Gmail review

I don’t know if it’s due to the increased pressure on spammers or what, but since I put the post up Friday night begging for spam I’ve only gotten one spam email. It showed up about 5 hours after the post was up and I haven’t gotten anything since. It didn’t flag it as spam, which I assume is a feature Google will be developing more as time goes on (or perhaps auto-recognition of spam isn’t turned on yet). A lot of friends have imported spam to see if gmail would auto-flag it and no one seems to have tripped any spam filters yet. Oh, the spam was also in Chinese, which gmail didn’t do such a hot job displaying, but I’m sure they’re still working the unicode bugs out in the beta.

update: apparently the spam filters are turned on and working well, because checking my empty spam folder this sunday afternoon, I found three Nigerian 419 scams, automatically filtered into the spam folder. Cool!

I can say that after using gmail for a few days I finally get what everyone is raving about. On first glance there’s nothing impressive there. To see what it is capable of doing well, you have to use it: get a few email discussions going with folks and the more you use it the more obvious the benefits become. I bet you could say the same thing about blogging. Show a blog or the Blogger.com app to someone that has never seen it or heard of blogging. I’m sure they’d dismiss it as nothing special, one page being some sort of boring public diary, while the app itself is just a giant form and a button marked “post and publish”, whatever that means.

Gmail is pretty incredible about tracking discussions. I’ve tried several email packages that offer threading and gmail’s is simpler and more straightforward. It automatically trims replies and shows email threads as top-down discussions, so it’s easy to keep track of where people are in a discussion. Replying to email is really easy, you just start typing in the textarea below a message and it automatically starts a response.

Gmail relies on the universal inbox with good searching and flags. A lot of email power users I know have no filters of any kind, prefering everything to drop into the inbox with custom quick searches to find stuff and generous use of the flag message command. It takes a little getting used to if you’ve been using filters for a long time.

Everyone’s raving about the keyboard shortcuts, but I haven’t gotten to use them much. I assume that’s a power user feature I’ll pick up eventually. So far I’ve been impressed by email address auto-completion. That’s something I’ve never seen in a web app before and it’s quite a time-saver. As I get more familiar with it, I hope to be able to navigate all my mail with simple keystrokes.

I think Google’s really got something amazing here. It’s a useful app that feels almost like desktop software, the storage means you never have to delete anything, and the simple flags and searching in a threaded inbox is both a power users and new users dream setup. As this develops along, I just might convert over to it from pop and imap based accounts.