Saturday, February 20, 2010

GMail - I like this

We are doing a trial of Google apps at Jade, you might remember this came up from the positive experiences with BaseCamp I mentioned in an earlier post.

There is a lot to Google apps, especially considering how inexpensive it is for corporates. I am not surprised it is being adopted by large high profile customers. Looking across the suite, there is mail and calendar as well as a set of Office replacement apps, and a few other odds and ends.

But this is about Google Mail.

I have had a personal GMail account for years, but never really used it. It always seemed a bit toy-like and I didn't like the Labels vs Folders concept.

I was wrong.

Now we have had the training and the proverbial penny has dropped. This is magic stuff.

Google mail is (perhaps unsurprisingly) based on very fast and easy search.

One of my main frustrations with mail has disappeared instantly. I can find stuff now!

Even the most organised email user (not me) tends to lose mail for two reasons.

Firstly, deletion. In other mail systems you read a mail in your inbox, then you need to decide whether to keep it or delete it, If you delete it, then you will not be able to get it back if you want to later. If you keep it, then you generally move it to a folder (see below). There are some people who just let their inbox grow and grow, but this does not work well for lots of reasons. With Google you don't need to delete!!! In fact, I understand that the first version of GMail didn't even have a delete option!

Secondly, folders. In other mail systems a mail can only be in one folder, so you have to keep making choices about the most relevant folder to use. Then when you want to find it again you have to re-make the choice of which folder to look in and hope you come up with the same answer. To make things worse, Outlook, at least, does not let you search over more than one folder.

How Google mail works.

All your mail messages are in a huge bucket called (logically enough) 'All Mail'. You can search this at lightning fast speed and find any message you want.

Messages can have meta tags (labels) applied to them, which puts them in the set of messages that have that tag. So, for example, in Google the Inbox is not a folder, it is the set of messages that have the Inbox tag applied to them. So when you have finished with a message, you don't need to delete it, you just remove the Inbox tag. Messages can have multiple tags which lets them appear in multiple sets.

Under Outlook I had about 100 folders set up for my customers and used to laboriously file messages under the right customer. With Google I have one label, Customers, and just tag all my customer messages. I rely on search to find the messages for a specific customer.

By relying on search, you need far fewer labels than folders, I think I'll manage with about 10 Labels, versus probably about 200 folders in outlook. Isn't that simpler?

There are a few other nice things built in, like a good Instant Messaging system, including text, audio and video, but the mail is the killer app for me.

And it's all cloud based, so it's the same when I'm at home on the netbook, when I'm at work, and in April when I get my iPad it will all just work.

1 comment:

  1. Having used it for many years, I actually quite like the Outlook UI. However the Outlook search facility is not good, so I've been using the Google Desktop plug-in for the last two or three years. This indexes your Outlook e-mails and provides a virtually instantaneous search facility - sweet ! See