Josh Larson

Gmail: Just Do It.

It took me a year, but I finally did it: I switched from Iowa State University’s Webmail program to Google’s Gmail. I can’t believe how beneficial the switch ended up being!

...

Gmail's options

Gmail

It took me a year, but I finally did it: I switched from Iowa State University’s Webmail program to Google’s Gmail. I can’t believe how beneficial the switch ended up being! For any Iowa State students who find Webmail cluttered and hard to use, I highly recommend jumping on the bandwagon and creating a Gmail account for the following reasons:

Usability

After creating the account, Gmail requires a simple login (likely your email address and password). You’re immediately directed to a page showing your inbox, options, chat and other gadgets. As soon as you get started using the application, you’ll realize a few things:

  1. Load time is quick, and doesn’t require a page load.
    Gmail uses a technology called AJAX, or Asynchronous JavaScript and XML. This means that your browser only needs to load the data required for the request, and puts the data into a container within the document. I love this feature because it makes browsing, composing and organizing information such a breeze.
  2. Gmail remembers things.
    After you type in an address or contact for the first time, Gmail will remember that person and will offer an AutoComplete option as you enter a new name. Very handy for long names, or for times that you don’t want to go to your address book, copy & paste or anything else.
  3. Spam is canned.
    You generally don’t have to worry about dumping spam out of your inbox; Gmail does it for you. Last summer, during an email hijack relating to a ISU listserve I was on, I received around 3000 spam emails within 24 hours. Gmail only let about 50 through. Not bad, in my opinion.

Organization

For people like me, organization is key when it comes to getting through a day successfully. Not to mention the possible collaboration with Google Calendar, Gmail offers several ways to organize emails:

  1. Conversations
    The first thing you may notice about reading emails is that Gmail shys away from calling each message a “message.” Gmail calls a message thread a “conversation,” and each series of messages based off of a unique message (i.e. forwards, reply-alls) will be contained in one conversation and split up by color-coded names and times. This feature is very handy when you have a listserve of people that like to click the “Reply-All” button for every response.
  2. Labels may be used to sort conversations

    Labels may be used to sort conversations

  3. Labels/Filters
    In Gmail, you have the option to filter your mail in a certain way. You can create a label to send a certain type of email to, or you can archive it (see below). I like to use filters to keep certain emails from organizations together.
  4. Archives
    Archives are simple: they allow the user to send the message straight to a folder and skip the inbox. This could be useful for things that you, well, don’t really want to read, but might want to later.

Accessibility

This point is pretty simple: I’m not saying that ISU Webmail can’t be viewed from different places, but Gmail can be operated conveniently through different media. WIthin a few minutes of being connected to the internet, I had my Gmail account set up on my iPod Touch, and I check it through that medium every day. Gmail is also the first web application that I’ve trusted to handle ALL of my email: Iowa State University (forwarded), Hotmail (forwarded) and, of course, Gmail. This eliminates the hassle of (1) having to check my email in three different locations everytime and (2) eliminates the need of having to check my email on one email client on one computer. I love being mobile with my communications, and Gmail can do that!

How Do I Do It?

If you’re an Iowa State University student, follow these steps:

  1. Visit http://mail.google.com/ and create a normal email account
  2. Visit http://asw.iastate.edu/ and login
  3. Click on “Manage User [yourusername]”
  4. Click “View/Edit your email delivery”
  5. Choose the option “Forwarded to email address:”
  6. Type in your Gmail address
  7. Click Update Now. The changes may take while to be saved (i.e. overnight) so be patient. Other than that, you should be set!