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10 Reasons to Switch to Gmail

May 31, 2008

Since I was invited to Gmail two years ago, it has slowly but surely taken over a significant portion of my online activity. It’s only when I sit down and think about it that I realize just how many Google products I use on a daily basis. They all interconnect so smoothly that I sometimes forget I’m using anything more than Gmail. Also, you no longer need an invitation to sign up for Gmail. So, if you’re not yet part of Gmail, or if you’d like to discover new ways to use it, read on! 


1. Gmail saves all of your messages, and I mean ALL of your emails and chats. I’ve used it for about two years, and when I click “All Mail,” there are about 3,000 messages saved. Which brings me to point two. . .


2. Gmail is searchable. I can type in “Will’s address” and it instantly finds the chat that Will and I had six months ago, when he gave me his address. I can also type in just about anything else, and find the original email or message. Having google search inside your email is something you really can’t do without. I recently opened up my old Yahoo account and tried to search through the piles of unread mail and spam, and almost none of my search terms brought back any hits. With Gmail, that never happens.


3. Gtalk. My boyfriend spent a year in England, and without Gtalk I’m sure he wouldn’t be my boyfriend anymore. Gtalk is available in your email window with most browsers, so you can chat from almost any computer without downloading anything. It automatically adds anyone you email who has Gmail to your Gtalk window, and allows you to choose whether to keep them there or not. Also, Gtalk has a downloadable email program just like AIM or Yahoo Messenger, and it is amazing. The “Call” feature, in itself, is priceless. Talk to your sister in Florida a lot? Sick of expensive phone bills? If both of you get a Gmail account, the problem is solved. Granted, sometimes it doesn’t work, and sometimes the quality is not great, but as I said before, my boyfriend was in England for a year, and neither of us ever purchased a phone card. We talked on Gtalk Call for several hours every day, and just downloaded Skype for the times when Call was having issues. You can also send files through Gtalk, though I never use the function.


4. Email updates on your desktop. Whenever an email goes into your inbox, a little window pops up on your desktop to tell you that you have a new email. It even gives you some sense of who the email is from and what it concerns. Of course, this function is only available if you have downloaded Gtalk.


5. Filters. For a long time, I was skeptical of filters. However, as more and more mail began piling up in my inbox, the task of deciding what to delete, what to archive, and what to put into folders became exhausting, and so I let the problem go. Eventually I had 900 emails in my inbox, and without the search function I would have never been able to find anything. A friend told me to just try filters for a week or so, and see what I thought of them. The way filters work is that you tell google what kind of message you are looking for (“from:Dad”, for example) and what you would like done with those messages. You can have them sent to a certain folder, marked as read, marked as Starred, Deleted, or any number of things. I made about twenty filters the first night, sorting things out by work, friends, family,  etc. All of a sudden, my inbox was empty. When I get a new email, if there has been a filter created for it, it goes to that folder and the folder name turns bold and displays the number of messages. If there hasn’t been a filter created, it goes to my inbox. Frequently I open the message and click the “Filter Messages Like These” option, so that next time, the message doesn’t go to the inbox. It’s amazing. I can look at my list of folders and decide to ignore “Online Shopping” (which is mostly just newsletters from Amazon and Target) but read the two new messages in “Friends.” It makes me feel so organized and productive. The only complaint that I have with this system is that only new messages in the Inbox show up on the “New Messages” tool on my desktop, so I’ve had to revert to actually checking my mail. Maybe there’s a way around this.


6. Google Documents – Google Documents allows you to work on projects and schoolwork from any computer, save your work, and then reopen it, work on it, and print from any other computer. The space to do so is seemingly unlimited, and the tools for writing are comparable to Microsoft Word and other programs. This prevents the catastrophes that happen when you email the wrong link, lose your flash drive, or your computer crashes. You can always just go to another computer and open the document. At the very least, I save all of my work to Google Documents when I’m done with it, as a backup. You can create Documents, Spreadsheets, and Presentations in Google Documents, and you can share them with others.


7. Picassa and Google Pictures– Picassa is a free photo editing and organization program offered by Google. It does a good job of both keeping my pictures organized and making minor edits (crop, contrast, red-eye, sharpen, etc) to them. Also, you can send pictures directly from Picassa to a Google Web Album, Blogger, a photo printing website, or even to your friends and family via email.


8. Blogger – google is now associated with Blogger, which makes blogging easier and faster for Gmail users.


9. Google Calendar and Google Reader – I’m just starting to use both of these, but I’ve heard from friends that they both make themselves indispensable after a short time. Imagine all of your RSS feeds in one place, with the ability to search for new content based on the things you’re already reading. Imagine being invited to an event and having the event automatically added to your calendar, and a receiving a reminder a few days or hours before the event. These are the sorts of things that I’m told you can do with Google Calendar. I’ll report back when I can say more.


10. Google Homepage – You can set things up so that you have a personalized Google Homepage, containing everything that you’d like to see on the web, at a glance. Mine contains a mini-view of my inbox, today’s Garfield Comic, top news stories from several sources, movie times and locations, weather, and Tetris. You can log into this page from any computer, and the list of things that it can contain is practically endless and growing all the time.


For a full list of the things that you never knew that Google offers, click here.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 18, 2008 11:28 am

    Gmail is the best. I would have to say that the Filters and Labels are the best feature for me, and the conversation threads are really handy too!


  1. I just received my Google keyboard shortcut stickers in the mail | College is a Movie by Jesse Chapman

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