell is by watching the message progress to the specified server and then suddenly switch to Gmail, as in this example.  There may not even be a Delivered-To entry to show it arrive at the specified address.
Delivered-To: first.last@gmail.com
Received: from gateway.blahmail.com ([])
        by mx.google.com with ESMTPS id s1si20675769
        for <first.last@gmail.com>
        Thu, 29 May 2014 05:58:16 -0700 (PDT)
Received: from host.sourcemail.com (host.sourcemail.com []
        by gateway.blahmail.com (Postfix) with ESMTP id 8063E660000
        for <someone@blahmail.com>; Thu, 29 May 2014 07:57:36 -0500 (CDT)
To: someone@blahmail.com
From: sender@sourcemail.com
So the message progresses from the sender's server (host.sourcemail.com) to the receiver's server (gateway.blahmail.com) destined for someone@blahmail.com and then suddenly switches to the Google server (mx.google.com) destined for first.last@gmail.com when the forwarding re-directed it.  There could be a Delivered-To entry in there, but, like the case above, there may not be one.

Server Forwarded To Gmail

Sometimes the forwarding can take place as the server level as it possible with Google Apps accounts.  In this case the forwarding takes place when the message arrives on the destination server, but before it is delivered to the specified address.  Similar to the above, the message can suddenly change direction without any signs of a Delivered-To entry.
Delivered-To: first.last@gmail.com
Received: by mail-pa0-f51.google.com with SMTP id kq14so4423283
        for <first.last@gmail.com>; Fri, 09 May 2014 06:19:23 -0700 (PDT)
Received: from server.sourcemail.com (server.sourcemail.com. [])
        by mx.google.com with ESMTP id px17si1832577
        for <someone@blahmail.com>;
        Fri, 09 May 2014 06:19:23 -0700 (PDT)
To: someone@blahmail.com
From: sender@sourcemail.com
In this case blahmail.com is a Google Apps domain.  The message is re-directed just like account forwarding, but there is no forwarding in the account.  It's actually defined at the server level.  There are no X-Forwarded records since it never got to the account to be forwarded.  This is common with Google Apps for Education accounts.

The key here is that it was received by Google servers for someone@blahmail.com before being redirected to first.last@gmail.com.  Since Gmail always adds X-Forwarded records, that meant the forwarding was done before it reached an account.  In this case the server forwarding was confirmed by the poster once the probable cause was pointed out.

Use Of Bcc

Just to round out the header examples, here's a case where the Bcc header was used.
Delivered-To: first.last@gmail.com
Received: from server.sourcemail.com (server.sourcemail.com. [])
        by mx.google.com with ESMTPS id cw6si22943103
        for <first.last@gmail.com>
        Thu, 03 Jul 2014 00:16:29 -0700 (PDT)
From: <sender@sourcemail.com>
To: <first.m.last@gmail.com>
In this case there are no other servers involved because the message was sent directly to the final account (no forwarding involved).  It's confusing because of the different address in the To field and the fact that there is no indication of all the other recipient addresses.

It's interesting to note that this specific example included an empty Bcc record which acts as a sort of hint or indicator that there are additional hidden recipients.  But there is no guarantee that and empty Bcc record will always appear in the headers.

Fetching Instead Of Forwarding

There is one other rare case to consider because sometimes the path of messages doesn't involve forwarding at all as in this example:
Delivered-To: first.last@gmail.com
X-Gmail-Fetch-Info: first.m.last@gmail.com 1 smtp.gmail.com 995 first.m.last
Delivered-To: first.m.last@gmail.com
To: <first.m.last@gmail.com>
From: sender@sourcemail.com
In this case the message was properly delivered, but then was fetched by the final destination using POP3 (Settings->Accounts->Check mail using POP3).  What made this case interesting is that the user didn't remember setting up the POP3 fetching and so was surprised to be getting e-mail addressed to a different account name.

Alternate Reply Address

One final case to mention is the use of an alternate reply address in the message someone might send.  In Gmail it's specified in Settings->Accounts->Send Mail As.  So a person may send a message from first.m.last@ with a reply address set as first.last@.  So when the receiver replies, the message goes where it is addressed:  first.last@.

