Gmail is the most common email service on the planet. We thought we were experts, but a PC Magazine article alerted us to a few features we either forgot or missed in the general flotsam of digital overload.

You can send money to a Gmail recipient, and also request it, similar to PayPal. Just before you hit “send,” look for the dollar sign along the bottom of the email window. They’ll ask for your credit card number if it isn’t already associated with your account. The maximum amount you can transfer is $9,999. Alternatively, there’s an app for that, called “Google Wallet.”

  • Our favorite Gmail feature is “undo send.” If you see an error in your message, and we frequently do, or regret calling someone a something so-and-so, click “undo send.” To activate this feature, click the little gear in the upper right of your Gmail window. Then click “settings” and “enable undo send.” Choose 30 seconds to give yourself the maximum amount of time to think about it. This could have done wonders for some politicians.
  • We also like Gmail shortcuts. To use them, first click on the gear image, then “settings” then “Keyboard Shortcuts on.” Our favorites include tapping the “c” key to write an email and “r” to reply to one. Tap “e” to archive a message. When you want to find it again, tap the  forward slash (/) to put your cursor in the Gmail search box. Tap “f” to forward a message to someone else. For more shortcuts, search on the phrase “Gmail shortcuts,” or “minimalist Gmail cheat sheet.”
  • If you want any other email messages to appear in Gmail, click the gear icon, then “settings,” then “Accounts and import,” and tell Google to “add email from another address.”
  • To block a specific person, or any other sender — like the New York Times — click the little downward facing triangle next to the “reply arrow.” This sounds more confusing than it really is, it’s all to the right of the sender’s name. When you click on the little triangle, you get a drop-down menu. Among the choices is one to block further messages from that sender.

For even more Gmail features, search on the phrase “42 Gmail Features.” It’s a digital jungle out there.

Home Design

Bob used to have every issue of Fine Home Building Magazine, and nearly accepted a job there once. Instead of a washer/dryer in our apartment, he has tools filling two closets. Home design software is a big interest.

With that in mind, he turned to the new “Home Designer Pro 4,” from Ashampoo, a German company. Why is the company called “Ashampoo?” Their original product was so good at cleaning the bugs out of Windows software clean that a user said it was like shampoo.

The new version of Home Designer lets you bring in objects from 3D programs such as Sketchup and Collada. It lets you plan out solar installations. It has 380 new symbols for electrical, gas, water and security appliances. And you can preview your new home in 3D with furniture, light and surroundings. Rearrange the furniture and take a virtual tour. The product is $20 from


  • is from the Library of Congress. It’s aimed at kids, but adults may enjoy features like “Meet Amazing Americans,” “jump back in time,” and “join America at play.” We watched one of Thomas Edison’s first ever films from 1898, called “Street Arab.” It shows a man doing break-dancing. Back then, “Street Arab” was simply slang for any street performer and did not refer to actual Arabs.
  • How the Alcohol Industry Lies to You.” Google those words to find an article in ZME Science. Just as tobacco companies deliberately misled us about the effect of cigarettes (Bob used to smoke four packs a day), so the booze industry does it about booze. According to the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, where drinking alcohol is a national pastime, 92 percent of the alcohol industry’s websites surveyed had misleading info on alcohol-related cancer risk. (Sweden, by the way, is the only country we’ve come across that offers a weekend booze cruise. As soon as the ship is sufficiently offshore, the tax no longer applies and booze is cheap.)

TVs Revisited

A reader disagreed with our negative review of 4K TVs. We said they weren’t worth getting until there are more shows available in 4K resolution, or unless you have to buy a new TV anyway.

This guy, by the way, is something of a TV addict. He owns a dozen sets and gave us more information than the Pentagon has about Russia. Incidentally, “4K” refers to a dazzling level of detail, due to the large number of pixels and other wizardry. Among the TVs our reader owns is a 4K TV from Vizio, a 4K HDR (high dynamic range) TV from LG, a plasma TV from Pioneer, and many more. Even without many 4K shows available, you can see fantastic colors and details, he says.

“When I first turned on the Vizio 4K non-HDR, I was bowled over by the difference in picture quality,” he says, “even with regular content.” When he got a 4K TV with HDR, the difference was even more astounding.

He says his old plasma TV is still good compared to the kind we have, (LCD TV), but it doesn’t compete with the Vizio 4K. “Even better is an OLED TV from LG.” But both are “simply incredible.” He marvels that people are willing to spend almost a thousand bucks to upgrade a phone, but haven’t considered upgrading their TV. It’s not just the resolution in 4K TVs, it’s also the contrast.

So there you have it. You too can become an awesome consulting neighbor. But beware of 8K hyperbole, he adds. For those, you need a huge TV room, almost movie-theater size, to appreciate it. (By the way, we are among the few who know that the “LG” brand name stands for Lucky Gold Star. That’s because they contacted Bob thirty years ago when they first started. The name was meant to ward off evil spirits and welcome friendly ones. Guess it worked.)


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