If we’ve ever had a discussion about email in the past year, chances are that I’ve tried to sell Gmail to you. I’m not just doing that because I’m geeky, or just because I think all the cool kids are using Gmail this year. The reason I do it is because I’m trying to make life easier for you, for me, and everyone else. I’m sure you like your current email service, but look at this way…
You may be driving a mid-90’s Ford Escort with manual transmission, no air conditioner, no airbag, and an old engine. Sure, it may be clean, has a nice new paint job, and has lots of new buttons, but then you drive into a Ferrari dealership. Now imagine a brand new (as in, just rolled off the factory floor) Ferrari with automatic transmission, air-conditioning, a hidden trailer hitch (for towing anything a dozen 18-wheelers can tow), shields (yeah, the kind they use on Star Trek), and a team of engineers who constantly fix or upgrade every broken or worn-out part on the entire car (all while you sleep)!
Yes, that’s probably an overly-complex analogy, but Gmail really does rock that much. And here are just a few reasons why…
#1. Archiving – You need to get used to archiving everything rather than deleting. In fact, you may need to change your whole outlook (no pun intended) on this behavior because it means something entirely different now. Before, if you had an email that you didn’t actively save somewhere, it’d eventually get deleted off the server. Well, with Gmail, unless you specifically delete it or it gets left in the Spam folder, it will remain in your account forever. This is important for two main reasons: security and “searchability.” The good thing is that you’ll never lose another email again…period. However, you also need to be aware that you have to delete anything you absolutely want deleted. So, get in the habit of archiving unless it’s absolute junk and you’re certain you’ll never ever need that email again.
#2. Re-inventing the inbox – Your inbox is like your desktop. It’s your staging area for things you need to deal with or don’t want to forget. The rest of the emails in there should be archived or deleted. It all depends on your own behavior, of course, but you shouldn’t have more than twenty-or-so emails in your inbox at any given time. Sure, you can have a thousand if you want, but you’d be neglecting the whole point of the Gmail inbox and the archive button. Don’t be afraid to archive something immediately after you’ve read it, or if you already know what it’s going to say. Archiving doesn’t hide it away in some locked vault, never to be seen again. It simply removes it from your inbox. Your inbox should just contain emails from people who are actively waiting on a response, or if there’s a bill notification or some other reminder you don’t want to forget.
#3. Filters! – Yay, filters! They rock, rock, rock! And, here’s why Let’s say you keep getting email from Old Navy, and you just can’t get them to stop sending you stuff. Well, just create a filter that automatically archives (or deletes) all email from them. That way, it skips your inbox entirely and you never see it. There are a ton of great uses for filters. If you have a friend who is always forwarding you junk and you can’t tell them to stop (but you also don’t want to simply block them because they are a friend of yours), then just create a filter that automatically archives everything from “firstname.lastname@example.org” that has “FWD” in the subject line. That way, if he ever sends you a personal email that isn’t a forward, it’ll come straight to your inbox and you won’t miss a thing. And besides, if you set it to automatically archive, you won’t be getting rid of anyway…just hiding it. Finally, filters can be used to “unsubscribe” from any email service, no matter how hard they make it to do so. If you’re tired of receiving email from Victoria’s Secret, set up a filter that automatically deletes all email from them and you’ll never be bothered again.
#4. Labels – Another paradigm shift that Gmail will (happily) force you to make is getting rid of the “everything needs a folder” mentality. Outlook-based email, AOL, Hotmail, and the rest have always forced us to create all these folders for our email, arrange them just so, and otherwise add steps that we don’t really need. There are no folders, really, in Gmail. I mean, they call them the inbox folder and the spam folder just so people know what they’re referring to, but there is not actual folder. So, how do you keep everything straight? Labels! Add a label called “business” that is blue and one called “financial” that is green, or whatever you can come up with. They’re flexible and you can rename them, so you’re bound to come up with plenty of uses for them. But be careful that you don’t overuse them. After all, Gmail is about simplicity, and part of the simplicity is being able to search for an email rather than search through folders, labels, etc. And speaking of search…
#5. Google it! – Never forget that you’re using a Google-based program, not just a service provided by the company. Want to find something easily? Google it! It’s in your email somewhere. This is one of the best things about Gmail. Let’s say I sent you a password to my website about muffins, but you can’t remember when I sent it so the thought of scanning through alllllll of your emails is daunting (especially since you don’t delete them anymore). Well, try searching in your email for “password” and “muffins” and hit enter. Chances are, the exact email you are looking for will be sitting there waiting for you. If not, add/remove keywords until it does. I can’t stress to you enough how great this feature is until you experience it yourself. In fact, this is the reason why folders are irrelevant now. Why search through folders if you’re going to search all of them at once every time?
#6. Importing – Have you been using that Hotmail, MSN, or AOL account for years? Have it forwarded to your Gmail account. Have you been using Outlook or Thunderbird to check your email? You have no reason to even have those programs on your computer anymore. Gmail is a web-based version of Outlook that requires no installation and is constantly being automatically upgraded. Any POP or IMAP email address can be directly attached to your Gmail account. So, you could have your Gmail account, your Hotmail account, your AOL account, and your school email (for example) all checked in one place. Then, you just create a filter that adds a label to each email with the name of the email address it was sent to, and you’ll easily be able to tell where it was sent. Because of my web business and all the domains I manage, I have dozens of email addresses…dozens. But I check them all in one place with no effort (once it’s set up, of course). Which leads me to the last thing I’ll mention…
#7. Spam? No, thanks. – Gmail’s server automatically detects spam over the whole network. So, if Joe in Montana gets an email from a scammer in Liberia, and he marks it as spam, the system recognizes that and every email just like it gets automatically moved to everyone’s spam folder. Like I said before, I have dozens of publicly-available email addresses, but I rarely get more than one spam in my inbox each day. In fact, if you factor in Gmail’s filters, labels, and awesome spam controls, you should never be afraid of giving your email out to ANYONE…even spammers! I have been posting my personal email address (email@example.com) on the internet, in emails, and using it to sign up for every service for the past few years, and I have no problems with spam. Sure, I have 4,000+ messages in my spam folder right now, but I haven’t looked at a single one of them, and they’ll die after 30 days anyway.
If this hasn’t convinced you to at least give Gmail a shot, then please turn off your computer and go back to your newspaper. ;o) I’m kidding! I love ya. Hope this helps.
Oct 6, 2010 -
How do u delete something in spam so u will never see it again?
Eric P. Metze
Oct 7, 2010 -
You can open your Spam folder (on the left) and delete the email from there. Then, you should be able to permanently delete it from your trash.