Wednesday, March 09, 2005

A Google Approach to Email

The funny thing about great products (be it hardware or software) is that you never really get to appreciate them until you start using them more and more. It is power users who appreciate the finer points of software, rather than the regular Joe, for whom most of the functions will be similar in competing products.

Take GMail for instance. I shifted a lot of my mailing lists to it to start using and testing it(My family emails are still off it). As I started using it, I didn't like the paradigm of labels, since I make use of folders for record-keeping. I am also of a delete-dispose mentality, and I delete emails I don't feel the need to keep.

However, as time passes by, I find Gmail more and more useful. The conversation threading feature is of course a killer. As is the auto-fill for email addresses. I've gotten used to labels over folders, and funnily, it is even more useful. For instance, I have a category of emails, say X. Now, the category is important, but has grown big, and what is also important to me are emails from people of company Y. All of the emails from Y may/may not be in category X, and are all from different people within company Y. Of course, searching makes things easy, but if you categorize the emails with labels, you achieve an amazing amount of flexibility. Folders are hierarchical, labels are semantic, and the difference in ease-of-use is phenomenal.

Another such application is Firefox. While tabbed browsing is an obvious advantage, the search box with built-in Google search (I've added IMDB and CDDB to the list myself) adds ease of use that is visible only on repeated and highly intensive use. That I believe is great UI design. Achieving it is so hard, that when things work the way you'd instinctively want them to, it is almost magical.

As Arthur C. Clarke said - "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

1 comment:

Harish said...

The Adblock extension is the most amazing in firefox. Now I can actually read times of india! :)