Gmail - Features, Pricing, Alternatives, and More
It's hard to imagine needing to delete email messages to not run out of space in your email inbox. And yet, before Gmail's release in 2004, it was common to only have a couple megabytes of email storage. You'd read emails, delete everything that wasn't crucially important, and archive the rest to an Outlook folder on your computer.
Then Gmail came along with 1GB of free storage, which at the time seemed far too good to be true. It included Google-powered search and tags that let you store emails under multiple categories at once—no more deciding if an email should go in either the Work or Finance folder. The Archive button replaced the standard Delete button, and threaded conversations made keeping the original messages even more valuable. It was a new way to think of email, a post-scarcity world for electronic communications.
Today, Gmail is one of the most popular email services, and its influences are apparent in most other email services. Its 15GB of storage is generous still, but that's hardly the best reason to choose Gmail today. Instead, it's Gmail's continuous improvements and still-simple interface that make it a great place to manage your email messages.
Gmail's default inbox view shows a list of your messages. Click a message to open it in a threaded view with any previous replies tucked away at the top and a Reply box under the email. There's a list of your tags on the left and an info pane on the right that shows contact info and related messages or events. Tap the Compose button to start writing a new email in a pop-over pane—a slight change from the older full-window editor that Gmail used to feature. On mobile, Gmail even includes smart replies with quick pre-written replies to emails you might receive about meetings, tasks, and more.
There's the ever-present search bar on the top, still one of the best reasons to choose Gmail. Search for any text in a message—even recently deleted ones—or use Gmail advanced search operators to find precisely the message you need. Want to reuse that search often? Click the More button in the search results, then select "Create a Filter" to open the filter dialogue with your search query pre-filled. You can then have Gmail automatically label, archive, forward, delete, star, spam, or mark the messages as important, for a quick way to keep your inbox automatically organized in the future.
Gmail also includes built-in filters to help you see the most important emails first. The default Priority Inbox view shows your personal emails in the first tab, puts social network and other notification emails in the second tab, and hides promotions and newsletters away in the last tab. You can add extra tabs, and tweak it to always show starred messages in the primary tab if you'd like. Or, you can use the new Inbox app to view your Gmail emails as a to-do list, complete with due-dates, options to "snooze" messages for later, and even an extension to save web pages as tasks in your inbox. For more tools, you can install Gmail Add-ons to create tasks, make calls, sign invoices and more from your inbox.
By default, Gmail gives you a
@gmail.com email address for personal accounts. If you own a domain or want to use Gmail's features internally in your company, you can purchase a G Suite account for Gmail on your domain—complete with your own company logo in the top left corner—along with the full suite of G Suite tools to manage documents, spreadsheets, and more. And if you use multiple accounts, Google lets you sign into them all and switch between them whenever you need.
Gmail's proved itself one of the best tools for managing email and keeping track of the otherwise fleeting communications that so often get lost. Email may one day be replaced by some other communications tool—however unlikely that may seem—but for now, Gmail makes email nice enough to tolerate. It even makes email a reasonably productive tool if you use Gmail's filters and tags to their best advantage.
Learn more about all of G Suite with our other reviews:
Or, superpower Gmail with our roundup of the 30 best Gmail hacks, tips, and tricks.
Originally published June 10, 2016; updated March 22, 2018 with new screenshots and details about Gmail Inbox, Gmail Add-ons, and Smart Reply.
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