Four months ago I wrote that I was trying Google’s new web-based email system known, appropriately enough, as Gmail.
At that time, Gmail was being tested and Google was limiting the number of users that could join up. The only way to get a Gmail account was by invitation, and you had to find someone who already had an account and wangle an invite, if they had one left to give.
I read the other day that Gmail has now opened up to anyone in Africa, and a number of other regions, who want an account. I thought I’d mention Gmail again seeing that I have had such good use out of it.
Gmail is free and fairly unusual, among similar services in that it allows you so much storage space for messages. You are currently allowed 2,8Gb of space and this increments by a small fraction every day.
Unlike other services, which allow only a few megabytes or so of storage, the idea behind Gmail is that you should never have to delete a message again. Once finished with messages, you put them into categories, such as business, friends or jokes, and hit the Archive button.
The messages are then filed and it is very easy to use Gmail’s powerful search facility to find all the messages from a particular person, a particular address, or which contain a particular word or phrase.
I think there are many benefits to having your e-mail online where you can access it from any computer connected to the Internet. I have often used this feature and answered mail when away from the office but only, I might add, from computers I have been sure were secure.
The thing I particularly like about Gmail is its very efficient SPAM filter which seems to manage to filter out most SPAM and file it in a separate folder. The SPAM is retained for 30 days giving you time to retrieve any messages that are mistakenly marked as SPAM.
You can use Gmail as a second email facility with a different address to your normal one, or you can integrate it into your existing setup, as I have done. The first step is to access the settings in your usual e-mail account and direct all your messages to your Gmail account.
The next step is to configure your Gmail account so that mail that sent from it has your usual address added to it as the return address, and not your Gmail one. Mail that arrives at your Gmail account is filtered and all the genuine messages are put into your inbox.
You can then access them via a web browser, which I do, or Gmail will allow you download your messages with any e-mail client compliant with the POP3 standard, which is most of them. Gmail retains a copy of downloaded messages so you can still access them from the web if you want.
The only thing that I wish could be changed is that it will not allow you to search for parts of a word or e-mail address. It can occasionally be frustrating if you’re looking for messages from Joe Soap and all you can remember is that his address has joesoap in it
In spite of that small gripe, however, I have been using Gmail for nearly five months and would not like to be without it. Highly recommended.
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