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Understanding Gmail – A Great Analogy For Labels

gmaillogo A few years ago I started using Gmail and it started as a rocky start. I was confused by the labels, archiving, conversations, and lack of folders. It was different from Outlook in so many ways. It took me a bit to understand it and since I have fallen in love.

The thing is that many people ask me for a good email service to connect with their BlackBerry. I usually recommend Gmail. The problem is that it has a learning curve compared to Yahoo mail and others. I recently ran across a article on Google System Blog that quoted an analogy by Gravi_t on Knol explaining what makes Gmail different. I felt it was worth a share:

Imagine this:
– each email is a piece of paper
– labels are post-it notes, sticky notes
– there are default labels, like "Inbox", "Sent items", "Trash" ("Bin"), "Spam"
– you can also create labels (i.e. sticky notes)
This means that – unlike in other email services – you do not put the emails into folders. You actually attach labels to the emails.

Only one copy of your emails:
– you only just have ONE existing copy of your emails
– no matter how many labels (post-its) you stick on them
– you can attach as many labels to this one copy as you want, just as you can stick a lot of post-it notes to the same one piece of paper
This is why your email disappears from everywhere when you delete it; because deleting the email means deleting the "piece of paper"!!

This is by no means a comprehensive analogy and it does break down at a point but I think it does a great job of explaining the difference between labels and folders. On the other hand this all gets really confusing when you try to use Gmail over IMAP in outlook… I’m just hoping Google finds a way to create an offline client for Gmail.

4 total comments on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. I love Gmail…Thats the only email where I have multiple accounts :) Ofcourse only one of them is for professional/personal use :)

    Hotmail and Yahoo are for casual and not so important emails :)

  2. Offline email client for gmail, zimbra.

  3. I for one prefer microsoft’s live emial on my berry as emails deleted from the inbox of the berry can be removed from the online inbox as well. The choice is yours though gmail is good it does have some drawbacks at least for me. I tend to get a lot of email and find it combersome to have to clean my inbox online after doing it on the berry. What I would really like to see is an email service for those not using corp bb email and have folders auto populate to the berry so one could sort email into the folders. As is now from what I have found on my ms and google email sorted is not delivered. Another feature lacking on ms is the ability for email templates, not sure about google.

  4. if you are using GoogleMail in english, you can access the Google Labs (green icon i the top right corner of GMail).

    one labs is called “Offline” and allows you to have GMail offline.

    caveats apply : it’s alpha and not beta.

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