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THE WORLD OF GOOGLE
This article is from:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Features_of_Gmail

All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Text_of_the_GNU_Free_Documentation_License 

Features of Gmail

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 

Gmail includes a number of original features as well as improvements upon those standard to web mail services.

Thread viewA number of messages in the same e-mail thread are shown. The user can expand and unexpand any message (quickly, using only client-side JavaScript functionality) to view the content of any number of e-mails simultaneously
Thread view
A number of messages in the same e-mail thread are shown. The user can expand and unexpand any message (quickly, using only client-side JavaScript functionality) to view the content of any number of e-mails simultaneously

Organization

Conversation views

The main innovation of Gmail is its method of categorizing e-mails, which Google calls Conversation View. In contrast to other e-mail services, Gmail keeps track of individual "conversations" (an original message, along with all the replies to that message), and allows users to view easily all the e-mails related to a specific message. Gmail's algorithm for determining how conversations fit together is not perfect, however: Single conversations sometimes become fragmented (especially when a replier changes the e-mail's subject line) and unrelated conversations occasionally become attached together. Conversations split into two separate storage sections if there are more than 100 messages, sometimes resulting in 5 or 6 chunks making up a whole conversation. Another drawback was that the entire conversation would be deleted if the user deleted one single e-mail which was a part of that conversation, but this was fixed when a "Trash This Message" button was added.

Reply by Chat

The reply by chat feature lets a user know when receiving an email if that user is logged on to Google Talk by giving the user the option to reply to the email via the Google Talk chat feature. If a user replies to an email via the chat feature then that chat history will be appended to the email "conversation".

Labels instead of folders

Gmail allows users to categorize their e-mails with "labels." Labels give users a flexible method of categorizing e-mails, since an e-mail may have any number of labels (in contrast to a system in which an e-mail may belong to only one folder). Users can display all e-mails having a particular label and can use labels as a search criterion. Gmail also allows users to set up filters which label incoming e-mail automatically.

Users can simulate the functionality of folder-based filtering by applying labels and archiving mail as it arrives.

Filtering

Filters can be run by using an interface similar to the Search Options dialog (see searching below). Gmail allows users to filter messages by their text; their From, To, and Subject fields; and by whether or not the message has an attachment. Gmail can perform any combination of the following actions upon a message that meets a label's criteria: Archiving (i.e. removing the message from the Inbox), marking as "starred", applying a label, moving to the trash, and forwarding to another e-mail address.

If you receive a lot of spam in Gmail, you may not like to see the growing number of spam messages. It's easy to hide the spam counter - just create a new filter with the following details:

Has the words: is:spam Check Delete it. Check Also apply filter to * conversations below.

All the spam messages will be moved to trash, where you can check for false positives. This tip was found at:

http://googlesystem.blogspot.com/2006/07/hide-spam-counter-in-gmail.html

Searching

Gmail allows users to search by a number of criteria:

  • whether the message "has" or "does not have" a certain phrase
  • the message's From, To, and Subject fields
  • the message's location (All Mail, Inbox, Starred, Sent Mail, Spam, Trash, All & Spam & Trash, Read Mail, Unread Mail, or a label)
  • whether the message has an attachment
  • the message's date within a given range (e.g. all messages received within one week of January 1, 2004)

Gmail also allows users to construct advanced search strings. For example, the following search strings would search for all e-mails from Bob to anyone with the subject field containing "work" or "school" but not "close friend", labeled as "to do" or "pending" among all that are not in "Inbox" (which means it is archived), with a PDF attachment, and with a carbon copy to self, limited to the date range between May 1, 2004 and June 1, 2004, that are not starred:

from:bob subject: (work OR school -{close friend}) (label:(-inbox) in:to-do OR label:pending) has:attachment filename:pdf in:unstarred cc:self after:2004/05/01 before:2004/06/01
from:bob subject: (work OR school -{close friend}) (label:to-do OR in:(pending)) -(in:inbox) has:attachment filename:pdf in:unstarred cc:self after:2004-05-01 before:2004-06-01
(Note that logical operators (e.g. OR, AND) must be in upper-case)
(Also note that field operators cannot contain blank values ([buggy] unless it is the operator in the string))
([buggy] Excluding Inbox from searches does not work as expected because messages not to yourself are not considered in the inbox)

See also: How do I use Gmail's advanced search?

