In my humble opinion Gmail is the greatest web application ever created. It’s simplicity and power is unmatched. Gmail transformed the already pervasive email platform into a true powerhouse. It revolutionized how we thought about email and the enhancements it ushered in are still as useful as ever. Here are my top 10 reasons (in no particular order) that Gmail is not only the best email client in the world, but also the best means of communication.
1. Search – This was one of the key reasons that Gmail really took off in the mid-2000’s. Previous attempts at email search were slow and clunky. Google’s excellent search system changed all that.
2. Labels – Ah, labels. I never liked folders. Folders was a way to treat individual emails like files, not messages. I message can have many contexts, and being able to assign multiple labels is a good way to manage that. Try filing your emails in multiple folders and you’ll quickly realize the value of labels.
3. Chat/Video Chat/SMS – Building chat functionality into Gmail was something that I didn’t *get* immediately. It took me a little while to figure out how the two things are related, but having the searchable archives of chats finally made it click for me.
4. Priority Organization – The newest addition to the list is squarely aimed at helping power users tame their ever-expanding inboxes. If you will take the time to teach Gmail what messages matter the most to you then it will do a remarkable job of making sure those are the ones you see first.
5. Threading – Threading changed the way email works fundamentally. No longer were messages unrelated, single-point communications. Threading them together really cemented the idea that a string of emails is really a conversation and should be treated as such. Treat the conversation as an entity, not the individual messages.
6. Gmail Labs – The Gmail team never sleeps. Gmail Labs is constantly rolling out new features, tweaks, behaviors, and more. Simple things such as changing where your signature is placed to canned messages can be configured in Labs. These are features that are experimental but stable. We’ve now seen a couple of Labs features move into the core Gmail product itself.
7. Add on Followup.cc – I’ve written about Followup.cc before. Never worry about remembering anything ever again.
8. Built-in Contacts – Gmail’s contact system works seamlessly across email and my iPhone contacts. Having one centralized contact list is a major problem solver and timesaver.
9. Mobile Access – Much of Gmail’s development over the last 2-3 years has been in the mobile space. Email is increasingly becoming a mobile task as opposed to a desktop task, and Gmail is doing as good a job as anyone. The Gmail mobile web app works great and is optimized for a variety of platforms. The searching capabilities of the mobile web app give it an advantage over the iPhone Mail app.
10. IMAP – Using the IMAP protocol for Gmail access allows all of your devices/computers to see the same thing. Pretty standard in the email landscape today, but still important.
With email, voice, and IM integrated Gmail is a pretty complete communications package. I would gladly pay $100/year for Gmail, but I’m glad it’s free. What are your Gmail power-user tips?