Thursday, 26 July 2012

10 reasons to access Gmail via the web

Image from Robert Llefi, under a
CC BY 2.0 license
How do you access your email?  Do you use an email client*?  Or do you access it via your web browser?  I know a lot of people do the former... but, what about seeing if another way might work?  I have a suggestion for you.  Why not try accessing your email via the web?  Because we have Google Apps at the university, when I'm talking about email I'm talking about Gmail.

Right.  You don't love the web version.  I get it.  Me neither.  Well.  It's okay... but, what it *does* is what makes it a really handy way to access your emails.  And I wouldn't go back to using Thunderbird.  

So, here are my 10 reasons why accessing Gmail via the web might be a great idea.

1.  You can access your email from wherever you have an internet connection

2.  You can translate messages from within your email using Google Translate

3.  You can create documents from emails in your inbox - which is brilliant if you want to draft a response to an email or use an email as the basis of something else you're writing.

4.  Creating filters to manage your email is dead easy

5.  You get to use Google's search functionality to track down emails

Some of the options available in Gmail labs
6.  There are some really handy functions tucked away in 'Labs' including the ability to 'background send' email while you get on with the next email, send canned responses (which you might want to do as an auto-response) and even 'undo send' for when you have one of those 'whoops I didn't want to send that', moments!

7.  You don't have to be online to access your emails - Gmail can be used offline with Chrome as your browser

8.  You can reply to threads on Google+ from within your inbox which means that you can just have your email open and don't need to go into Google+ to continue a conversation there.

Replying to a Google+ post from within Gmail
9.  By being logged on in your Gmail, you can chat to people in your contacts list using Google Chat - which can be brilliant for getting a quick discussion out of the way, sharing a link with a colleague or just checking if someone else is free for a meeting.  Plus, people can see if you're online (or not - you can be invisible with your status) and it makes it easier for them to know if you're around!

10.  You get access to Google Tasks which are a lovely little productivity tool - you can create a task from an email - give it a date (and it'll appear in your calendar) and if you go to from your mobile and add it to your home screen, then the mobile version is a thing of loveliness!

Go on... give it a go.  Log on to and try it for a week.

You never know, you may never go back!

(... but if you have tried it and prefer your email client... which one do you like and why?  Drop in a comment below!)


Oh, and this post is also related to a recent announcement by Mozilla.  If you want to understand how a tech company says they're not developing something any more in slightly tortuous language... look at this recent announcement from Mozilla about their Thunderbird email client:
"continued innovation in Thunderbird is not a priority for Mozilla’s product efforts"
Which basically means that if you're a Thunderbird aficionado, then this isn't great news.  Yes, there are other email clients out there and Thunderbird isn't entirely disappearing... but... wouldn't now be a good time to think about doing things a little differently?  


  1. Hi Sarah,

    Interesting blog, and it's certainly true that Google has some great features in its webmail platform, meaning its one of the better webmail interfaces available.

    I do use it occasionally when I want to access email from a public/friend's computer.

    However, I still use Outlook (currently 2010, trialling 2013) on all my computers. Why? Well, for two reasons. The choice of specific client is really just a habit - Outlook does what I need, so I stick with it. More importantly, because it has a huge number of corporate users, it's unlikely to disappear any time soon, despite the growing trend for people to use webmail all the time (unlike Thunderbird, which was used by more consumers and has bitten the dust).

    But, why use a client at all? There are two reasons why I still do.

    First, I have multiple accounts, and I don't want to check them all manually by logging into them individually. I know that I can add other accounts to GMail, but I don't want all the mail to end up in one inbox, and using a client lets me keep them separate.

    Second, and perhaps more importantly, I want to keep my own archive of important mail that I back up and which I'm in control of, and Outlook lets me do this. By accessing GMail as an IMAP account through Outlook, all my mail stays online, so I can access it from multiple computers. But, when I've finished with messages, and just want to archive them, I can move them into local folders that are backed up on my network.

    I realise this setup might not suit everyone, of course - and there are probably plenty of people reading this who hate Outlook. One of the benefits of using GMail is that it lets you make this choice: those people who don't want a client don't need one, and they still get a high level service, unlike in the old days when webmail was very basic; and those of us that have reason to stick with a client can quite happily do so, because Google works (almost!) perfectly within it.


  2. Thanks, Gary - what a useful comment. I think that managing multiple accounts it seems that the client wins out here. I tend to use a mixture. I use my browser at work and a client (Microsoft Entourage) at home and a client on my mobile devices. Using the browser at work gives me a whole truck load of useful additions and being able to flip between email / docs / calendar / G+ etc using the menu bar at the top means that it feels more natural to use my browser for all of that stuff.

    The flexibility of being able to access your email in multiple ways is terrifically handy, isn't it?

  3. GMail IS an email client. In fact, a far more powerful email client than any version of Microsoft Outlook. I've been in IT for over 20 years, AND we are a Microsoft shop. You know what I love about Outlook? It puts food on my family's table. Exchange and Outlook are yesterdays news. They exist to make me money, not because you're "used to it". Users fight change and Outlook survives. And yay for that. But the fact is: it's already dead... The true power of GMail hasn't even been touched on here: As I write this, I'm getting automatic email updates for my travel plans to Hawaii. TripIt (free) scans my gmail to organize my flights, vacation responders, hotel & dinner reservations, cabs, events, right along with my fiancee's. It hits her iPad and both of our phones instantly. Print out maps, plans, directions? Boarding passes? what are those? Google Apps / GMail, guys. Oh wait... my Nexus 7 is beeping at me because Google Now knows that I'm going to miss the Halloween party that I RSVP'd to... why? It sees the traffic and knows where I am and where I'm going. Ahhh. Seriously: Try that with Microsoft Lookout.



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