Google Mail

Google mail, gmail, is a web-based email system. I have hated web-based email systems for many, many years. That said, I am going to confess that I actually like gmail. No, I don't love it but I do like it.

Most web mail applications are pretty much the same. You see some message titles and from addresses, you can view, delete, respond or save in another folder. You have some limited amount of storage for your messages and when you run out you need to clean up your mess.

Some are prettier, some allow you to do things to multiple message at a time and some are more configurable. But, they just don't present anything radically different. In fact, they convinced me there really wasn't room for anything radically different until I started using gmail.

Gmail

Figure 1 shows a piece of a screen shot of the interface. I think that is a good place to start our discussion. On the left under the Compose link you see a list of "places" you can display. This is almost like mail boxes but, for example, Starred refers to messages where you have added a star. They could be in your Inbox or even your Spam folder. Thus, you have an added dimension for categorizing messages.

That distinction doesn't stop there. The green box called Labels is the next piece. You can add labels—yes, more than one—to any message. This means that you can then filter messages that only have a specific label.

Conversations are also automatically linked together. That is, if you have a string of messages back and forth with someone, they will appear as a single entry in your messages list with a count displayed. You can see this with the (2) in the first message.

Now comes the most interesting part. While you cannot create mailboxes and store messages in them as you might do with other mailers, Gmail encourages you to just select the message or messages and click the Archive button. When you want to retrieve a message, you can use the built-in search of select by labels. This pretty much eliminates the problem of creating mailboxes for specific types of messages and then forgetting which mailbox you might have put it in. If this isn't enough flexibility you can also create aliases by appending a + and the alias name to your username and then use filters to change how these messaged are handled.

Gmail editor

Sending messages is also easy. Figure 2 shows part of a compose screen. You can get there by clicking on the compose message link or by starting to enter text in the reply box that is automatically displayed when you are reading an existing message. If your browser is smart enough to support the sophisticated JavaScript Gmail uses, you get a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor. But, don't worry if it isn't—Gmail figures that out and automatically gives you a perfectly usable interface to compose your message.

There are lots more features including a chat interface but this will get you started. If you hate web mail but sometimes see no alternative, I feel it is well worth a try.

Now, what does it cost? A few Google text ads. That is, you will see a minimum of one short text link per page. For example, you can see the line that starts NYT Travel across the top in Figure 1. That's it.

That is my experience. I am interested to see what some relative Linux newbies think of it. Gmail is "by invitation" so I am prepared to give an invitation to 10 TUX readers that are interested to try it out and tell TUX what they think.

Here is how that will work. Send email to tuxmagazine@gmail.com. In that email, tell me a bit about yourself--that is, how long you have
been using Linux and why you would like to play with Gmail. We will email you an invitation. Or, more accurately, we will ask Gmail to email you an invitation. In return, I ask that you write up your
thoughts. They will then be used to create a follow-up article about your experiences.

fyl - Wed, 2006-10-04 15:56.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

new user report

I have been tinkering with this for a couple of weeks, even though life did try to get in the way. :D

Basic setup is extremly simple, and even setting up pop delivery was painless. There are several usefull features that I am using/liking a lot now. Grouping messages into conversations is something I could not live without now and when viewing replies quotes of earlier mails are not automatically included though you can add them back if you wish. Adding labels to headers does seem like another way of sorting mail into different trays but it does work quite well. I like the chat logging as well, stored as a conversation in a seperate folder so that it is not picked up by the pop access.

The only worrying thing I had when I first started was 5 SPAM's a day came in which made me wonder if the address' were stored/sold, but I invited my partner and that account has had no SPAM in 2 weeks so it like like my gmail address was sniffed from my invitors system. In any case all the SPAM goes direct to the SPAM folder and never gets diverted to my POP mail, so far SPAM detection has been 100% good, no SPAM in my inbox and no false positives, which is the best reason for using GMail.

The only drawback I have, so far :), is the initial loading is so slooowww, once the main page has loaded it does work better and I assume if it ever gets out of beta there will be more servers and better speed, maybe.

tinkerbelle (not verified) - Wed, 2006-11-01 04:49.

POP and More

In addition to "just" POP & SMTP . . .

I use Thunderbird on Ubuntu (Dapper Drake).
I have T'bird automatically add a bcc: myaddress@gmail
I have a filter on gmail that catches anything from myaddress that also includes some of the text from my sig and sends it directly to archive.

Gmail is also set to archive everything that I receive.

So, everything I send & receive, is at home and on gmail's server in case I need it.

ALSO:
Just my $0.02 - gmail "reads" incoming emails without human intervention and provides ads based on keywords. I'm pretty sure that the information collected is generic and doesn't include personal identifiers.

Michael (not verified) - Tue, 2006-10-10 13:29.

They are called web-clips.

They are called web-clips. You can turn them off. Under settings, web-clips tab, disable web clips.

An - ymous (not verified) - Wed, 2006-10-25 06:56.

