|An Examination of Google's Gmail
by Richard Johnson, Consumer Advocate and founder of NotBarter.com
Updated August 13, 2011
Gmail is Google's email service. It features lightning-quick message retrieval and superior spam filtering.
When Gmail launched in 2004, its chief draw was what was then promoted as its huge storage, said to eliminate the need to delete messages. Compared to the competition, that storage was then indeed huge--a full gigabyte. Now it's grown past 6 gb, and is still growing--but it's been outstripped by the unlimited mail storage offered by Yahoo, Windows Live Hotmail, and AOL. Google will increase your storage further, on a paid basis. The chances of your actually needing more than a gigabyte or so, however, are remote.
Gmail touts its unique labeling system, which replaces other email services' folders (for filing incoming messages); its "conversation" grouping of messages; and its lack of banner ads or pop-ups. These features may or may not justify using Gmail.
After you've dealt with an incoming Gmail message, you have three choices: you can archive it or delete it (each with the respective button on top) or you can just let it sit in the inbox. For most users, archiving is the way to go. Deleting messages forces you to take the time to determine which messages should stay and which should go--and you could always delete a message you really want to keep. Keeping the message in the inbox is the fastest option (since you do nothing), but it will clutter up your inbox with messages that need no further action.
Gmail users can both receive and send HTML mail. Some images are excluded from incoming mail, but you can choose to see those images once a message is opened, either for that message only or for all messages from that sender. Choosing Basic HTML instead of Standard View will speed loading and suppress ads, but will entail the loss of some features. (More here.) Basic HTML will work when Standard View won't.
Sending as if from another domain. A very handy feature is the ability to send Gmail mail as if coming from another address--like one with your own domain, if you have such.
You can also forward incoming mail to that other address or a different one, with or without a copy at the Gmail website. And you can specify the address to which replies to your messages will be sent. All these choices are available under Settings (at the top of any page).
Spam control. Gmail uses an excellent Bayesian filtering system, that misses very little spam but yields almost no false positives. Gmail also allows you to create your own filters as "rules", and you can stop Gmail from diverting to its spam folder legitimate mail by adding the sender to your contacts list. (You can do so either directly or by marking a "Spam" message "Not spam.") At this writing Gmail still follows a quirky protocol under which bounce messages are diverted to the spam folder.
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Gmail is not for everyone. You should not switch to Gmail
You should consider switching to Gmail
Moreover, if you use another Web-based email service like Yahoo Mail or Hotmail, you should consider switching to Gmail
And if you use a disk-based system like Outlook or Outlook Express, you should consider switching to Gmail
For an impressive collection of Gmail tips, see http://gmailtips.com