The difficulty with this is there is no way for you as the receiver of the message (intended for someone else) to know what happened because it's correctly addressed and delivered to you.  The only way to identify this case would be to see the headers of the original message that was replied to.  There may be a Sender or Return-Path line in the header showing the actual sender while the From line shows the alternate reply address.
Delivered-To: someone@blahmail.com
Return-Path: <first.m.last@gmail.com>
Sender: first.m.last@gmail.com
From: <first.last@gmail.com>
To: <someone@blahmail.com>
The only reason this may come up is if you reply to someone@ telling them of the wrong address and they respond that all they did is reply to the message they received.  What would be the hint of what is going on if you chose to investigate.


So what does it all mean?

First, you can be confident that every message in your account was addressed and properly delivered to your account (or perhaps fetched from another account).  There are no delivery errors.  That does not mean the message was intended for you, just that it was addressed and delivered to you.

Second, you can be confident that no one has the same account name as yours (including caps or dots).  If you receive a message intended for someone else but addressed to you it is because someone gave out or used the wrong address.

Third, it may take some work to figure out just how the message got to your account.  It's easy if they accidentally used your exact address or a similar address (dots, caps) in error.  It's clear such messages will be delivered to your account.  But it will probably take a study of the full headers to identify the cause (forwarding, fetching, Bcc) when the e-mail address is different than yours.

Finally, you can also be sure that while you do appear to be receiving someone else's e-mail because they are using your address in error, they are not receiving your e-mail.  Your e-mail is still addressed to and delivered to your account as normal - it cannot arrive in someone else's account unless it is address to their (different) e-mail address.

So don't panic if you receive e-mail intended for someone else.  The e-mail system didn't make a mistake delivering it to you, although some person may have made a mistake addressing or forwarding it to you.

April 18, 2014

Adding Attachments to Gmail

This article will briefly review the changes made to the image insertion and attachment interface in Gmail that was introduced in April 2014 (Official Gmail Blog post).  If you are interested in information about viewing and downloading attached files, the following article will be helpful:  Attachments in Gmail

When the new Gmail compose format was introduced in 2012 (Changes to Gmail Compose) the interface for attaching and inserting inline images also went through some significant changes.  See the above article for screen-shots of the new compose interface.  The 2014 update made a minor change to the list of attachment options:  the old camera icon for inserting an inline image has been replaced with a picture icon (plus the word "new", temporarily).

You may have some or all of the above icon choices.  Each icon has a pop-up description as shown in bold in the following list.

Attach Files - opens a file manager window to find and attach files from your computer.

Insert files using Drive - opens a viewer so you can select documents from Google Drive which are added as links to your message.  You can also drag-and-drop or use a file manager to add a new file to Google Drive and then add a link to your message.

Insert Photo - opens a view so you can add images inline or as attachments from various sources.

Attach money - allows you to send money to people using Google Wallet.

Insert link - allows you to insert a link to a document or page on the internet.

Insert emoticon - provides a selection of colorful emoji to add to your message.

Insert invitation - allows you to send a Google Calendar invite.

Clicking on the Insert Photo icon opens the totally re-designed image insertion dialog.

If you have not placed any images in your Google+ Photos page then you will see this page instead.

You will notice four tabs along the top which define the various sources from which you can insert images.

Although if you don't have Google+ in your account you will have fewer choices.

Photos - This tab shows the same data and photo thumbnails as the “Highlights” tab in Google+ Photos, except that there will not be any pictures owned by other people.  You may select multiple photos to insert into your message.

Albums - This tab shows the same data and thumbnails as the “Albums” tab in Google+ Photos.  Selecting an album will insert a link to the album and all the pictures it contains into the body of your message.  You may also double-click to push into the album where you can select individual pictures.

Upload - This section shows a screen where the user can drag-and-drop an image, or open the local file browser to upload a file from the computer. Attaching a local photo will not upload the photo to Google+ photos.

Web Address (URL) - This section shows a screen where the user may specify the URL of an image on the web to use.

In addition, any time you are viewing individual pictures (any screen except Albums and Image URL) the lower/right will provide a choice of inserting the image inline or as an attachment.  Notice that the default is inline.  Albums are always inserted as a link, and Image URLs always are shown inline.

