I received an invitation to the Beta of Google Mail from Tom the Architect a few weeks ago and finally over the last couple of days decided to activate my account. I really like the service. As a matter of fact, I like it so much I’ve configured my main account to forward all mail over to it and it has become my primary mail application, even though I tend to have control issues around things having to run in my house.
The user interface is great. Of course the first thing you will want to do is create folders in which to organize your mail. Google Mail doesn’t have them. What it uses instead are what they call labels. Labels are essentially the same things as “tags” that you find on sites like Flickr and del.icio.us. While I like the idea of tagging on email, and think its a killer feature, I still miss being able to move things out of the way and just look at stuff that is in my inbox that is not categorized. Since I subscribe to a number of email lists for software like Subversion and CruiseControl, my inbox tends to get a little cluttered. While I can automatically filter email to assign labels based on who its from, who it’s to, and subject content, and can display only those emails with a given tag, I still cannot find a way to view email that has no tag.
The user interface is based almost entirely on Ajax technology, which gives the site a very “thick client” feel, without all of the weight. Your inbox even automatically refreshes every now and again, which at first is quite surprising, and really convenient.
And of course, you get full Google search capabilities for your whole inbox. Enough said.
Google has definitely set the standard for web mail applications with the Beta of Google Mail. I’m extremely impressed. Each time they come up with something, my life is a little more dependent on them. First there was web search, then news groups, then news aggregation, THEN maps and now email.
I can’t wait to see whats next.