Over the last couple months, I decided to slowly transition to using gmail as my primary email. Things were working well so today I spent some time to move the last few remaining items. I discovered some features of gmail along the way.

  1. Get mail from other accounts: You can configure gmail to download mail from the pop3 server of your other accounts. You will catch any remaining emails sent to your old address.
  2. Notifier: A simple application you can install on your machine to check for new mail.
  3. Archive: I never noticed this feature before today. Anyway, why would I want to archive my mail? I want to keep them. In this case, archive only means moving the email away from the inbox folder. They are still accessible, but only through “All Mail”. This helps to keep your inbox clean.
  4. Labels: You can tag your emails. Simple enough.
  5. Filters: The fun starts here. Automatically label, archive, redirect incoming mails based on subject, from, body, etc.
  6. Folders: Gmail does not support “folders”. If you are used to Outlook, this is can be surprising. Labels are more what you would virtual folders. However, you can emulate the workflow of rules and folders you’re used to with Outlook. Create a filter and have it label a message AND archive it at the same time. This prevents the message from cluttering your inbox.

The last point is what I missed for the past year. Originally, I used gmail to subscribe to the rails mailing list. Gmail does an amazing job of organizing messages in threads. The problem was that my personal messages would get lost among the flow of emails from the list. Now that I know that I need to label them AND archive these messages, i finally regained control of my inbox.

I’m pretty sure all of these features weren’t available when I first started using gmail. The moral of the story is you need to spend some time to learn the tools you use, whether it is your email program or your text editor or IDE.

Slightly off topic, or another moral to the story: All users of software go with the first thing that works even when there are better ways. (even a software developer like me sometimes)

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