Gmail Has Won Me Over

About a month ago I wrote a post titled Trying Gmail For A Week.  I haven’t thought about Outlook, Entourage, or Mac Mail for a month and I don’t think I’m ever going back.  It took about a week to rewire my brain for how conversations worked and what the keyboard shortcuts were, but not that I’m there it’s just awesome.

A few weeks ago Fred Wilson wrote a post titled Inbox Zero.  In it he mentioned two Gmail services he found indispensable – Priority Inbox (from Google) and (from James Siminoff who created Phonetag, another great service.)  I agree with Fred on both of these, but have discovered a few extra things that are killer.  I’ll list them below and for balance talk about a few shortcomings.

Priority Inbox: I’ve seen numerous tweets and blogs about how Priority Inbox doesn’t really do much.  These are wrong / misinformed reactions.  The trick to Priority Inbox, like many other things, is to actually use it for a few weeks.  Part of using it is training it by quickly marking things up to “important” (by clicking +) or down to “everything else” (by clicking -).  A small configuration change can make Starred emails (for quick follow up) a different category.  I found that it only took about three days of this before I saw benefit and now (a month later) Priority Inbox gets it right 99 out of 100 times.  I get over 500 emails a day – there is a long list of them that fall in “Everything Else”.  I used to have to check / clear email obsessively throughout the day to stay at Inbox Zero.  With Priority Inbox I’m finding solid email stretches a couple of times during the day are more than enough for me to stay on top of everything. Like many people, I’m stuck in the endless “unsubscribe from email lists” infinite loop.  I get vigilant for a few days and do the annoying unsubscribe drill one by one and knock a few off the list, but within a few weeks I’ve got even more.  I’ve never seemed to be able to eliminate all the stuff I don’t want, especially around an election when it all escalates like crazy.  With, I simply click the Unsubscribe button in Gmail and the service gets rid of it.  Don’t bother with the trial – trust me and just pay $19 for the service for a year if endless mailing list email that you don’t want is a problem for you.

Google Voice: I’ve had a Google Voice for a long time but I never fully switched over to it.  The Google Voice integration with Gmail has tipped me over.  I’ve been dreaming about getting rid of my desktop phone for a while – I now find myself almost exclusively doing every call from my computer except when I’m not online (where I have to use my cell phone.)  More importantly, video chat and text chat is completely integrated within Gmail so from one screen I have email, my phone (inbound and outbound calling) Skype-equivalent video chat, and text chat.  While I still use Skype extensively (I’m bradfeld) I find I’m using it much less as I end up using [email protected] instead.

Gist: I’m an investor in Gist and use it for my unified contact manager.  Google Contacts is ok, but has a long way to go.  But Gist integration with Gmail at a data level is superb.  I’m still using Gmail’s consumer service so the integration is primarily at a data level, but I’m now playing around with a full switch over to Google Apps and the Gist + Google Apps integration (via the Google Apps Marketplace) just rocks.  In addition, there’s a new browser-based Gist add-on coming out shortly (hint hint) that will provide direct integration into the consumer version of Gmail.

GooTasks: Since I am an Inbox Zero guy, I don’t keep anything (including paper), but I do have a short task lists of things like blog posts I’m going to write.  I went through an Evernote phase recently but it’s overkill for me.  Google Tasks is perfect, but I didn’t have an obvious way to sync with my iPhone.  Now I do.

There are a handful of annoying things.  The biggest one is that I have multiple accounts on Google ([email protected] as well as [email protected]) and they aren’t tightly integrated across all services.  The other is the weak / inconsistent iPhone integration which keeps pushing me toward using an Android phone full time (I’m now carrying both an Android phone and an iPhone.)  My dad’s recent story on the Samsung Fascinate has me seriously considering a full time switch over to Android.

My “while I’m working” migration from a full Windows / Outlook / Exchange / Office world to an almost completely non-Microsoft world has been fascinating.  I’m in Seattle next week including a 24 hour stretch at Microsoft for some stuff – maybe it’ll come up and be an interesting discussion that my friends at Microsoft can learn from.  In the mean time, I think the next big switch will be an organization one completely over to a Google Apps infrastructure.

  • Paul Roales

    >The biggest one is that I have multiple accounts on Google ([email protected] as well as [email protected]) and they aren’t tightly integrated across all services.

    Google has known about this problem and has been working on it for a long time (they talked about it last year at SXSW at the Gmail pannel). Now the solution for this is rolling out to Google Apps users right now. So check your Google Apps dashboard and you might be able to enable it right now.

    It is called the "New infrastructure for Google Apps accounts" more details here:

    • As a 30 yr software apps person I view this from the eyes of the marketer – "One person's problem / limitation is another person's FEATURE". First of all if you have 2 Google Accounts – they are suppose to be separate and not integrated – that would be the purpose of having 2 independent accounts (versus an account with an alias).

      Second, people get confused as to what a / Google Account is and what a Google Apps account is. They are very different and by design serve different masters so to speak. The "New infrastructure for …" article reference is something that speaks to allowing a Google Apps account to acquire certain flexibilities accounts have — while still retaining the benefits and power of having account ids exist under a private domain. This is very much a phased implementation process by Google and will not happen all at once.

