Thursday, October 8, 2009

Ode to Gmail

Oh Gmail. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
1) Web-based mail without distracting banner ads, blinkies, and pop-ups.

2) Text-only ads. In order to enjoy my glorious Gmail for free, I understand the need for some advertising, but appreciate the way text-only ads blend in and are not displayed on my inbox screen.

3) Relevant advertising. Maybe it's a little creepy to see ads for Depends alongside the email from a woman interested in presenting a seminar about incontinence at Curves, but at least it is somewhat entertaining. And at best I have actually found the advertisements useful and clicked on them! This is exactly how I discovered Lora Jensen's 3-day Potty Training method that totally worked!

4) Customizable themes. Such fun and lovely ways to customize my email platform. I currently have mine set on Cherry Blossom, which I find uplifting and cheerful.

5) Emails grouped by conversation! At first I was unsure of how I would like this. But now I cannot imagine ever having an email program without the feature. Imagine your email "conversations" involving multiple people, and every time one person adds a response, the whole conversation arrives together in your inbox so you have all the important emails together to refer to. The previous emails are collapsed unless you want to read them. If many emails are exchanged within this same subject while you are away, you don't come back to an inbox full of new messages, just multiple new messages grouped into one conversation. Gmail tells you how many messages are in the conversation and who they are from and how many are new. Once you get used to this concept it is brilliantly useful and convenient. This might just be my most favorite aspect of the Gmail system, if I were forced to choose.

6) Labels instead of files. I know some people are confused when they switch to Gmail: where are the files? Why can't I put my emails into files? Well basically you can, only with labels it's like you can put each email (or conversation) into as many "files" as you want by using labels! So when you get an email from your mom about the upcoming reunion but she also attaches a recipe you might like, you can give it a "reunion" label AND a "recipes" label, rather than having to choose the one file where it would best fit and remember which file you chose when you want to find that message later.

7) Archiving instead of deleting. You just never know when you're going to need to look at that email again. Even when you think you won't. You might. Trust me. So just archive it and it's always there to be found if needed. Of course, with Gmail, even the items you delete aren't really gone until you say so a final time. How often do I get emails from people saying something like, "can you send me that address again?" or "I deleted that email where you explained that really important thing you are asking me about now." I want to say, "Get Gmail. Please." You will never have to ask anybody to resend anything.

8) Built-in Google search technology. I actually don't use labels too extensively, because the email search feature is so effective. I feel comfortable archiving any email that I am not actively working with, because I know I can find it later. A clean inbox makes me very happy!

9) Customizable Web Clips. The text banner over my inbox displays a new web clip with each screen refresh. Sometimes it contains an advertisement for a website, but I can also enter websites that I want to "follow" such as my friends' public blogs, and it will periodically display recent posts. Then I can go waste some time reading those when I get bored working.

10) Filters. Tell Gmail in advance what you want done with specific messages when they arrive. Do you want a copy of invoices from a certain company automatically forwarded to your supervisor? Do you want all emails from a certain person marked with an exclamation point? Do you want emails from a certain person, with certain words in the subject line, containing attachments to be marked with a specific label? Just tell Gmail and he'll do it! The possibilities are limitless!

11) Keyboard shortcuts. These can also be customized, and I use them constantly. On a laptop, being able to use the keyboard rather than the mouse literally does save time.

12) Snippets. Beside each email subject is the first snippet of the message beyond any greeting, so I can glance through new messages from my inbox and know the gist of the important ones without opening any. This is especially useful if I only have a second to see if a response I'm waiting on has arrived or want to know whether that email from Karen requires immediate action or if it is full of adorable or funny pictures that I can look at later. :)

13) Send and receive mail from multiple addresses. Use your personal and business email on the same platform. I receive our Curves emails in my Gmail inbox, and I can also respond from the same "info@" address so that members and leads don't get my personal email address. I'm sure by now you're just dying to switch to Gmail, but won't because it's a huge hassle to change your email address. Guess what. You can still use all the wonders that are Gmail, and keep your existing address. But soon enough you'll probably want to proudly say "at gmail cot com!" when you tell your email address.

14) Chat. I can see when my friends who use Gmail are online, and have quick little conversations such as what time we're meeting to run tonight. Quicker response than an email, while allowing me to more efficiently multitask than I could during a phone call.

15) Labs. These are "crazy experimental stuff" you can enable or not, developed by the geniuses working at Google to add fun or functional features to Gmail. I'll list the ones I find extremely useful next, but here are some I don't personally take advantage of that I still find interesting or amusing: Mail Goggles (makes you solve simple math problems before sending email late at night to prevent morning-after email regret), Email Addict (blocks the screen for 15 minutes, hides you in chat, and tells you to take a break), Canned Responses ("email for the truly lazy"; save common emails and send with one click, or even automatically send these emails using filters), Custom Label Colors (give each of your labels its own identifying color--pretty!), and so many more.

16) Forgotten Attachment Detector. This lab prompts you before sending if it seems you have forgotten to attach files that you mention in the email. Now you don't have to send that "oops!" message or anxiously await responses only to find the hours waiting wasted when you get the email that says, "um, maybe it didn't come through right, but I can't see any attachment, but I'm sure you're not so dumb that you didn't attach it, it's probably my computer."

17) Send & Archive. Probably my favorite of all labs. One button sends my email and archives the conversation all at once. Before this lab I had to click 'Send' and then a few moments later click 'Archive.' Prehistoric, I tell you!

18) Undo Send. Oops! I forgot to add something. Oops! I hit Reply instead of Forward! (Ack!) A few seconds to retrieve a sent message might be a lifesaver sometimes!
Oh Gmail. You are what email is meant to be.


Jennifer said...

Well said. I agree 100%.

Bridget said...

Wait, there's an Undo Send?!?

I LOVE Gmail. Conversations are my favorite too, which is interesting because that's what I was most skeptical of to begin with.

Amber said...

I've been in love with Gmail for a while, and yet I had no idea that I wasn't appreciating it for its full value! So many good things I found out from your post that make Gmail even more amazing than I previously thought!


Related Posts with Thumbnails