It always amazes me to find out how many people don't know the wonderful benefits provided by Google. Whether the features have been around for a while or they are newly emerging it is always productive to stay up to date on what Google has to offer. I've decided to write a few posts explaining these options so that more people can be aware of both basic and advanced features and how to use them. For this post I will discuss Gmail, a product that has been changing my life since 2004.
So why is Google account worth the hassle?
If you're not using Gmail already, you might be thinking that it's too much hassle to switch from what you're already used to. You don't want to have to tell everyone a new email address and re-register at all those websites you gave your current email address. Well, guess what - you don't have to. Almost any mail server nowadays will allow you to forward your email to a different address. It's easy to create a new Gmail account and then forward your mail from your old account to Gmail. If you have multiple accounts you can forward all of them and use filters and labels to separate them out so you don't get confused about what's coming from where. You can have a Gmail account, never tell anyone its address, and still use it to organize your emails and benefit from all of its features. Speaking of features, creating a Google account allows you do a wide array of things. Not only is Google the most prominent search engine on the internet, but the company also owns the most prominent video site on the internet, Youtube. Google has created countless products such as Gmail, the Android phone operating system, Google Earth, Google Chrome, Google Docs, and many more. Having a Google account gives you access to all these features as well as the best webmail service there is.
Ok, but what's so great about Gmail?
Gmail always has been and always will be an industry leader in web development. It uses the most advanced Ajax technology available on its website to give you an interactive email experience. This makes it easy to drag and drop, rearrange, create, read, update, and organize all of your email content. For example, if you want to categorize an email you can simply drag and drop it into the appropriate category. If you and someone else are having a conversation by e-mail it will link the e-mails together so that you can see all of the messages at once instead of having to hunt for them. Its design is elegant and easy to understand. It keeps your inbox from becoming a cluttered mess of spam by accurately filtering out unwanted messages while leaving the wanted. You can categorize, prioritize, organize, and color code everything, or you can set up filters to do all of that for you. If you send a message but forgot to add an attachment that you talked about in the message Gmail will stop you and remind you to attach it. It is simply more productive than the other email interfaces out there.
Gmail has, for all intents and purposes, unlimited email storage space. Even people who use Gmail often don't understand the idea of archiving. In the past we had to delete messages after reading them so that we didn't eventually run out of mail server space. In the event that we did we were no longer allowed to receive new messages. This is in the past. With Gmail you can archive messages so that it takes them out of the inbox but saves them for later if you need them. Of course, you may want to delete a message permanently and you certainly can, but unless it's something you want to hide there is no practical reason to do this. By rule of thumb you should archive every message you read just in case by some chance you might need it again later. By archiving the message it also won't clutter your inbox so you can easily see which emails are new and need your action. I have been using Gmail (relentlessly) for 6 years and I've only used up 10% of my storage space even though I archive every message that comes into my inbox. If I want to read a message from 6 years ago I simply search for it and can find it within seconds. Some people worry that because their email messages are online that someone else is looking at them. In truth, your email messages are less secure on your personal computer. Gmail uses the same encryption that banking websites do, and its servers are guarded like Fort Knox. Unless you are a terrorist trying to evade the United States Government, I really wouldn't worry about security - just be safe with your password and change it regularly.
Gmail is well known and highly mainstream in the development world. No one will be confused when you tell them that your email address is @gmail.com and if you buy a new computer or phone or internet TV or just about anything that has email support it will almost undeniably have support for Gmail. Being both free and mainstream means that many companies work very hard for seamless integration with Gmail as a product. Google sets the standard for a number of new technologies, especially on Android and Apple phones which are designed to integrate with Gmail, Google Contacts, Google Docs and Google Calendars. Even if your phone isn't built around Gmail, it can use it as long as it has a web browser since Gmail has a mobile site.
So how do I get the most out of Gmail?
Besides taking advantage of the benefits listed and other main features such as Google Chat, Google Docs, and Google Calendars which I will more than likely cover in future posts about Google, Gmail has a number of experimental features through Google Labs. Multiple Inboxes allows you to have other boxes on your main page where messages with a certain priority or label are placed. I use this to keep daily emails or Starred e-mails separate from the rest of my Inbox while still being visible. There's also a feature called Canned Responses which allows you to create email templates in case you find yourself typing the same sort of thing often. Browse the Labs area for a myriad of different options for additional features. One of the most beneficial things to do with Gmail is to set up good filters. For example, I get a daily email from a website that sends me a daily bible reading. By clicking on Settings in the top right and then filters I can make these messages get labeled, archived, and even forwarded to friends I'm studying with automatically.
If there's something you want to do with Gmail then chances are that it's possible; you just need to look for it. Other email services like Hotmail, Yahoo, or your internet service providers email services just don't have the features and reliability that Gmail maintains day after day. Gmail is a shoe in for the best email service out there which is why it's had so much success over the past six years and continues to be the leader in email to this day.