They key criticism is that – unlike the other three -, Gmail does not have the look-and-feel of Microsoft’s “killer” Outlook. Wow. That’s quite a statement. I fail to see Outlook a killer product, it simply is a the dominant product on the market, and will remain so for quite a while simply due to Microsoft’s weight. By the way, I recall the time when Lotus 1-2-3 was a market leader. Or Wordstar. Or dBase II.
While not giving Gmail a dedicated review section, PC Mag refers to it as part of the discussion on Yahoo Mail:
“Gmail, beta for life (or at least three years so far, is beloved by millions (including me), and still has cachet though it lacks AJAX features, isn’t easy to use, and doesn’t have a sensible sorting ability”
I agree and disagree. Yes, Gmail is not easy to use if you’ve just come from the world of Outlook, Yahoo..etc. No, Gmail is easy to use once you “get it” – in fact at that point you will start seeing just how hard-to-use the other products are.
Sorting, for example is the “poor-emailer’s” tool for finding information. You can spend looong minutes sorting, scrolling up-and-down, trying to piecemeal together a conversation thread from your Inbox, Sent Mail and various other folders. Or you can just pull the entire thread up by smart use of labels and keyword search. (of course in Outlook I would only attempt a search when it’s time for a coffee-break).
PC Mag talks a lot about drag-and-drop and other bells and whistles – I agree, these are nice, but when it comes to productivity, there are 3 fundamental reasons Gmail beats all:
- Threaded Conversations: in business conversations last weeks, include dozens of emails, and are basically a pain to put together before you respond to someone. Gmail handles it automagically, and as a side-effect, it presents a lot more information on it’s list screen – since the dozen individual emails are now compressed into one line. (Oh, and don’t forget the nifty feature of picking up the first line of the email body, instead of dumbly repeating the subject line)
- Labels. Folders are a crime. How often do you feel the need to file an email to several folders, yet you can’t. Logical grouping and physical storage of email have nothing to do with each other, need to be de-coupled, and that’s exactly what Gmail does. You can assign multiple labels to any email, pull of conversation based on labels, and your labels can still give you a sense of ‘folders’ by having them listed on the left pane.
- Search. Find. That simple. I can pull up email on any subject from 1999 before you even start thinking of which folder to look into, how to sort, scroll in Outlook.
Does this make Gmail a better product? Certainly, for me. Perhaps not for you.
Not everyone needs productivity. Not everyone wants to go through a paradigm change. AOL, YAHOO, Hotmail are the absolute market leaders,and they should do whatever it takes to keep their customers. Their mainstream users are corporate employees who use Outlook in the Office, whether they like it or not is irrelevant, they are used to it. When they go home, they may not email a lot. Some will check their emails daily, once a week, or less. They want a personal email that resembles to what they already know. Familiarity is more important than productivity.
Gmail is for the frequent users and increasingly for people who use it to conduct their business: in other words, the productivity-freaks like yours truly. Or Web Worker Daily’s Anne Zelenka, who rightly states: GMAIL: NOT BEHIND, JUST GOING IN A DIFFERENT DIRECTION.
Update: If you’re thinking of migrating to Gmail but can’t figure out how to deal with years of email history, check out my guide: How to Import All Your Archive Email Into Gmail.
Update: Webware reports on a prize fight between Yahoo Mail and Gmail.