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Chris Metcalf

specialization is for insects

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So I’ve been using GMail for about a week now after getting set up with a beta account. I thought I’d spend a few minutes and talk about the things I like and don’t like about the service:

Things I like:

  • The conversation paradigm. I used to think I got a lot of mail. Now I've realized I just have long ongoing conversations over email. GMail keeps mails indexed by "conversation", so every reply, whether it goes to the whole group or just one member, ends up in a threaded view that tracks the whole thing. Simply wonderful.
  • Archive. Contrary to everyone's fears, GMail does give you the ability to really delete mails. I don't know just how "gone" they are if you delete them, but they're not in the mailbox anymore. But having the ability to simply "throw mails over the fence" and not delete them is nice. Having a full gig of space included helps. Haven't you ever deleted a mail thinking you'll never need it only to discover there was some crucial bit of information in one?
  • Labels. GMail gives you the ability to apply an arbitrary number of "labels" to conversations. That way, once they're "archived", you can still quickly and easily find them based on the labels you've applied. You can also create filters to automatically apply labels to mails as they come in. I use filters to label incoming mail from all the mailing lists I'm on.
  • The interface. The interface is simply awesome. Clean, simple, and very dynamic. Its exactly what you'd expect from the guys at google. You very quickly forget that you're using a web application. They even included keyboard shortcuts, which seem to be heavily based on the vi editor keyboard commands.

Things I don’t like:

  • Lousy spam filtering. I get a whole lot of spam. I'd been using SpamAssassin on my personal mail server to block spam, and had been having quite a bit of success with it. GMail, no matter how much I train it, fails to catch many very obvious spam messages. It probably only catches about 70% of the spam I recieve. I really expected the guys and girls at Google to be better at catching spam.
  • Awkward filter creation. Evolution includes a "create filter from message" option. It lets you use a specific message to automatically create a new filter. Google needs this feature too.

Thats about it for now. Overall, its a great service and I see a lot of potential in it. I’ll post some screenshots and write some more about the general experience soon.