My journey into gmail

Okay, I knew it was going to happen. I’d have to migrate my email off of Eudora — the center of my work day since about 1997.

But I didn’t expect it to happen so suddenly — just poof, and I couldn’t read my email archives (let alone send anything).

So I decided to go with the flow and moved my two major accounts to the Gmail account I’d had for awhile (and had been using more since my Android tablet seemed to force me into the gmail fold and my other two accounts have baggage that I may not want to carry around forever).

The good

  • Threading. This makes it immensely eaiser to read discussion groups via email. [Yeah, yeah – discussion groups via email? I know I’m a troglodyte, but still.] This is also helpful for regular conversations, though it is sometimes hard to pull out the key messages.
  • Filters. This isn’t as WYSIWYG as Eudora’s filters, but it’s pretty powerful. The one-click “filter messages like this” catches mailing lists reliably, and it was probably about time to reboot my list of filters, anyway. Note that advanced search keywords work in filters, too. At the moment, my favorite filter for keeping my SPAM trimmed:
    Matches: (penis OR “Enlarge with” OR “Free trial” OR “Enlargement” OR “Promo” OR “Get BIGGER” OR “Sample Men’s Supplement“)
    Do this: Skip Inbox, Delete it
  • Labels. Okay, I guess I see how they are better than folders. I’m still a bit flummoxed that I need to move a message to Inbox, Spam, Trash while I label it to make it appear in other lists. But, like with filters, it was probably time to leave behind the 400+ folders that had built up in Eudora.
  • Labs (find them from Settings – the gear icon in the upper right > Settings )
    This is called “crazy experimental stuff”, but they seem to work just fine to fix some of the more annoying aspects of gmail. The ones I’ve enabled include:

    • Auto-advance (You no longer get kicked back to the list of messages after handling a message. It just goes to the next message. Duh.)
    • Right-side chat (If you have more than a handful of filters – see above – it’s really annoying to have the chat box sitting on top of them. I’d prefer to remove it entirely, but ..)
  • Keyboard shortcuts (but see below)
    See this post for 5 pages of shortcuts, and note that you have to go to Settings to enable some of them. The ones I use most are j and k (go to the next or previous message), since those two keys have been embedded in my finger memory for more than 30 years. I suppose I could train myself to use { and }, but we’ll see. [Any other vi users/snake players out there?]

Gripes

  • No sorting? Really? Yes, search can find things if you know a search term, but sometimes it’s helpful to order a list of messages if you can’t remember (ah, getting older) the appropriate search term. This does, no doubt, interact with the next gripe.
  • Limits on the size of message lists. This is probably inevitable with the move to webmail, but I still miss having all my messages listed so that I can page up and down. [Eudora’s key board shortcut to find all messages like this one (by sender or subject) was a great feature.]
  • Keyboard shortcuts? What is the fascination with these in modern software packages? I believe it’s being thrust upon us by 20-something programmers who
    • Are used to remembering an enormous number of bits of information (e.g. functions and their parameters)
    • Don’t remember what an epiphany it was when we moved from WordPerfect and “reveal codes” to the direct manipulation model of WYSIWYG editors with mouse access to a graphical menu.
    • Still have plenty of room for new items in their finger memory.
  • Advanced search keywords. Really? Again, these are most helpful for people who are used to remembering such bits of information. Eudora had a visual way to select search areas and criteria. It’s not at all clear from the summary of the keywords how to build a search with grouping of criteria, but we’ll see.
  • Arbitrarily hiding messages. When I send a message to myself, gmail sometimes decides it’s just not going to return it to me. What’s up? I may want to confirm that a message I sent to a list has arrived, or there may be other reasons I’m doing this. At least make it an option.
  • General UI problems. The image to go back to the message list and the image to reply to a message are just too similar. I’ll no doubt get used to them, but they’re a symptom of a user interface that just hasn’t been scrubbed. See also what happens when you do a search that returns more than one page of results. Click the box in the upper left to select all those messages. Then there – as a link squeezed between the ad at the top and the first message — is a link to “select all conversations matching this search”. That’s a powerful option to reassign labels or otherwise manage lots of conversations at one time — but it’s almost invisible.

Other thoughts

I’m also experimenting with Thunderbird for a couple of addresses — the one where I send all product announcements, registration info, etc. and a couple of addresses I plan to drop at some point. Thunderbird looks more like Eudora except that it separates the messages sent to different addresses; gmail puts all messages into one inbox like Eudora did.

If you’re trying to contact me, I’d suggest that the shoemakergroup.com (work) and shoemaker@acm.org (volunteer, personal) addresses are recommended, but the (newish) gmail.com address is fine, too. The aauwnc.org address is one I’m trying to drop, It’ll work fine for now, but I don’t expect to be sending messages from that address, and you may want to update your address book entry for me.

One thought on “My journey into gmail

  1. Couple of other things that I miss:

    Being able to bounce/redirect a message. If I receive a message that’s really better handled by someone else, it was nice to be able to resend it with the original “From” line so that replies would go back to the original sender and get me out of the middle.

    Being able to resend a message from the sent folder. When it’s not worth creating stationary but you have a few people to send similar messages to, just being able to “resend” and create a new message that you can edit is quite helpful.

    If anyone knows how to do either of those with gmail, please let me know.

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