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.
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.
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.
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.