Well, it’s now official. Gmail is out of beta. Now, for you and me this probably means very little. I’ve been using the service for years and been very satisfied with it. This transition is more for large business, which Google hopes they will be able to hone in on now.
With this news hook, I thought I would talk about some of the advantage and a few tips and tricks that I use on Gmail to make it worthwhile for me. First, if you want a great mini-course on using Gmail, check out their page on becoming a Gmail ninja. I found it both good for a laugh and very informative. I won’t go over everything they have there, but there are a couple of things worth highlighting.
I really like the labels system. Many online e-mail services offer folder, and I really didn’t understand the difference between the two at first. Until one day, I had an e-mail that was related to both my job and bills I had to pay. Normally, I’d have to choose one folder or the other, but with labels, I can stick it in both and call it a day.
Another useful thing about Gmail is that it offers a more secure https: connection, if you are checking it on public wi-fi. While this may not be the end all of security when on a public Internet connection, it does help. You can access that on one-time basis at https://www.gmail.com or you can clicking on settings in the upper-right of Gmail, scrolling to the bottom of that page and clicking the radio button for “Always use https.”
There a lot of helpful settings in that area of the site, and if you are a heavy Gmail user, its worth some time to go through each page and make the settings are setup to make the most effective use of them.
One other tool to mention in the settings is the filters tab. I used to do a lot of eBay shopping, and would get a lot of e-mail from them. Mind you, I wanted this material, but it was clogging the front page of my inbox when I was looking for other material. The solution which worked for me was filters. This is very similar to Rules, if you use Microsoft’s Outlook. You set certain parameters, like who the e-mail is from, or e-mails that contain certain words and tell Gmail what to do with it. For this eBay problem, I simply had Gmail label them and archive them. This took them out of my inbox and put them in a place where I could look at them at my convenience.
This is a very powerful tool, and if your e-mail service is missing this, it might be worth considering a change.
The last thing I want to mention is Gmail Labs. These are add-ons to Gmail that are in testing. Some of them are a little crazy, like having to solve a few math problems before sending an e-mail late at night. (In order to prevent drunken e-mails) Some of them though seem really useful like tasks, which gives you a convenient to-do list in Gmail. These are in testing, so you definitely have to confident about your browsing experience before you go to far into the most experimental ones.
How about you? Do you like Gmail? Do you think its over-hyped? Are you worried about privacy issues?
Let me know in the comments.