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Although Apple’s stock iPad mail app is perfectly adequate and does a good job handling Gmail, Google created its own Gmail iPad app. This makes sense to people committed to Google’s mail service and wider technology stack.

It works fine for dealing with text mail messages, but fails badly when people send messages laid out using tools like HTML or, worse, text embedded in images. The mail body appears to the right of the message list – as shown in the picture above.

Often the text is tiny – in some cases in 4 or 5 point size – making it unreadable. You can, of course, zoom the message pane, but it’s clumsy when line lengths don’t readjust.

There are two lessons from this:

  • Why bother with a separate Gmail app when it does the job less well than the standard iPad mail app?
  • The problem underlines why you should stick with plain text in mail messages. Save the fancy stuff for web sites.

Yahoo!Mail shows two ad images. The one on the right flashes.

After a wave of nagging emails telling me to upgrade my old, barely-used Yahoo!Mail account, I clicked the button.

Yahoo! says mail is now faster: “up to twice as fast”. It doesn’t say what it is twice as fast as, presumably the old Yahoo! Mail.

While it may be faster, Yahoo!Mail is still way slower than Gmail. You don’t need to look far to see why. The application loads two colourful, flashing advertisements.

Flashy – and I don’t mean that in a good way

Not only does this slow Yahoo!Mail to the point of making it almost worthless – at least when compared to Gmail – the ads are distracting. I cannot focus on reading anything complicated or difficult when there’s flashing graphics on the right-hand edge of my screen.

Oh, and the advertisements displayed are totally irrelevant to my life. I’ve seen research which says readers are more forgiving when the advertising they see is relevant.

Yahoo!Mail offers a number of features that are clearly better than those in Gmail. Unlimited storage and being able to attach up to 100MB files to an email are huge pluses.

Pain barrier

Yet none of this matters a jot, if the application is painful to use.

We all understand service providers need to make money. Advertising pays for the mail service. But Gmail manages to do this without turning email into a battleground.

I’ll keep the Yahoo!Mail account for emergencies.

Good riddance to Google Wave.

I never understood what the fuss was about.

Wave may have been clever programming, but it didn’t do anything other applications already did better. Google has better tools for most Wave tasks.

It did instant messaging although Google already had tools that do the same job.

Wave did communications. Why bother when Gmail is so much better?

Wave was a collaboration tool. Who needs that when collaborating on Google Docs is so easy?

There was a social media twist to Wave, but Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin are all simpler to use and way more polished. Although they each come with problems.

Wave had a bad user interface and was difficult to use.

More importantly, it was difficult to understand what was going on and what one was supposed to do.

That said, Google Wave had some success.

Three months ago I tested Gmail. My plan was to spend a week running all incoming email through Gmail on my desktop, laptop and hand-held computers. I previously used Microsoft Outlook.

I wanted to move all my email accounts on all my systems through a single application as a way of simplifying things.

In practice it worked well. Routing my Gmail, POP3, Google Apps and Yahoo accounts through one in-box made sense.

Seeing the same messages through the same interface across my three systems made sense. The experiment was so successful I stayed with it for three months.

Windows integrates Outlook search

There was one small problem with Gmail: integrated search. It is easy to search Gmail messages. Email search is faster and more efficient than Outlook search tools.

I missed not being able to search Word and OneNote documents, text, HTML and email documents from a single, central location. But I figured this was only a minor irritation.

Then Windows 7 came along, with improved integrated search. It is noticeably better than Vista search and it works better with Outlook 2007. So much better, that I’ve reinstated Outlook 2007 as my main mail hub. I can use it on my desktop and laptop, but not on my Palm hand-held.

This hardly matters, the Palm is not the best device for writing email – though it is good for reading emails. And anyway, I suspect my trusty old Palm TX is not long for this world.

Update: I forgot the other bonus. Outlook 2007 integrates nicely with OneNote while it is a pain moving messages from Gmail to the application.