Gmail now has a native task manager, if you go to the “labs” area of Gmail and turn it on. Once you click on that little green bottle at the top of your regular Gmail account (this is not something that is available to us as “enterprise Gmail customers” yet – BOO!!), you can see the tasks option on top. Enable it, refresh Gmail and find the Tasks link under the Contacts link on the left side of your screen. Click it and a handy little box pops up that allows for entry of tasks – with indenting – and basic task management capabilities. You can also automatically add an email as a task, with a link to that email included under the task’s title as “related email”. That is pretty cool!!
I haven’t written a whole lot about our recent experience in moving from Exchange 2003 to Google Apps because I ended up writing it up for a guest post on Michael Stephens’ blog, Tame The Web. I’m not going to re-write it here, but I would like to add a few notes about the experience from more of a distance, time-wise, at least.
As I said in the post on TTW, this was an amazingly smooth transition – from my staff’s standpoint. The vast majority of them came in on Monday, opened their browser, followed the directions from the 8 training sessions I provided and checked their email before starting their day’s work. Since I wrote that post, however, we’ve continued using the system and made some changes. I have uploaded many contact files (pretty easy – just saved the contacts from Outlook as a .csv file, and imported them into Gmail) without any major issues. We’ve also switched from an open-source, kinda clunky calendar system to manage our desk hours to the Google Calendar. Our email@example.com address hosts all of the desk calendars and I shared them with the managers responsible for each desk. Once they entered the information and got them all up and running, I embedded each calendar into a web page on our Intranet and made them available for subscriptions if individual staff members wanted to add the desk calendar information to their own, personal calendar. The Circulation manager asked me if it was possible to share the calendar with her entire staff – I explained that this would put every shift on every staff member’s calendar and she said that was what they wanted. Since that is what they wanted, that is what I helped her do – share out the calendar with all of her staff so that they could see who was working the desk from their own calendars.
Responses from the staff have been overwhelmingly positive. I did have one staff member tell me that she was born too late, she didn’t like all this technology and she was having a hard time with the change. Despite having said that, however, she has been using it without any help from me (except to show her how to mute conversations – something she thinks might make all this change worth it…) successfully and is adapting well to the system. Other staff members have been stopping me over the course of the last week or two to tell me how much they like the new email. I’ve gotten many thanks from folks who really disliked Outlook and all the spam it let through!
All has not been wine and roses, however. The first Friday afternoon after the changeover, Gmail went down completely. Hosted and personal accounts were unreachable for almost 2 hours. All that cheerleading I’d done for how much we’d love our new email and the last couple of hours of the first week saw us down for the count. One of our staff members was having problems with accessing the secure Gmail option using Safari on her Mac, and in the course of looking for the answer, I found out that a hacking toolkit for Gmail accounts was being released. I set up the domain, that night, to require SSL security for all Google Apps that we use! I sent out an email warning folks that it may slow down their email and to let me know if they have problems. No one has, so far, but it did fix the issue with Safari… She just goes to the non-secure site, which comes up for her with no problems, then as she logs in, it redirects her to the secure site automatically. Problem solved!!
The changeover was, from my end, a lot of work and a lot of training, but from my staff’s perspective everything went quite well and most of them are more than pleased with the transition!