Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Gmail: Or the Importance of Interface

I'm not going to say anything new here, but I was just checking my email (I get from 40-150 messages a day) and I realized how much simpler and easier life is now that all my email gets forwarded to gmail.

Until recently I was using our college's outlook server to for 90% of my email. I was constantly missing emails, dealing with junkmail and spending time looking for old email.

Why was I having so many problems? Let me explain. At our campus, if you're not on your office computer, you need to use the outlook web interface. Since I am constantly all over campus teaching, working, meeting, or I'm at home, I almost always need to connect over the internet. Naturally, I just want to check email "quick and dirty like," as they say.

So the problem is that the Outlook interface is highly browser dependent. If you don't use IE (Internet Explorer), you're out of luck for quick browsing, using ctrl-select for multiple deletes and other "advanced" features brought to you by Microsoft. The worst part is that if you use Firefox (or if you can't use IE because you use a Mac), THERE IS NO SEARCH OPTION. (See the blurry picture)

That's right, you can't search your old emails.

That seems like a real hassle, and it is, but to tell you the truth, the search one gets using Outlook (through the web or off a brand new computer) is so crappy that it's pretty worthless anyway.

So no easy interface, limited usability, junk mail problems, no search, browser dependency...did I forget to mention that if you forget to log in as a "safe" user/computer, your connection times out after 10 minutes. How many long emails have I lost because my connection automatically timed out? Countless.

Luckily a free solution existed....Gmail.

Gmail is excellent for organizing, searching, tagging, reading, compiling conversations. It solves all the problems mentioned above. On top of that, I can download messages to any email program I want, use really effective filters, keep all my email, avoid almost all spam, search incredibly quickly. My gmail even spoofs my campus address when I reply to people at work so that they think I'm sending the mail from work.

What's more, I get a great calendar, on-line docs, pictures, etc.

Really, if you don't use gmail for ALL your email addresses, you should.

Thanks gmail.

Finally, no, I was not paid by Google or anyone affiliated with Google. If I'm waxing eloquent it is simply because a great wave of relief washed over me once my life was simplified. How often does life get simpler, huh?