Searching has a fixed limitation of 20 search results per page. See Criticism of Gmail.

Contacts

Gmail automatically saves contact details as an e-mail is sent. If the user changes, adds, or removes information near an e-mail such as the name while sending any e-mail, it also updates that in the contact list.

When a user starts typing in the To, CC or BCC fields it brings up a list with the relevant contacts. The feature is restricted to Name and Primary E-mail.

Even because of the auto-completion feature, the auto saving creates a contact for each e-mail instead of trying to guess which e-mail should be together and which should be a different contact. That can enlarge a contact list and often make it too big if the user keeps more than one e-mail address per person. Users can add more information and alternate email addresses on the Contacts page.

It is possible to import contacts in several different ways, from Microsoft Office Outlook, Eudora, Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail, orkut, and any other contact list capable of being exported as a CSV file. Gmail also allows a user to export their contacts to CSV.

A more recently added feature is Contact Groups, allowing a number of contacts to be combined under one label (similar to how e-mails are labeled), from which emails can be easily sent to a group of addresses.

Images can also be added to contacts. Adding an image to a contact will pop up the contact's image whenever the mouse is over the contact's name in Inbox, All Mail, Compose etc..

Auto save enhancement

Gmail has added a system of Auto Save, a system for avoiding loss of data in case of a browser crash or other error. This feature automatically saves a "draft" copy of the current message once per minute. If you have an attachment it will automatically save that too.

Two gigabytes of storage

Beginning on April 1, 2005 (Gmail's first birthday), Gmail started to offer two gigabytes of e-mail storage space, which is increasing steadily ever after, partly in reply to Yahoo! Mail, who themselves offered 1GB of storage for their e-mail service. This figure and the original offering of 1000 megabytes are hundreds of times more than other webmail services offered at the time of Gmail's original announcement in 2004. Google suggests that users "archive", rather than delete their messages; Gmail's more than two gigabyte of storage is sufficient to hold many years' worth of an average user's e-mails, and Gmail's search technology allows users to search their archives easily. Additionally, users can store files (up to ten megabytes in size) as e-mail attachments.

Current storage limit — As of October 25, 2006, the maximum storage capacity was slightly above 2777 MB. [1]

Until October 2005, the rate of increase was one hundred megabytes per month, but has since slowed to an increase of one megabyte every three days (or about ten megabytes per month).

Interface

JavaScript interface

Compose view, with spell checkerThe user is composing a new e-mail, and has invoked the client-side spell checker feature. Like the spell checker in a word processor, the user is shown words which are not recognized, and can either pick a replacement from a list or manually enter an alteration. In addition, Gmail's spell checker has limited non-English language support; it can detect one's message's language and spell-check in that language. Some ideograph-based languages like Chinese are not supported.
Compose view, with spell checker
The user is composing a new e-mail, and has invoked the client-side spell checker feature. Like the spell checker in a word processor, the user is shown words which are not recognized, and can either pick a replacement from a list or manually enter an alteration. In addition, Gmail's spell checker has limited non-English language support; it can detect one's message's language and spell-check in that language. Some ideograph-based languages like Chinese are not supported.

Gmail's interface relies heavily upon JavaScript, a client-side scripting programming language, to asynchronously request data from the Gmail servers without reloading the entire page. Contrary to popular belief, Gmail's interface is not an example of Ajax techniques - instead of XML, data is transferred with chunks of JavaScript code. Since much processing takes place on the user's computer, relatively little information must be transferred between Gmail's web servers and the client, so the interface should run quickly, even over a dial-up connection.

In late February 2005, Google rolled out a "basic HTML view" Gmail interface, accessible from any HTTP 1.1-compliant web browser (previously, Gmail was only accessible via a few modern browsers in "standard view"). The HTML interface does not use JavaScript, and is much slower than the standard interface.

Keyboard shortcuts

Gmail allows users to navigate its interface by using the keyboard as an alternative to the mouse, which is the norm for site navigation. This feature is not enabled by default, although instructions on how to enable it are provided.

