Gmail, what took you so long?

I’ve been an email client person ever since I got off using Telnet and Pine. I’ve used Eudora, Outlook, Thunderbird, Mail. I like email clients (well, with the exception of Outlook). Once I got an Android phone, I thought I’d give Gmail a try. A friend of mine had been using Gmail for quite a while, so I asked her what she thought about it. She loved it… except she had to warn me about how annoying “conversation view” might get. She wasn’t lying. It’s annoying. In fact, if you search for how to turn conversation view off, you’ll see thread after thread, feature request after feature request practically begging Google for the ability turn it off. Well, Google has finally relented. Maybe they are keeping to their pledge to not be evil.

P.S. To followers of my blog, I haven’t posted in a while, because I’ve been a little tired and busy, and I also haven’t had much new to say. So you get a fluff entry about Gmail. Yay!

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8 Comments

  1. Personally, I find the “conversation view” feature to be very nice — a selling point. I notice that it’s hard for newbies to Gmail to “get” it at first… which is understandable because it’s a different paradigm from the email clients that we grew up with.

    And if you don’t get it, and you “fight it” (mainly by starting new topics in the last email of an unrelated topic while not changing the subject line…bad, bad!) then it certainly will be annoying — for both you & your recipient (who will probably end up re-threading it if they wish to keep it).

    You can’t use conversation mode in the same way you use traditional email clients.. And if you don’t try to, it’s far from annoying; it’s a time-saver.

    Once you get used to Gmail’s way, you realize that it’s just an automatic filing system for email threads. No more need for self-discipline in creating “email folders” and sorting & moving around emails to keep organized. Great!

    Done with an email (and its thread)? Just click “Archive” and it’s out of the way — no filing needed. Need it back? Just search for text in the thread. It even collapses old emails in a thread to save space and reduce visual clutter.

    The only thing you need to be rigorous about to make it work without annoyance is to match your subject line with your message content.

    I have Microsoft OWA at work — no conversation mode. It’s a ROYAL pain in the patootie, because I’m constantly having to waste time & energy sorting a stream of interspersed, unrelated emails and having to figure out which goes with what topic and where it should be filed once I’ve read it. MS wasting my time again… Oy!

    Gmail’s method is wonderful. Getting used to it is just like switching from Windows to Linux or Mac: At first it’s annoying… :^)

  2. I don’t sort or move messages. I just use a message filter to get to the message I want to see. I like seeing distinct messages and not “conversations.” There is no downside to separate messages, the way I work. I don’t like having to drill down to see a particular message (first click on the conversation, then click through all the various parts of the conversation to find that one message).

    I’m glad you like conversation view, but there was no excuse for Google making the default a mandate. It can still be the default. I’m very glad they have now added in the option to turn it off for those of us who hate conversation view. Now everyone can be happy. You can keep your conversation view, and I can turn it off.

  3. I agree that it’s a good thing it’s now optional… I like threading enough to suggest Gmail to people, but while useful, there’s no point to lock in users to having only that method of viewing their email. (After all, I can think of circumstances where it would be useful to switch to a chronological stream view.)

    I rarely find myself drilling down in threaded conversations to find things. The Gmail “search options” page) does a good job of filtering for me. I like that I can see both the message and the thread it was part of — but that’s the way I work, and I understand that others work differently, as you do.

    I guess I never thought of it as a contentious issue — either you like it and use Gmail, or you don’t and you use a different client…

    So, score another one for the guys at Google. Too bad other email clients don’t also offer the ability to switch their presentation modes. One wonders if this recent change will pressure them to start offering alternatives… And if so, what sort of creative ideas might emerge as a result?

  4. Too bad other email clients don’t also offer the ability to switch their presentation modes.

    When’s the last time you used an email client? The newest version of Thunderbird has a threaded view, and if you’re using Outlook Web Access for Microsoft Exchange Server 2010, it actually defaults to a conversation view.

    Options is definitely the way to go. Those who want conversations can have them, and those who want individual messages can have them.

  5. When? About 5-6 years ago when I dumped Eudora for Gmail. Never looked back… (Never needed to.)

    If it works (for me), it works, and there’s no need to keep window shopping. (Although I would if I get annoyed about what I do use — that’s how I ended up using Ubuntu instead of Windows.)

    I don’t read email over the shoulders of friends & colleagues, so I don’t see other people’s email clients that way either. To each his own.

    And my company is notoriously behind the times… Maybe once MS Exchange Server 2010 is obsolete they’ll upgrade. :^) Until then, we have a version that doesn’t give conversation view as an option.

    There’s where I *would* go looking for a change — only it’s a client I have no say in. I’m sure many in the corporate world are in the same boat…

  6. Right now I’m trying to lobby for my workplace to switch to Google Apps instead of Microsoft Exchange. Exchange is just too annoying to manage (on the front end with Outlook and in the back end for administration).

  7. I wish we could get ours to do so, too… Half the people here can’t open “.docx” type documents. Too often ES/OWA crashes trying to open them as web pages for us. (And even if it does, we can’t save them in a format we can use later.)

    And what’s really funny (or would be if it weren’t so sad) are the messages we occasionally get about how they’re waiting for experts from MS to come in and unclog things & sort out the conflicts that their product has introduced into our system…

    Then there’s my friend whose business uses Google Apps. And they have no problems…

    Wait… Google’s infrastructure is based on that new-fangled thingy called ‘Linux’, ain’t it? Mebbe that’s got sumthin’ to do with it…

  8. I have heard many good things about Zimbra being a replacement, especially if you are already using Linux servers, for MS Outlook / Exchange.

    Seems many Linux System Administration jobs are looking for Zimbra Desktop knowledge and experience these days. Having lived through early bitnet mail systems, IBM’s mainframe mail systems (ie. PROFs), Lotus Notes, AOL (only briefly), CompuServe, Yahoo (expensive if you want a local copy of your mail), Microsoft’s Office mail system (Exchange just being the latest version), Hotmail (slow), gMail and a few other Linux mail systems, Zimbra seems very promising and probably worth a look. Something tells me you already are aware of Zimbra.

    Here is a link to Jack Wallen’s article on Linux.com about installing the Zimbra Desktop:

    https://www.linux.com/learn/tutorials/374096-make-the-zimbra-desktop-your-email-and-social-desktop

    One commenter did say that because of his use of “global lists” he is sticking with Thunderbird, so Zimbra may or may not be an Exchange replacement and more research would be required by anyone considering it.

    I can only imagine the hundreds of thousands of dollars a company could save by migrating from MS Outlook/Exchange to a Linux Mail system like Zimbra, especially in unnecessary IIs licensing fees…but that is another blog post…

    For those looking for an alternative email account, a backup to Google gMail, Fastmail.fm is a good option, there are many others.

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