Wednesday, January 26, 2011

WotW: How do I love thee, Gmail... let me count the ways

Last week when we talked about replying to blog comments, I not-so-subtly told you of my love for Gmail. Today, I'd like to explain a bit more...

I love Gmail because, to me, Gmail is how email should work. Now, remember this is my opinion. Meaning it's just what I think, no real facts about it. And no, I'm not being compensated to gush about this product or any of the others that I gush about... I just like to share what I love. I would love to hear what you love about your email, too... just try and change my mind. :)

In case you're concerned, yes, I have used other webmail accounts and I semi-actively use both Hotmail and Yahoo, but mostly for receiving messages, not sending. I've been using primarily Gmail for 4+ years now and I have no intention of abandoning it now. :)

First and foremost, I love that Gmail helps me choose my recipient right in the compose view -- I don't have to EVER go to the address book to select a recipient. Even if the recipient isn't actually in my contacts, if they've sent me an email or I've sent them an email, Gmail remembers. Then as I type in a couple letters of a name or address, Gmail gives me a list to choose from (blurred by me, not by Gmail :):

 Yup, that is my absolute FAVORITE feature of Gmail. I think Hotmail and maybe even Yahoo have something similar now, but 5 years ago, that was unique to Gmail. Anyway... on to the other things I love about Gmail:

I love Gmail's threaded messages. If I send an email and the recipient replies, the messages are bound together because they're related -- the number in parentheses tells you how many messages are part of the thread This is fantastic for those email relationships that aren't on a regular schedule -- say, a bloggy buddy who you email with sometimes once a day and sometimes just every few weeks because, you know, you both have lives. (Hi Elizabeth!) Threaded messages makes it easy to scroll up and remember just what you were talking about, and then your reply is included in the same thread -- fantastic!

Gmail is great for spam control (remember, in my opinion... no statistics involved). The best form of spam control comes from you, of course -- not giving your email address to a source that might spam or sell your address. But if you, like me, have made a lapse in judgement now and then, Gmail will keep those spam messages out of your inbox -- just click Report Spam.

And, since you know that you shouldn't even OPEN most spam messages, you know, to investigate whether you actually do know the deposed king of Nigeria (you don't, I promise), Gmail gives you a short message preview to the right of the sender and subject so that you can see the first bit of the message before opening it. If that preview shows only a link, especially a weird link -- don't open it. Just don't. Trust me.

Gmail has a nice clean interface -- that's nerd-speak for how it looks. One big thing that keeps the Gmail interface better looking than others (in my opinion) is the text ads -- instead of ugly banner image ads, there are just small text ads above your inbox. I've even seen hacks to block them, but they don't bother me so I've never tried. Free email comes at a price, and that's most often ads. So kudos to Gmail for having the least annoying ads of the bunch.

Another of my favorite features of Gmail is the use of labels instead of folders. It does take some getting used to since most other emails and computer systems are folder-oriented, but labels are fantastic. Instead of putting a message inside a single folder, I can use multiple labels on a single message, allowing me to filter my messages better according to my own system.

For example, I receive email notifications for each of our household bills. I label each notification as a "bill", as well as from what company. Then, when payday rolls around, I can label each bill as "paid". And, if my labeling system ever fails or has a gap, the Gmail search is easy to use to find exactly what you're looking for, either in your email or on the web. 

The last feature I'll gush about today is Gmail Labs.
The labs are features that aren't fully a part of Gmail yet, but that are ready to be tested. Some features become popular enough that they graduate to become a Gmail setting; some stay in labs. Between the settings and the labs, Gmail is easy to customize to work exactly how you want it to work; instead of trying to fight to figure out how it works, make it work for you. I use Gmail Labs to do many things, including insert images right into the body of my emails, move my email signature up to the bottom of my reply message (instead of at the very bottom of the quoted text of other messages), and undo send -- thankfully I don't have to use that one very often. :)

So, I'd love to hear -- what do you love about your email?

Lu (or Lorene if you prefer) is the mom of one squirmy boy and the wife of a singing and dancing elementary teacher. She is the proud author of this weekly Wednesdays on the Web (WotW) segment here on Housewife Eclectic and spends the other days of the week blogging about crafts and whatever else comes up at just Lu.

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