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Seriously, What's So Good about Gmail?

Magazine article Information Today

Seriously, What's So Good about Gmail?

Article excerpt

[Here's Part I of a two-part series on Steven M. Cohen's insights about Google's Gmail. Part II will appear in the next issue of IT.--Ed.]

On April 1, 2004, Google played a practical joke on its users: It introduced a free email service called Gmail. The joke was indeed on the users because Gmail was real, however ridiculous the announcement sounded at the time. Since then, Google has changed the way we look at email as dramatically as when we used AOL Instant Messenger (IM) or Twitter for the first time.

We look at email as a conversation with built-in instant messaging. We see so little actual spam that we forget that the problem is rampant. We also have more space than we know what to do with for our thousands of messages. I have been a faithful Gmail user since it debuted that day in April, and I only have 30% of my allowed space filled. And, since I practically live on Gmail, I figured I would share some of the additional features that I have used to make my Gmail experience even easier and more user-friendly.

Alerts With a New Ring

The first application I installed when I started using Gmail was the Gmail Notifier ( This is a small app that lives on your Windows tray, and, just like Outlook, it will ring when a new email has arrived. The name of the sender and some of the text will pop up. Gmail Notifier is constantly checking the system for new messages and will usually beat me to the punch when a new message arrives. This is useful because you don't have to have Gmail open in your browser all the time.

When a new message arrives, click on the little blue envelope, and you will be taken to your mail. There's one feature of this tool that I love: It shows me how many unread emails I have when I mouse over the envelope. Another feature that I often use for the RSS feeds that I need to see as soon as they are updated is Web Clips. I have five must-reads on my list, and I get to see them immediately. Since I am on Gmail all day, I can use Web Clips to add the feeds, and the new content from my favorites will appear right above my inbox. If I don't have time during the day to catch up on every Twitter post from my friends, I use Web Clips by adding the feed for my friends' Tweets.

When Gmail first started, discussions ensued about why we didn't have folders to organize messages. …

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