Gmail is certainly not an unknown product, but I am including it in my “useful tools” directory because it is such a good product. For those who do not know, Gmail is Google’s free email service. Now, there are plenty of email services out there – what makes Gmail so much better than other services?
First and foremost, it is web based. This means that your Gmail account is not tied to your home or office computer. You can access it from any computer or computing device that is attached to the web, and this includes web enabled wireless phones. If you don’t currently use more than 1 computer, you will and it simply makes no sense to tie yourself to a particular machine. My wife is dealing with this problem right now. Her email goes to an account that is processed by Outlook on her office machine. At the same time, she uses a Verizon “wireless synch” service to send those emails to her wireless phone/pocket PC device. Although the Verizon service is reliable, it does get out of synch periodically necessitating either a phone call to customer service or my time in reconnecting the synch. Additionally, her email responses from the phone/wireless device do not end up in her “sent” directory on the Outlook program on her office computer unless she sends herself a copy.
By contrast, I use Gmail for my office email. I can check it at home, at the office on or my Blackberry. Gmail can be open on 5 computers at the same time and it always stays in synch. It automatically saves work in progress as a draft, so if I start an email at work, but then have to run home, my work in progress shows up as a draft when I open Gmail at home. I also added the Gmail application to my Blackberry so I can receive and respond to emails in real time.
Gmail also has a robust search feature, it allows you to label emails based on the sender or the topic and Google gives you enough space to save everything – I am going on 2 years and I have plenty of space. I have several Gmail accounts for different businesses so as a practical matter, space is not an issue.
Google also updates Gmail regularly and new features are frequently coming on line. There are also a number of third party applications that add to Gmail’s functionality including applications that allow for multiple signatures, applications that allow you to upload files to Gmail and use it as an external hard drive, backup utilities, etc.
I suppose that Gmail would not be a good choice if you still use dial-up or have only periodic access to the Internet. There is also the risk that Google will someday start charging for Gmail or that it may snoop into your email messages, but I think we should all assume that any email is not “secured” no matter who the provicer. All in all, Gmail functions as a simple, elegant and powerful email application that will enhance your productivity.