      If you know of people needing specific assistance in this area of multi-accounts they can contact us at (Google Apps For Your Domain) or 303-932-8146

      That is the fundamental purpose of Google Apps under a domain. Once you do that then they have a material degree of integration.

  • Ronen Mendezitsky

    I just love gmail and gist. Gist is also very useful on the iphone.

    You should also try a gmail instant search tool named Cloud Magic. It creates a localized index of your email for lightning fast search. Only downside is that you need to install it locally and it’s not in the cloud, but it does conserve privacy this way

  • This is why I refer to Google as “a social network That is there when you need it, but not when you don’t. ”

  • Dave

    iPhone for Gmail drives me batty, same with Blackberry mainly because the Gmail app cannot access the Blackberry's contacts. I may get an Android phone for that reason alone. Do you still use Exchange/Outlook at work?

    • I've completely stopped using Exchange and Outlook. My Exchange server just forwards the email to my Gmail account.

      • Kind of like stopping smoking — some elements of it you really miss! But overall know that making the change will have both short term and most importantly long term benefits!!! You will feel some of the benefits of "added capacity for doing new things Immediately". Welcome to the Google Apps side of life, TOM.

  • Rob Volpe

    You can transfer your Google Voice account from gmail to google apps with this link. It takes a couple of days.

  • Denis Altudov

    GooTasks is a recent entry which you couldn't use before, but you could sync your Google Tasks to iPhone with my GeeTasks app for over a year now, or with CalenGoo (no relationship) for about half-year.

  • Brad I am really excited that you have found so useful.

    Also I am going to try out Gist now as I think you have solved my last big problem with Gmail. Contacts is really something that I feel like Google sort of forgot about and I am looking forward to seeing if Gist can solve that for me.

  • hdemott

    Spent the last 24 hours trying out Gist.

    Love it.

    As a guy who has a gmail, google apps, and exchange account – its great to actually get all the contact info into one spot.

    Now I just need to clean up all the data.

    It would be great in gist to be able to customize the UI so that you could just add and subtract the elements you would like to see. A little busy.

    But great so far.

  • feedzeldab

    What Feld doesn't understand, is that Google has killed more businesses than they've helped.

    Google's motto is such bs. They continue to dumb down the expectations of service and how a company should operate. They're lowering the bar each day, not raising it. But then of course like all companies run by folks with white socks, they'll invest in some green startup, make a big deal out of giving away what is essentially their coffee fund. Then they get back to work on what they really do, which is track everything we do, all day long. They've recruited lemmings like Feld, to praise them all the way.


    Google is making people dumber.

    Principles? Morals? Ethics? How so, yesterday. It's all about the money, baby.

    Feld just wants you to keep using their free services until they've indexed your mind, which is their goal.

    In the future they'll be 3 companies. Google, and the other 2 they own. Of course Feld will have invested his daddy's money well, will write yet more pathetic stories about how his back hurts from running on the Boulder Trail all day.

    And you all will read about him, because you want what he has.

    • mazdamx12

      I disagree. One example:

      You may say Google Analytics has killed the market for paid analytics, but it has helped thousands of small businesses that cant afford $1500 a month for analytics services.

      By knowing metrics, small business can improve their websites which improves the web.

      Google has helped my business a lot and I am really grateful for all of the services they provide at no cost.

  • I'm curious to hear if you find a company willing to do everything gmail. I'm curious about what the lawyers think about that. I tried using a google docs spreadsheet for an in-house project at my employer, and the multi-user simultaneous collaboration was just awesome, but of course the kibosh came down pretty swiftly and we were forced back to a .xlsx on sharepoint which has one-at-a-time editing.

    • The legal / privacy issues were one of the things that has held us back historically but we are now past it based on some of the recent policy changes / public rulings (e.g. we are now totally comfortable).

  • Gmail really is a great e-mail server. Many universities are now moving their student/faculty e-mails to gmail, making it much more accessible and easier to use.

  • If you really want Priority Inbox to work well, you have to use your filters wisely. Priority Inbox is pretty good but it gets amazing when you have proper filters.
    Basically, when you optimize your filters and most of your email belongs to one filter, Priority Inbox will catch those filters and show you what it’s really important for you.
    Let’s say that every email sent to you specifically, is filtered and label and mark as important. You’ll know that they’ll always show in your Priority Inbox.

  • Guilty. I'm a convert as well.

    You're right on the money with Google Voice. I'm hooked. I don't know exactly why, but I'd rather use voice, as opposed to Skype. Maybe it has something to do with the gmail being open while I talk.

  • Mark Phillips

    Two things keeping Outlook alive:
    1. My CRM is a microsoft partner and plugs in directly to Outlook. They won't consider a Google Apps or even Firefox extension.
    2. Google Contacts suck. I just tried Gist. I don't think it can replace my CRM. Can't believe Google hasn't figured out a way to cut into the CRM market. The options out there are soooo bad.