Rich text formatting

A feature added to Gmail on its first birthday, rich formatting, allows users to set the size, font, color, and alignment of text, create bullet points and numbered lists, in addition to several other features. Later, buttons for adding HTML Code, tables, online images and a limited set of smilies were also added. With rich formatting enabled, messages to which one replies and forwards retain all embedded formatting, whereas plain text editing strips out all formatting including embedded graphics.

Rich formatting is currently only able to work on browsers that support WYSIWYG, such as Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer. Browsers (such as Apple Mac OS X's flagship browser Safari) that do not support WYSIWYG editing cannot take advantage of this feature.

Multi language support

Gmail supports 38 languages. Here, its interface is shown in Japanese.
Gmail supports 38 languages. Here, its interface is shown in Japanese.

The Gmail interface currently supports 40 languages: Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese (simplified), Chinese (traditional), Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English (UK), English (US), Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Tagalog, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian and Vietnamese. However, when new features are added to Gmail, there is often a delay between them being available in US English and in other languages.

Gmail is the only provider so far (excluding Windows Live Mail Beta) that encodes all web pages and e-mails in the up-to-date Unicode standard (UTF-8). This means one can send and receive messages containing Latin special characters as well as Cyrillic and Asian characters without having to fear mutilation of the message (as it frequently happens to ISO-8859-encoded messages). Other codings can be selected, e.g. in Japanese the usual ISO-2022-JP coding for email can be invoked by changing the Settings/Language to Japanese and selecting the default text-encoding option.

Gmail started to support Arabic and Hebrew from the end of May 2006, which requires support for bi-directional text.

RSS feeds

After its one-year anniversary, Gmail started placing customizable RSS feeds in some interfaces. The RSS feeds are limited to a single line at the top of the page, which can be scrolled through by the user. The option now appears in all accounts as "Web Clips".

Access & username handling

POP3 access

Although not offered with the original release, Gmail allows all users to send and receive their e-mail via POP3 (over SSL) and SMTP. Some users have experienced authentication difficulties when trying to gain access to their accounts and have blamed Google for the problem; however, the authentication problem is likely due to the user needing to activate a setting within Gmail.

Optional dots

Gmail usernames must be between 6 and 30 characters (inclusive) and made up of only letters, numbers, and dots. The use of dots, however, are optional (that is, Gmail ignores dots when resolving addresses). Google states that "Gmail doesn't recognize dots (.) as characters within a username. This way, one may add and remove dots to their username for desired address variations." For instance, the account google@gmail.com receives mail sent to goo.gle@gmail.com, g.o.o.g.l.e@gmail.com, etc. Likewise, the account goo.gle@gmail.com receives mail from google@gmail.com. However, when signing in it is necessary to include any dots used in the creation of the account.

Gmail therefore blocks users from creating addresses that vary by dots only. Consider two different people with the addresses john.doe@gmail.com and johndoe@gmail.com, who will each receive all e-mails intended for either one of the accounts. (It is believed that in the early stages of Gmail, it was possible to create two accounts which had usernames differing only in dots. There have been reports on Gmail's Help Discussion threads of users receiving mail clearly intended for other users.)

Plus-addressing

Main article: E-mail address#Plus addressing

Gmail also supports "plus-addressing" of e-mails. Messages can be sent to addresses in the form: gmail.user+extratext@gmail.com where extratext can be any string. Plus-addressing allows users to sign up for different services with different aliases and then easily filter all e-mails from those services.

Custom "From:" addresses

Gmail also allows the user to add other email accounts to be used as optional sender addresses on outgoing email. A verification process is performed to confirm the user's ownership of each email address before it is added. "Plus-addresses" can also be added as sender addresses in the same way. Moreover, any of the additional addresses can be set as the default address.

Optionally, a different "Reply-to:" address can be set for each "send as" address.

When using this feature, the address chosen will appear in the "To:" field of the email. The user's original Gmail account, however, still can be traced, appearing on a "Sender:" field in the email header. Example:

From: user@yahoo.com
Reply-to: user@aol.com
Sender: user@gmail.com

Note that in Outlook this will look as following for the receiver:

From: user@gmail.com on behalf of user@yahoo.com

Gmail Notifier

Gmail Notifier icon
Gmail Notifier in Windows 2000 task bar
Gmail Notifier in the OS X menu bar, showing the new mail submenu.

