If you're one of the 36-plus million Gmail users, you know how awesome Google's approach to email and web-based instant messaging can be. What you may not be aware of however, is that tucked away in the settings are over 50 features that you can toggle on to enhance your experience, ranging from minor tweaks to entirely new functions.

Google calls the Gmail Labs section a "testing ground for experimental features." I have about a dozen such features enabled at the moment, and I've tinkered with several more. With so many choices it's easy to become overwhelmed and give up on finding just a handful that suit your needs. Today we will outline some of the more useful Labs features available.

To get started, log in to your Gmail account; click Settings at the top right and then the Labs tab. You can enable or disable any item by using the bullet-style selector and clicking on Save Changes.

For the road-warrior who is often stuck with sluggish hotspots: Gmail Offline allows you to access your stored messages without an Internet connection, whereas Inbox preview shows a static, plain preview of your inbox while it loads.

Netbook users may want to maximize screen real estate with Muzzle, Hide Labels from Subjects, Title Tweaks, as well as Fixed Width Font.

For the poor soul whose inbox is bombarded with links to YouTube, Picasa, Flickr, or Yelp: Check out the mentioned services' Mail Preview features, which as the name suggests, allows you to see what is hiding behind links.

You might also be interested in Inserting images, which allows you to send local or hosted pictures inline instead of sending them as attachments.

For the obsessive compulsive and neat freaks: Back to Beta brings back the old Gmail beta logo. Signature Tweaks places your signature before the quoted text in a reply. Custom Date Formats personalizes the date. Navbar Drag and Drop allows you to drag and drop the items in Gmail's left-hand navigation bar. Send & Archive archives a message you're replying to.

For the careless, clumsy, or those who email while intoxicated: Canned Responses lets you save common messages as templates for quick reuse, or even better, send automated responses when combined with filters.

Gmail's Forgotten Attachment Detector will trigger an alert if you mention attaching a file but forget to actually do so.

Undo Send allows you to stop a message in its tracks after clicking send, while Mail Goggles will save you from the embarrassment of drunk emailing by forcing you to solve a few math problems first.

There you have it folks, that's a quick glimpse at some of the handy Gmail Labs features available. Which functions can't you live without or wish your current e-mail client had?

Did you know?
Google significantly increased the webmail standard for free storage by giving out 1GB at a time when competitors offered a measly 2 to 4MB. Since its launch in April 2004, Gmail has become the third most popular webmail service, and is poised to overtake Hotmail in the coming months.