The Bottom Line
Gmail is the Google approach to email and chat. Practically unlimited free online storage allows you to collect all your messages, and Gmail’s simple but very smart interface lets you find mail precisely and see it in context without effort. POP and powerful IMAP access let you access your email with any email program or device.
Gmail puts contextual advertising next to the emails you read.
- Gmail offers free IMAP or POP access and sending from any address
- Smart sorting, searching and starring let you find and organize emails and chat conversations
- The fast and rich web interface works offline, too
- Gmail could help with organizing mail even more, e.g. with learning labels or reply suggestions
- Searching mail is not nearly as smart and comfortable as searching the webwith Google
- Free online storage is limited to 15 GB, and Gmail does not support secure, encrypted mail
- Gmail offers free email with 15 GB storage space (shared with other Google services such as Drive). Additional storage can be purchased.
- Next, to mail, Gmail shows contextual ads matched automatically to keywords found in messages.
- Starring and custom color labels let you neatly organize threads (conversations). Inbox tabs automatically sort certain mail to separate tabs. Precise search options find mail fast.
- Filters can organize, forward and respond with a canned reply. You can use templates for new messages as well.
- IMAP and POP access, forwarding, Exchange ActiveSync (available for Google Apps for Business, Education, and Government), SMS and web apps bring your mail to many a device and program. Google Gears offers offline browser access.
Expert Review – Gmail
What do you expect from Google? Search, simplicity and speed? That’s what you can get from Gmail, Google’s approach to email, instant messaging, social networking and group video chat.
Gmail’s interface is simple and elegant, but also remarkably clever with useful keyboard shortcuts and speedy operation.
Of course, Gmail boasts a search box, which usually returns useful results; Gmail’s search is still a far cry from the smarts of common web searches with their word stemming, spell checking, suggestions and understanding of synonyms, for example.
In any event, finding single emails precisely is not the best thing about Gmail: smarter still is its keeping everything in context.
Conversations, Stars and Tabs for Organizing
With nary a miss, Gmail identifies the relationships between emails to construct “conversations”. You can quickly see what has happened previously, or whether somebody has already replied. Gmail also offers “stars” for quick flagging and free-form color labels that can work wonders to organize an inbox. Speaking of that inbox: Gmail offers to automatically break out certain types of messages—newsletters, ads, say, and social updates—to separate tabs without the need for filters to be set up manually.
If a contact is currently online in either Gmail or Google Talk, you can chat right from Gmail, with the conversation archived and indexed. Turning emails into Google Calendar events is just as easy, and for people Google+, you can get their latest shared content next to emails and automatic updates (of addresses, phone numbers, etc.) in the address book.
Online Storage and Access via POP and IMAP
All this makes little sense if you can’t keep all relevant data, of course. Unfortunately, Gmail’s free storage is limited to 15 GB—and you have to share that with other Google services you may use, such as Drive or Photos. Additional storage is available for purchase, of course, at a monthly fee.
To avoid the truly unneeded mail, Gmail sports efficient and effortless spam and virus filters.
Speaking of large data, integration with Google Drive makes it easy to share large files—up to 10 GB in size—via emailed link, and Gmail lets you save received attachments to your Google Drive account as well.
If you do not like the idea of Google displaying ads next to emails based on keywords found in the messages (the emails themselves remain private), you can use encryption or access your Gmail using POP and IMAP. (You can also put Gmail’s web interface in offline mode with Gears and read as well as compose mail while disconnected.)
Using Gmail with Other Email Accounts
If, conversely, you want to use the Gmail web interface for all your email, you can have it collect mail from up to five POP accounts automatically and put these accounts’ email addresses (and all your others) in the From: line of messages you send.