Security

You can log into gmail from https://gmail.google.com, and you entire session is encrypted. That doesn't make smtp secure, but it does keep people from sniffing your email as you check it, especially important for all those people who keep their user ids and passwords in their email.

An - ymous (not verified) - Tue, 2006-10-10 08:59.

Suggest

I want to suggest one cool tool for checking gmail account - wmgmail. I'm using it on my linux desktop.

Alex (not verified) - M - , 2006-10-09 03:57.

Costs

Not that anyone will bother, but when reading your Gmail messages, Google ads are also displayed at the right, but they are so unobtrusive that I didn't even notice them until someone mentioned them.

The feature I like best is that Gmail will group your emails with their respective replies in conversations, so you can immediately see what is a reaction to what.

This review is a bit late, I mean, everyone already has Gmail :D It's not problem to get it, you could even mail me at imnotb {a} gmail cause I got 100 invitations anyways. Of course there is no reason to not help fyl with his follow-up article anyways :D

Vincent (not verified) - Fri, 2006-10-06 11:43.

POP

That was an interesting review, but I think you forgot to mentioned that gmail is also POP enabled, once you decide to set it as one. That, I think is one of the most important things Google offers us. I mean, I prefer retrieving my e-mails using my mail client (I'm using Firefox), rather than wasting my time opening a webmail page. With this POP-enabled option, I can enjoy a good e-mail service for free without having to open internet browser. Another very important thing is, by setting the POP-enabled feature and setting it so that all e-mail retrieved using mail-client will be deleted from server, your quota (which is originally quite something, 2 GB if I'm not mistaken) becomes virtually unlimited.

Now, who can beat that? An unlimited POP e-mail, and it's free. Combined with Firefox, G-mail makes the best e-mail service I've ever encountered. It will take one hell of a job to make me think otherwise. You said you don't love it although you like it. Well, set it to POP-enabled and see if you will love it or not.

Edwin (not verified) - Fri, 2006-10-06 04:26.

Please do not offer up

Please do not offer up factual information that would contradict the writers uneducated opinions. You would not actually expect him to do research and know what he is talking about would you?

An - ymous (not verified) - Sun, 2006-10-15 07:42.

Thanks, An - ymous!

Your comment was really helpful and profound. The depth of your knowledge is staggering. The originality and cleverness of your handle is also impressive. We need more people like you around to make everyone feel better about themselves.

Willy (not verified) - Sat, 2006-11-04 17:44.

You are welcome. Thank you

You are welcome. Thank you for noticing.

An - ymous (not verified) - Tue, 2006-11-07 06:06.

g-mail

i tryed g-mail an i found that some one or some thing reads the mail an then inserts advertising. then google said they keep all mail an that they sheir it with authers. i have more problems then i need know trying to keep thinge privet so i guit useing g-mail.

tom (not verified) - Tue, 2006-10-10 09:18.

@tom

You are an idiot. First of all, you should either learn how to type, or how to speak English. No-one at Google reads your mail; there are millions of Gmail accounts, and I doubt they'd even bother. You're much more likely to have your email read if you use a work account, or one from a small ISP. A computer scans mail for keywords and inserts ads, that's all. As someone above said, you can aso sign in securely at https://mail.google.com if you don't want anyone snopping your HTTP trafic.

Stephen (not verified) - Fri, 2006-11-03 00:33.

dear Stephen

Are you sure Tom is an idiot? I don't think so. But I think that you are not very kind. Have you ever thought that we may be from outside USA? Have you considered that there lives more people outside USA that does not speak English natively than inside USA? Or, maybe there are people that try their best and still does not satisfy some peoples requirements for perfection?
Anyway - I'm not native speaking. I write a lot of misspellings. I'm not stupid. Maybe I'm not kind either. But I'm using Gmail and have used it for a while. It's my primary email account and I have several other addresses forwarded to my Gmail account.

Morten (not verified) - Sun, 2006-11-05 02:06.

I use the "WebMail"

I use the "WebMail" extension for Thunderbird. It allows me to access my gmail and hotmail accounts through thunderbird without either paying for hotmail or setting up pop3/smtp settings in gmail.
The only disadvantage is that is does not mark messages as read, as messages that show as read on Thunderbird are shown as unread in Hotmail and Gmail.
This may however be due to the way i have set up message delivery.

Niki (not verified) - M - , 2006-10-16 06:57.

Are we having fun yet?

Wow, this article wasn't that exciting (not /bad/ either though)
until I got to all the bickering in the comments below!

Ali (not verified) - Sun, 2006-11-26 05:04.

G_mail and politeness

Those who criticize others or call others names should take a look at themselves.

Besides, in a living language such as English or whatever it is difficult to say what is perfect. So long as the person can communicate in standard English that is all that should be required.

Remember, Shakespeare often misspelled words.

An - ymous (not verified) - M - , 2006-12-11 21:37.