Of course when you are done (or if you wish to abort) the lower/left has the Insert and Cancel buttons.

Once an image is inserted inline, you can click on the image to see a number of re-sizing options.  In addition, the four corners of the image have drag handles (the blue squares) allowing the image to be dragged to any size desired maintaining the aspect-ratio of the image.

The basic work-flow to insert one or more pictures would be as follows:
  1. Select the picture source, one of the four tabs, along the top.
  2. Select one or more pictures in the center area.
  3. Specify if they should be inline or attachments in the lower/right.
  4. Click Insert in the lower/left.
  5. If the image is inline, re-size as desired.
The Gmail help article for attachments can be found here:  Add Attachments
The Gmail help article for inserting images can be found here:  Insert images into your messages

Keep in mind that the total size of Gmail messages is 25 megabytes (MB).  If you want to send attachments that are larger than this, you can share them from Google Drive (as shown above), or use one of the many file sharing sites available (like DropBox.com).

This updated interface supports all of the image attachment and insertion options previously available in a more symmetric and comprehensive way that should support most anything you wish to do with photos in e-mail messages.  And if you previously used drag-and-drop to place inline images from your computer into messages, that still works exactly as before.

December 2, 2013

User-Profile Privacy and Avoiding Google Plus

People are expressing legitimate concerns over Google's push for users to have a user-profile and a Google+ account.  Some of these concerns revolve around issues of privacy because they simply don't want their personal information made public.  Others don't want another social-media portal so they don't want to use Google+ at all.

It's true that there are some cases where a user-profile is now required, for example to make comments on YouTube videos.  Fortunately it's possible to create a user-profile that fulfills the requirements but supplies virtually no actual information.  And using Google+ is totally optional.  Having a user-profile does not force one to use Google+ any more than having a driver's license forces one to drive.

The purpose of this article is to help you create the most restricted user-profile possible as well as eliminate almost all of the impact of Google+ in your account.  This will provide access to any products and services that require a user-profile as well as stop any reminders or nagging to create one.  This may not satisfy everyone, but for most users concerned about their privacy it will provide a good balance between privacy and product access.

Creating a minimal user-profile

While some may not remember that far back, Gmail only required three pieces of personal information when initially creating the account:  your name, your gender, and your birth date.  Your name is used along with your e-mail address on every sent message unless you modify that behavior in Settings->Accounts->Send Mail As.

Of course you are expected to use your real name, but you are not required to use your full name on the account.  The Google+ Profile Names Policy (https://support.google.com/plus/answer/1228271) states in the section "Can I just use my initials or my first name?" that:

You must provide a two-part name. It’s acceptable for one of these to be an initial, but not both. For example, “Jane Smith,” “Jane S.,” and “J. Smith” are allowed, but “J. S.” isn’t.

This is important since your name is the one piece of information that is publicly available.  If you do not want your full name visible you will want to take advantage of the above option.  And since first names are usually more generic than last names, people typically select their first name and last initial.

There are a couple ways you may be prompted to create a user-profile.  You might see the nag screen that Google will occasionally display.

Or you may be forced to create one if you use a product like YouTube that requires a user-profile to make comments.

You can also do it anytime you want by clicking on your name/address in the upper/right of your Gmail page and clicking the blue "Join Google+" button.

In each case you are required to provide the same three pieces of information you did when you initially created the account. For reasons known only to Google, the name and birth date fields are pre-populated, but you get to select your gender again including the marvelous option of "other".  Those desiring to select "I don't know" should use "other".

Once you have added Google+ you will notice that the upper/right part of each page in your Google account has change from just your name/address to a number of different icons.

Clicking on the +Name (typically your first name) will take you to Google+.  If you hover your mouse over the drop-down menu indicator next to "Home" you will get a drop-down of views to go to.  Select "Profile".  You can also click on your picture/avatar in the upper/right and select "View profile" from the drop-down panel.

From the profile page, click on the "About" tab and you will be viewing your initial user-profile.

At this point everything is undefined except your name, and two items, Gender and Birthday, in "Basic information".  Click on the "Edit" link and use the drop-down menus to set your Gender and Birthday to "Only you" and click the "Save" button.

