June 17th, 2004

random pic

gmail ponderings // random thoughts

So, I know a few people on Gmail, and I've seen a bunch of "OMG I love Gmail!" posts, usually followed by "I have a spare invite, anyone want it?".. While I'm all in favor of getting a star on one's belly, I haven't yet heard anything particularly remarkable about the email features offered by Gmail.

Sure, some of those features haven't been used in a webmail client before, but I only use webmail as a temporary fix for when I can't otherwise get to my primary-use computer. If I want real email handling, I use a real email client.

Can someone, anyone (if you know someone using Gmail, please point them here if they know of a cool feature it offers), *please* tell me about some really remarkable (or even not-so-remarkable-but-certainly-unique-and-slightly-usefull) feature that Gmail offers? I'm having a big problem comming up with why people seem to be loving this thing so much. Sure, it's nice to be cool and shiney-new-toy does explain some of the hype, but that can't be all there is to it.

Here are the big offerings I've heard of so far from it and the various converts:

1GB of storage
please, I don't personally know anyone who has this much email (though I do read the LJ of someone who has more). I've kept every email I possibly could (varous system crashes have left blocks of lost data, but I think I'm missing no more than 6 months total) since '97, including junkmail and spam (don't ask why, let's just say 'packrat'), and I'm just now topping 200MB. Further, I haven't ever really had an excuse to look at any piece of email older than 3 years (other than nostalgia).

better email searching
How much better could it be than my current email client? I can create all sorts of customized searches and whenever I do a search it usually turns up the correct message in the top 10 (sometimes it's so damn good that the only messages returned are either the exact one I want or replies it's quoted in). seriously, how much better could Gmail's searching possibly be?

keyboard shortcuts
in a web interface? okay, *this* I want to see. but as far as email capabilities go, it's nothing new. heck, *pine* has keyboard shortcuts! hehehe.
(for those not in the know, the joke here being Pine is a text-based email client, keyboard shortcuts are all you have as there is usually no mouse support in a telnet window).

threaded view
I don't remember ever using an email client that didn't support threaded view. no, wait, I *just* remembered one. I used to use Eudora, and I don't recall the version I used (it was a while ago) supporting threaded view. These days I have to turn that stuff off because it bugs me and doesn't work with the way I do email. but I know the MUAs (Mail User Agents, a term I'm trying to train myself to use as it seems to be the accepted 'proper' term for an email client these days) I use now all support it.

but all this is in a WEB interface
so? like I said, I only use web-based email as a temporary "I need email now!" patch for when I can't otherwise access my primary emailing computer. I might use it a few times when I'm on vacation, but otherwise I don't touch it. I'm still not a huge fan of the web. My constant use of it is teaching me to not hate it, but I don't particuarly love it, either.

message keywords
instead of folders, you get keywords. okay, nice enough. But is this truly *instead* of message folders? like, I don't get to create 30 different folders? no, the proper response is not "but you don't *have* to!". I *want* email folders. I like them. I like the psychological impact of having all my email neatly tucked away in various folders. While I admit that the keywords concept is a pretty nift idea for email, I don't see how it's actually practical, particularly if I have to manually add the keywords to every email myself. Folders are easilly enough automated with filters (espicialy in some MUAs where the filters can be any RegExp), which I make extensive use of. I don't see how keywords could be equally easilly automated, and I get enough email that there's no chance in hell I'm going to bother with manually filling (or keywording) all of it.

speaking of filters, does Gmail support them, and how extensive is the filtering system? I'm a filter-freak with my email (a quick glance at my current list looks like something over 50, and that's a small list because I'm still rebuilding the list from my last MUA switch), and I've rejected using particular MUAs simply because their filtering options weren't complete enough for my use.