I’ve Accidentally Switched to GMail

By Deane Barker on April 9, 2006

I was traveling last week, and I couldn’t get my outbound SMTP to work from anywhere for some reason — from the airport, the hotel, the remote office…nowhere. Frustrating.

So I started using GMail last week, with the intention of using it just until I could get back to home base and figure out what was up with SMTP.

Well, I’m back home, but I’m still using GMail. I’m beginning to suspect that I’m never going back to Thunderbird.

It’s not that GMail is a superior experience than Thunderbird — it’s not. But it’s really no worse either. I keep waiting for the moment when I’m slapped in the face by Web mail. A moment when I think, “Oh yeah, that’s why I used a thick client…” But I haven’t found it yet. I’m just as functional, it seems.

Things I like:

  1. The “conversations” metaphor is nice. It keeps all related emails together in a thread. I suspect the algorithm it uses to relate them is going to frutrate me at some point, since it just seems to work off the subject, but that’s a small price.

  2. Search, obviously, is awesome. I feel really comfortable just throwing things into Archive, because I know I’ll be able to find them later.

  3. I like that it’s the same no matter what computer I’m on. I have a laptop, but I also work from my home machine a lot. IMAP helps with organization of mail, but all the settings can’t be synchronized. I hate not having my filters the same from multiple machines — if you check your email from a machine without the same mail routing rules you’re used to, then email gets in the wrong places.

Two nitpicks:

  1. Since there’s no concept of “folders” in GMail, there’s nowhere to drag an email. I used to spend some time every once in a while cleaning out my inbox — dragging emails around to the various folders. But now I apply “labels” to emails, and you can’t drag and drop to do that. You have to check a box and select from a dropdown — not as user-friendly.

  2. I have my work email address set to the “Reply-To” address, but I think people can still see the GMail email address in the message header (“sent on behalf of…” or something). I’d like to get rid of this, if it’s possible.

But so long as we’re complaining, I had two big problems with Thunderbird too, and they were much more serious.

  1. I used it with IMAP, and it would hang a lot trying to copy messages to the Sent Items folder. You’d have to cancel and let Thunderbird ask to retry, when it would usually succeed.

  2. Thunderbird had a tendency to peg my processor for some reason. If things ever got slow, and the fan in my laptop suddenly cranked up, I’d open Task Manager and find that Thunderbird was sucking up 90%+ of the processor. This happened at least once a day.

So, there you have it. The switch was anticlimactic, really. It’s just more stress free than the alternative, and I need more of that in my life.



  1. I have a gmail too, but I never really got to distributing the address because I’ve had my Yahoo account forever. Yahoo recently allowed some users to try a future “Yahoo Mail Beta”, sporting a web-client powered interface that works like any desktop mail client.

    For someone like me who had actually paid a small premium for Yahoo’s POP access in the last three years, one could really get used to the new interface!

  2. I accidentally deleted my GMail account last week. Beware! Their account system is severely flawed! If you use other Google accounts (for example for AdSense), pay VERY GOOD ATTENTION whenever you change accunts! My personal account was deleted because of such a background switch instead of one of the business-test-accounts. Pay VERY good attention – I learned it the hard way!

  3. I use Opera- the built in mail client (called M2) has the best of both worlds of what you’re talking about.

    You have folders that function essentially as labels. You can create a series of folders that have rules associated with them that are pretty simple to create (in most cases, a couple clicks, but you can get complicated as well and do things like regex’s and what not).

    Then any email that meets the requirements of rule shows up in that folder automatically, and you can manually drag and drop into folders. Essentially though, (behind the scenes) it’s the same “super mailbox” type that gmail uses. I LOVE this concept, but I admit, Opera hasn’t done much to innovate M2 further since they introduced several versions ago.

  4. Gmail actually has the ability to send “as” any of your verified addresses…but that may result in the “on behalf of” header as well, not sure.

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