You can set all the fields to "Only you" if you wish.  In fact, you can edit every sub-category and do that for every item of information.  But it doesn't matter since all the information is blank so there's nothing to show.

You do have to visit the "People" section and click the "Edit" link.  Uncheck the "Show people in..." and "Show people who have added you to circles" options.  Then click "Save".  If you never created any circles, and no one adds you, it doesn't matter.  But it's still best to turn them off.

You are now finished editing your user-profile. To view what everyone else can see, go to the upper right and change the selection from "View profile as: Yourself" to "Public".

Initially your public profile would look as follows, with only your name and gender visible.  Of course this isn't really that bad as there's so little personal information visible.

After the above changes, it will look like the following.  When you lock down Google+ (in the next section) you will also end up removing the Photos, Videos, +1's (not seen here), and Reviews tabs.

Note that if you have a YouTube channel, the public profile will also show a link to that.

So at this point your public user-profile has been reduced to a partial name (first name, last initial) and possibly a link to your YouTube channel.

And before moving on there is one other option that should be mentioned, and that is the use of a Google+ Page which is often used by businesses and companies who want a web-presence not associated with a specific person.  In some cases this could be another way to protect one's privacy.  https://support.google.com/plus/answer/1710600?hl=en

Reducing the impact of Google+

The next step, assuming you don't want to use it, is to do everything possible to make Google+ go away.  Obviously, you will never make any posts to Google+.  You will not create any circles nor add anyone to a circle.  But you also want to prevent Google+ sending you any e-mail, ever.

Once again, use the drop-down menu on your Google+ page and select "Settings" (the last item in the list).  This will take you to the Google+ page of your Google account settings.

You will start at the top and basically turn everything you can off.  We'll skip a few sections that don't matter or are already off.

  • Who can interact with you and your posts - send everything to "Only you".
  • Who can Hangout with you - click the Customize button and make sure everything is set to "Send request" (which means people can request a hangout which you can ignore).  Also uncheck the "Get notified about Hangout requests".
  • Shared Endorsements - click the Edit link, uncheck the box at the bottom, and Save.
  • Manage subscriptions - uncheck everything.
  • Receive notification - uncheck e-mail notifications for everything.
  • Photos - uncheck everything.
  • Profile - uncheck everything.  Note that unchecking the profile tabs will remove those from your public user-profile which locks it down a bit better.  The only ones left will be:  About and Posts (which will be empty if you never post).  Also particularly note the last entry "Help others discover my profile in search results" as unchecking this one prevents search engines from indexing your profile.
  • Hashtags - uncheck.
  • Your circles - click the Customize button, uncheck everything, and Save.

After completing all this, Google+ has been rendered pretty harmless.  Your user-profile will be available to people you send e-mail to.  But if they view it the only thing they will see is your name (which they would already have from your e-mail address).  If they add you to one of their circles, it doesn't matter.  You'll never see any of their posts if you don't read Google+.  And if you never post, there's nothing for anyone else to see.

You may get notification of events (like being added to someone's circle) in the bell icon in the upper/right of your account, but you can ignore those or click on the bell and clear any pending notifications.

Here is an article that talks about some other opt-out settings you may wish to consider:  5 Google Opt-Out Settings To Check.

Again, this solution isn't perfect for everyone.  You do still have a user-profile and a Google+ account.  But it does a pretty good job of protecting your privacy and reducing the impact of Google+ on your day-to-day use of Gmail.

October 30, 2013

The New Google Sign In Page

Please note that the new sign in page was introduced in 2013.  It's not new any more.  And while the information below is still valid, there would be very few people seeing it for the first time to find this useful.

The new sign in page for Google products has created some confusion with users.  The phrase "One account. All of Google." suggests that something has changed with the way Google products are organized or used.  The reality is that nothing has changed with how Google accounts work.  There has always been a single Google account which acts as a container to hold all the other Google products and services like:  Gmail, YouTube, Blogger, Drive, etc.

See this document for more information about how Google accounts works:  http://gmail-miscellany.blogspot.com/2012/01/google-accounts-how-they-work.html

The thing that has changed is the format of the sign in page.  With the new sign in page Google is trying to make it more clear that when you sign in, you are not signing into one specific product.  You are instead signing into a Google account which gives you access to all the products and services you may use.

