The Gmail Experience

For those unfortunate who haven’t been invited to Gmail (I pity you), I’ll put up a couple of screenshots that might give you a slight idea of how Gmail works and why it is better than any webbased mail I have ever used. I’ll not be talking about “accessibility”:http://diveintomark.org/archives/2004/04/10/gmail-accessibility or “the privacy issues”:http://gmail-is-too-creepy.com, just about what it’s like to use Gmail. All the screenshots in this post are clickable (to view the full-size screenshot).

Anyway, after you’re logged into Gmail (you can stay logged in, to go to your inbox, just go to http://gmail.com) you’ll see your inbox:

The green tags before some of the subjects mean they’re labeled. Labels are a bit like folders in common e-mail applications, they can be assigned dynamically (using rules) or by hand. More on that later.

As you can see, some messages have multiple authors. The “swi vergadering …” one for example. Those are discussions. When you get a mail and reply to it and someone replies back etc. the messages are automatically grouped and can be viewed in a chat-like fashion. When I click the discussion I get to see this:

By default all messages except the most recent one are collapsed and only a summary is shown. But when I click the “Expand all” link at the right all messages are expanded (without a full refresh, using some spiffy Javascript):

At the bottom right there’s a label saying “Daniel Neeteson” this tells us that the next message, just outside our current screen, is from “Daniel Neeteson”, this label changes as we scroll through the discussion.

When we click on the “More options” link next to the name of the sender of a particular message, we get more information about that message, his/her mail address, the date the message was sent etc.

Now we’re going to “Compose Mail”. From here it’s possible to send someone an e-mail (well duh):

Nifty thing about it is that when start typing a name or e-mail address in the “To:” field a list of possible completions appears, you can pick one by using your mouse or using the up/down arrows at your keyboard. This is also done using a Javascript:

Adding attachments is easy too, adding attachments can easily be done by clicking the “Add attachment” link. An attachment field is shown immediately, without refreshing. More attachments can be added aswell:

Then there’s the automatic spam filtering which works very well. Most of my spam mail is automatically detected and put into my spam box:

Then the labels. As a said before, labels are like folders in most e-mail applications, but a message can have multiple labels. You can define your own labels and you can view all messages with a certain label by simply clicking on the label name in the left menu:

Labels can be assigned using filters:

or by hand:

Certain actions can be applied to multiple messages at once aswell:

And then there’s Google’s famous search feature which means you have now fulltext search on all of your e-mails:

What I found remarkable about Gmail is its lack of postbacks. When applying labels, removing messages, archiving messages etc. etc. there’s no full page refresh. Also when you’re viewing a message and return to the inbox it appears to be cashed as it appears right away.

On top of that you can use Gmail nearly without your mouse. I’ve enabled the quick keys which means that I can compose an e-mail by simply pressing ‘c’, can return to the Inbox by pressing ‘u’, can walk through the messages using vi’s ‘j’ and ‘k’ and can open a message by using either return or ‘o’ and archive it by pressing ‘a’.

Oh yes and you get 1Gb of space, which is plenty.