Part 1 of my Google Apps Blog Series describes what GMail is and the benefit of using it over conventional email accounts with your hosting provider for example.
What is GMail?
Gmail is a free Email service provided by Google that is accessed through a web browser rather than an email client like Outlook. Google’s abundance of servers allow them to provide a lot more space than most other providers, at the moment a massive 7Gb of email storage (Google constantly increase this space so by the time you fill this account, it’s quite possible it has increased in size).
Why Should I Use GMail?
GMail has many, many features, with new ones being created often, but in my mind the following select features make GMail an excellent system to use:-
- Browser based – access your email anywhere with an internet connection, on any computer. No need to download email to different PCs.
- Free – A massive 7Gb of storage space free. My own email service with Amity Web Solutions only provides from 50Mb to a few hundred Mb depending on the requirements.
- Fast Search – Google is a search engine after all, so their search facility is fast and efficient
- Own Domain – you can send email from your own domain names so recipients wont see your Google Mail address, just your main email address.
- Multiple Email Addresses – add all your other email accounts (e.g. Hotmail, Yahoo) to your GMail account to manage ALL your emails on one convenent place
- Labels – Instead of folders you can create Labels to assign to emails to efficiently organise and manage emails, easily filtering all emails with a certain label. More powerful than folders because you can add multiple labels to an email
- Filters – Much like “Rules” in a conventional email client, filters allows you to setup rules to process emails as they come in. For example, you can setup a filter to assign a label you have created (perhaps a customer name) to an email that is from a certain email address.
- Conversations – One of the best features for me is conversations. Some emails go back and forth many times, like a conversation. But instead of showing each individual email in the Inbox, it merges the same subject emails together in a thread and represents it as one email in your inbox. This keeps the number of emails in your inbox down, and makes it much easier to review previous emails on the same topic.
Google is also constantly adding “add ons” to GMail to make your email management even more powerful. Called “Google Labs”, it is a collection of add ons you can add to your GMail account. The following add ons are a few I use to improve my email productivity:-
- Super Stars – This allows you to create a few different “flags” that you can assign to emails and name them as you want. It adds an icon next to the email so you can easily pick it out in your list. As most of my tasks come in via emails, I use them for prioritising emails. So I have created flags for “High”, “Medium” and “Low”. I can then label the email accordingley.
- Multiple Inboxes – this allows you to create different “views” that conform to a certain rule you setup. They could be a view of all your labels, or as I do, a view of your Super Stars. So I have setup views of my High, Medium and Low importance emails, from top to bottom. In effect my Super Stars and Multiple Inboxes means I can use my email inbox as my To Do list.
How Do I Get GMail?
You need a Google Account, so sign up for a Google Account and get your GMail at http://mail.google.com/mail/. Having a Google Account allows you to access many other free tools Google provides such as Google Documents and Google Calendar.
Are There Alternatives?
Here are a list of other providers of free, online browser based email accounts:-
You can find more information from Google at http://mail.google.com/mail/help/intl/en-GB/about.html.