Guide Review - Gmail (Google Mail)
Gmail's interface is simple and elegant, but also remarkably clever with useful keyboard shortcuts and speedy operation.
Of course, Gmail boasts a search box, which usually returns useful results; Gmail's search is still a far cry from the smarts of common web searches with their word stemming, spell checking, suggestions and understanding of synonyms, for example. In any event, finding single emails precisely is not the best thing about Gmail: smarter still is its keeping everything in context.
With nary a miss, Gmail identifies the relationships between emails to construct "conversations". You can quickly see what has happened previously, or whether somebody has already replied. Gmail also offers "stars" for quick flagging and free-form color labels that can work wonders to organize an inbox.
If a contact is currently online in either Gmail or Google Talk, you can chat right from Gmail, with the conversation archived and indexed. Turning emails into Google Calendar events is just as easy, and for people Google+, you can get their latest shared content next to emails and automatic updates (of addresses, phone numbers, etc.) in the address book.
All this makes no sense if you can't keep all relevant data, of course. So Gmail grows as you use it, and you can purchase additional storage. To avoid the truly unneeded mail, Gmail sports efficient and effortless spam and virus filters.
If you do not like the idea of Google displaying ads next to emails based on keywords found in the messages (the emails themselves remain private), you can use encryption or access your Gmail using POP and IMAP. (You can also put Gmail's web interface in offline mode with Gears and read as well as compose mail while disconnected.)
If, conversely, you want to use the Gmail web interface for all your email, you can have it collect mail from up to five POP accounts automatically and put these accounts' email addresses (and all your others) in the From: line of messages you send.
(Updated May 2012)