This is a little extra confusing for Gmail users because you are using your Gmail account to sign in.  If feels like you are signing into Gmail.  But again, you are actually signing into your Google account which gives you direct access to your Gmail account.  You can not have a Gmail account without also having a Google account that contains it.

So "One account. All of Google." could be worded as:  "One Google account sign in.  All of the Google products and services."

The other change is that the page now keeps a list of accounts signed into on that computer so that it's faster/easier to sign into that account on your next visit.  But this does have some down-sides when using a public or shared computer.

The rest of this article will walk through each of the pages one might see with the new Google sign in system, and what you would do on each page.

This page, or one like it, is what you may see the first time you try to sign into some Google product on a computer.  This is basically an advertisement although it doesn't currently show up for all products (some go directly to the next sign in page below).

The key point to remember here is that you are not being forced to create a new account if you already have one.  While it's sort of "hidden in plain sight", there is a blue Sign in link clearly displayed in the upper/right (highlighted on this picture with the red arrow and circle).  Click that link to move to the next page and sign in.

Normally you will never see this page again.  But if the cache and cookies are manually or automatically cleared from the browser, this page may be displayed again the next time one signs in.  This is normal, and like so many other bits of information lost by clearing cookies, something you just have to put up with until this page is no longer being used.

This is the actual page where you sign into your account.  It's pretty straight forward with all the fields labeled.  Enter your information and click the blue Sign in button.

The "Stay signed in" check-box is still available.  But one interesting side-effect is that if it's un-checked, the sign in page will not save the account name in the list of previously used accounts.  This can be handy when using a public or shared computer.

Of note is that the previous "Can't access your account?" link has been replaced with "Need help?"  Click that to start the account recovery process.  For more information on account recovery see:  http://gmailaccountrecovery.blogspot.com/

Also note the line at the bottom "One Google Account for everything Google" which is perhaps a clearer statement of the "One account. All of Google." line at the top.

This is the page displayed when you sign out of your account.  And even though it is displaying your name and account (as the previous system would do), you really are signed out.  This makes it easy to sign in the next time as all you have to do is provide the password.

Note the little pop-up information dialog.  This attempts to clarify that you really are signed out of your account.
  • You're now signed out
  • We've remembered your account on this device to make your future sign-ins easier. Just enter your password to sign back in.
  • Learn more

If you or anyone needs to access a different Google account, simply click the blue Manage accounts on this device link at the bottom (circled here in red).  You will be taken to a page like the one below which will list all the accounts used previously on this device.  Click the "Add account" button to sign into an account not previously used.

If you don't want this information to be retained on the computer, clearing the browser cookies should erase the saved account name.

If two or more accounts have been used on this computer, the above page is displayed containing a list of all the accounts it remembers.  Clicking on one of the listed accounts will take you to the previous page where you can enter your password and sign in.

This is similar to what most browsers already do if they are configured to remember form data to auto-fill in the future.  With the old sign in screen, as you'd start to enter an account name a drop-down list would appear of matching names provided by the browser.  Now the sign in screen provides that same list without the need to start typing an account name.

As noted above, if the "Stay signed in" box is not enabled when you signed in, the account name will not be retained on this list.

The "Add account" button is the equivalent of "Sign in with a different account" link.  It will let you access a different account which will be added to this list of accounts for the next time.  It does not link or merge accounts or do anything beyond simply letting you access an account not on the list.  It is, as such, letting you add another account to the list of remembered accounts.

If the "Remove" button from the previous page is clicked this is the page that will be displayed.  By clicking the "X" on any entry you can remove it from the saved list.  Of course if an account is used again later it will be re-added to the list.

And as a reminder, if you have a Google+ account, you can no longer click on your name to sign out.  The little arrow indicating the drop-down panel is also gone.  To sign out, you must click on your picture/avatar to open the panel, and then you can click on the Sign out button.

If you do not have Google+, you will still see your name or e-mail address which you can click on to access the panel.

So hopefully this has removed some of the mystery and confusion over what Google is doing with this new sign in system.  There are some additions, but the functionality is pretty much the same as it has always been.  Just remember that you are signing into your Google account, not a specific product.  And once you have signed into your Google account you have access to all the other products and services you use in that account.