I’ve decided to post observances about Google’s Gmail as I notice different things. Today I’ll touch on two features: the address book and conversations.
Something I really like is the seamlessness with which the address book integrates with the mail composition window. When I began typing my friend Angie’s name, a little pop-up appeared with her e-mail address in it. All I had to do was click on the e-mail address and it was automatically embedded in the “TO:” field of my new e-mail. On other web-based e-mail, getting an address from the address book usually involves having to wait while a new page loads with my address book, click on the address(es) I want, then wait while my composition window is again opened.
This is miles beyond that kind of clunky interface.
Google makes importing your address book information from your home PC fairly easy. It’s not geared toward raw beginners, however. You do need to export your e-mail program’s address book in CSV format: Comma separated values. Ideally, it would just let you check off which e-mail client (Eudora, Outlook, Thunderbird, etc.) you were importing from and take care of the rest when you pointed it toward your e-mail client’s directory on your hard drive. Better yet, it could just fetch what it needed.
Still, it’s not too difficult if you follow your e-mail client’s instructions on how to export the address book as a CSV file. And, if Google has trouble recognizing the fields, it has a troubleshooting guide which should get you back on track. I had to tweak my Thunderbird address book file so the headings matched what Google was looking for. Again, not something for beginners, but not something insurmountable, either.
Google also has a unique way of displaying e-mails as conversations: it keeps conversations with the same subject line together in individual units. For example, Angie and I have sent several e-mails with the subject line “Calendar Girls”. As you can see, Google has bundled those e-mails together, but each is available by clicking a tab at the top of the bundle.
Clicking on any of those tabs will pop open the whole message. I can expand all of them to display fully, or I can just keep it simple and see only the date/time and a bit of the first line on each e-mail.
It’s harder to explain than to show, but I hope this gives you an idea of a couple of the different things Gmail offers.