Incite -- (v) 1: give an incentive; 2: provoke or stir up; "incite a riot"; 3: urge on; cause to act
Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Cool things associated with Google...
Written by: Beck

I'm not sure just how common or how hard it is to get beta accounts for the testing of Google's vaunted new free email called "Gmail." It may be damn near anyone can get them. Regardless, I now have one. And it's neato.

First, the bits everyone knows. It offers up to 1gb of storage, and will send/receive attachments up to 10mb in size. Furthermore, Google scans all the emails in your account and uses the data gleaned from that for a few tastefully discreet targeted ads Google is so rightly famous for. The 1gb of storage space has the computer wonks/geeks/illuminati drooling in anticipation. The targeted ads have privacy wonks/geeks/activists up in arms. Inasmuch as I fit in the former category, I ever so hope those in the second category fail. It isn't that I don't regard privacy as being an essential right--I do. It's that I don't think Google's scanning of mail is an invasion of privacy at all. You are of course invited to disagree with me, but you will be wrong.

Now, for a review of the bits not everyone knows about. Pretty much every email program in the world has been homogenized and standardized to where they're all pretty interchangeable. You have an inbox, a composer, and myriad folders. And the extraordinarily creative people at Google are having none of that. There are three folders. Inbox, Send, and All Mail. When you're done with an email, if you don't decide to delete it, you just "Archive" it, and it gets sent to the All Mail department. Instead of filing away emails in separate folders, they have labels. As such, you can label emails under one or more categories you've made up for easy sorting and retrieving later. It works like a card catalog rather than a file cabinet. The All Mail folder simply contains all emails from all labels (and unlabeled as well). You can sort by libels, like I said, or by any of a number of other systems. Furthermore, you can search your emails using the Google engine and they'll be ranked by search relevance.

Another very cool feature is that it lumps emails into "Conversations" for easier reading. Thus if you're having an email exchange with one or more people, they'll show up neatly in line chronologically for more straightforward following of the thread. It's sort of like a series of back-and-forth emails where the writers keep including the entire previous email's text but without all the >>>> signs, better organized, and capable of handling numerous people at once. Also, though web based, Gmail supports a slew of "hotkeys" for one-key command execution. For someone willing to spend the time to learn the various tricks and tools, the sorting and handling options are fantastic. Perfect for someone running a blog who gets hundreds of emails a day.

So what I'm trying to say, here, is that I really love Gmail. It's a huge step forward in a field where incremental tinkering and stagnation are the norm. That, and I'm frigging sick of hotmail.

Contact The Author:

John Beck

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