The Gmail Notifier, an official tool offered by Google, displays a small icon in the notification area (see Taskbar) in Microsoft Windows and on the right-hand side of the menu bar in Mac OS X, indicating the presence of new mail in one's inbox. It also has a feature that makes Gmail the default mail client for mailto links. It does not, however, download new messages.

On Windows, the Gmail Notifier is uninstalled (after a prompt to the user) if one installs Google Talk, which provides the same features and a new, updated interface.

Available to those who surf with Mozilla Firefox is the identically named Gmail Notifier extension, first appeared around July 8, 2004 [2], more than one month before the official one (August 21, 2004).

Google has developed an enhanced version of Gmail Notifier, called Google Notifier, which adds Google Calendar event notification as an additional feature beyond mail notification. Google Notifier is currently only available as a Mac OS X v10.4+ dashboard widget.

Chats

Gmail with the chat feature
Gmail with the chat feature

Gmail's chat feature allows you to chat with other people that have a Gmail account. It interacts with the whole Google Talk network, so can be synchronised with that particular program. However, only text-based chat can take place within Internet Browsers; voice calling is Google Talk's advantage.

Because of the move away from e-mail, and therefore the name "Gmail", Google have decided to change the logo for Gmail, so that it includes '+ talk'. The logo also has a glossier finish compared to its predecessor.

The introduction of Gmail Chat allows Gmail users to easily connect to the Google Talk network on computers that do not have the Google Talk client installed, without needing third-party clients (such as Psi, Miranda IM, iChat, Adium and Gaim) or web-based applications such as GTalkr.

Dormant accounts

Every account which is inactive for 9 months gets deactivated by Gmail. All stored messages get deleted and the account gets "recycled", which means the account name can be used by any other users afterwards. Other webmail services, like Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail, have different, sometimes shorter, times for marking an account as inactive. Yahoo! Mail deactivates dormant accounts after four months, while Hotmail deactivates accounts after only one month.

Security

E-mail signing

Gmail is the first major provider to sign outgoing mails with Yahoo!'s DomainKeys signatures.

HTTPS and TLS

Gmail offers secure connections to the Gmail servers, reducing the risk of eavesdropping. Most web-based mail systems such Hotmail only use https during the log-on stage when username and password are sent. With Gmail it is possible to use the secure connection throughout the entire session, including reading and writing of e-mails. For POP3 based access Transport Layer Security (TLS) is used.

Although TLS when you send email via an email client such as Mozilla Thunderbird, it seems that it is not used when the email is sent from the Gmail servers to the destination domain's mail exchangers, so at some stage your email message will still be transmitted in plaintext.

Anti-virus scanning

Gmail's spambox
Gmail's spambox

Google has since the release of Gmail introduced a feature which automatically scans all incoming and outgoing e-mail attachments for viruses. If a virus is found on an attachment the reader is trying to open, Gmail will try to remove the virus and open the newly cleaned attachment. Gmail also scans all outgoing attachments, and if a virus is found on an outgoing attachment Gmail will prevent the message from being sent until the attachment is removed; this is an innovation that has not been previously seen in other webmail services such as Yahoo! Mail or Hotmail. Despite the newly added anti-virus service, Gmail does not allow users to send or receive executable files (such as files ending in .exe or .com), even if they are sent within an unencrypted zipped (.zip, .tar, .tgz, .taz, .z, .gz) file. This makes it difficult to use Gmail to send programs to other users. A way users bypass this is to change the file extension (to .txt or .exe_ or .zip_ for example) then change it back once the other user has retrieved the file.

Spam filtering

Gmail offers a spam filtering system. According to Gmail, messages marked as spam are automatically deleted after 30 days, but there have been reports on Gmail Help Discussion of spam mails staying in the spam folder for months.

External links

  • Gmail: The problem with spam mails - shortcomings in the way Gmail handles spam mails
Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Features_of_Gmail"