I was an avid user of Microsoft Outlook Express and then Outlook for many years. I liked the organization features (I despise paper planners) and having my calendar, contacts, and messaging all in one place that linked them together. There were two things that I never liked:
- Having access to the information away from my computer. Even with the Palm Pilot that I carried religiously with me, syncing the information by a connection to my PC never came through quite right. Plus I had to remember to connect and do the syncing.
- The cost. Outlook Express was free (is now Windows Live Mail), but had no calendar and was limited. Outlook is obviously more powerful but was pricey with updates costing even more.
I decided to try out Google’s Gmail about 2 years ago. I had been using another popular web mail service for about 10 years, but was getting irritated with the amount of spam and the account was hacked a few times as well. In a short time of playing around with the features I began wondering if I needed Outlook. There was still the syncing issue to my iPod Touch that I got to act as a PDA. The iPod Touch has the ability to sync with Outlook, but it’s cumbersome and didn’t work as smoothly as I thought it would. Then I found that I could easily sync my data easily from Gmail to the iPod Touch and would always stay in sync whenever I was on a Wifi connection (Click here for the instructions to set up Gmail with iOS products). Calendar dates, contacts, messaging was always kept up to date no matter where I updated it. Outlook got shut down for me. I saw no need for it any longer, and I couldn’t be happier.
Gmail has great features, and if you are a mobile smartphone person; it is the easiest to sync up with multiple platforms especially the Android OS. Here’s some the features I love:
- Contact Groups. Keeping contacts up-to-date and organized is very important to me. I rarely am in an office and need to have contacts available to me at my fingertips. The ‘Contacts’ piece in Gmail allows me to keep those contacts in custom groups and keeps the information in sync whether I update online or on my Android phone.
- Great calendar application. Google’s calendar application is very powerful and allows for many of the powerful features included in Outlook such as inviting people to events as well as even mapping the location. Again, syncs up nicely where ever I access or enter the information.
- The ability to receive messages from multiple email addresses and they’re labelled as such. ‘Forwarding’ email from one account to another is a very inefficient way to manage email. Good email applications allow to you add multiple email addresses to be received directly into one place. This is standard in Gmail and even allows you to send under the address you received the email to.
- Add-on’s through the ‘Labs’ section. There are a variety of add-on’s available to pick and choose what functions you want. For example, ‘Canned Responses’ allows you to create a template for various common emails you may have to send. My wife uses this a lot. There are typical responses she needs to send out to customers. This feature allows her to easily bring up the template and tweak it for each situation. Huge time saver.
- No backups necessary. For anyone that has gone through a computer ‘going down’ or ‘crashing’; you know the huge frustration surrounding that. With Gmail, all you have to do is sign onto your account on another computer and you are back in business. No backups necessary.
There are a number of great features and although the Gmail service looks very “plain Jane”, it’s extremely powerful. No expensive software to install. No pricey updates to shell out money for. And extremely flexible as to when and where you can access your information. The difficult part . . . wrapping one’s head around the fact that you get all these great features for free!