What Gmail is and How to Use it for Emails

Last updated: January 26, 2017 - 2:06pm EST

Email has contributed greatly to the decline of mail, as it lets you conveniently and instantly send a message to someone you know, no matter where in the world they are. Using an email client is pretty simple, and is usually one of the first applications of the Internet that people learn. Today, having an email address is almost essential for communicating online, not to mention creating accounts for popular websites or mobile apps. Many people even have separate email accounts for business and personal use!

Many companies and websites now host email services for users, so you have a lot of choices when it comes to which email client you should use, and for what purpose.  One of those companies is Internet mega-corporation Google, and they knew that there was a better way to do email.  That's why they came up with Gmail.

So what exactly is Gmail?

Gmail is a free email service created and managed by Google.  Besides standard email functions, Gmail has a few other standout features.  These include its large memory storage space, its ability to get you your email on just about any computer or device, and its ability to let you un-send messages.

How does Gmail work?

Gmail works similarly to most other email clients, as it allows you to compose emails to any email address or contact you want. It also receives emails for you, so you can view them, organize them, or sort them to suit your purposes. In addition to plain text, Gmail allows you to send images, videos, or other computer files in emails (up to a certain file memory size limit).

When you create a Gmail account, you can click Compose to send an email, and simply type the email address of your recipient into the address bar. Then, type your message, and click Send.

Gmail send email screen

You can also sort any emails you receive into folders that you create, or choose from Google’s existing storage folders, such as “Important,” “Sent Mail,” Drafts,” and “Trash.” In addition, a Gmail account gives you access to Google Drive, Google’s cloud-based computer file storage system (learn more about cloud computing here), and offers you 15 megabytes of memory storage space for free. You even get access to Google's online office suite, including Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Photos.

What makes Gmail so special? 5 unique Gmail features to get your started

1. Keep track of related messages with the "conversations" function.

Forget searching through your whole email inbox for a reply to one of your emails, or the email that was originally replied to.  With Gmail's "conversations" function, you can keep track of all emails replied to back and forth between you and other people all in the same place.

Gmail conversations function

2. Unsend a message if you have second thoughts.

Did you send an email to the wrong person, or one that you regret sending at all?  You have a limited amount of time to use it, but you can click "Undo" after sending an email.  Gmail will put it on hold so that you can go back and re-evaluate it.

Unsend an email with Gmail

3. Keep your emails organized, but still accessible, with the "labels" function.

Gmail thinks that stashing emails in folders isn't very efficient, because then you have to go rummaging through those same folders in order to find those emails.  With Gmail, you can keep your emails organized AND accessible by using the "labels" function.  Attach a label to an email or conversation, and you can keep it available to read in your inbox, while being able to see all emails with a similar label with a single mouse click.

Gmail labels to organize Inbox

4. Filter your incoming email with Google's famous search capabilities.

With Gmail, you have the power of Google Search at your fingertips... not just for finding emails that you already have, but for deciding what to do with emails you haven't received yet!  Set up some search parameters, and Gmail will look for emails that match them as they come in.  Then, you can tell Gmail what to do with those emails... mark them as important, add a label to them, send them right to the trash bin, or whatever you feel is best!

Gmail filters for messages

5. Protect yourself with unparalleled spam filters.

Google leads in the industry in terms of filtering your emails and protecting you from spam, Internet fraud, and email scams. Google is able to detect common phrases and unsafe links in your emails, and will send those messages to your spam folder immediately. Google is very advanced at finding these unwanted emails and saving you the trouble of figuring them out for yourself… or even worse, opening an email that wreaks havoc on your device!

Gmail Spam folder

To learn more about this, check out our tutorial on Google safety and security here.

How much does Gmail cost?

Gmail is free to use as your email provider. It does not have any limits on how many emails you can send or receive, how often you can use it, or how many devices you can sign into it on. The only thing that Gmail offers as a paid service is the option to increase the amount of memory storage space your account has.

If you want to learn more about how Gmail makes money, check out our article on when Gmail is free and what you can pay for.

Is Gmail safe and secure?

Gmail is a safe and secure email service, as it provides users with some of the best security and email filtering available. Gmail is password protected, offers various ways to verify user password recovery, and can filter spam and Internet scams from your general inbox. It protects you better than most other services.

If you want to learn more about how to keep your account secure, check out our article on how to stay safe while using Gmail.

The history of Gmail, and why it’s so popular

Gmail was launched in 2004 by the ever-growing Internet-giant Google, and stayed in beta testing for 5 years to help make the product perfect. Because Microsoft’s email client Outlook (launched in 1997) was so popular, it made sense that Google would create a competitor and try to improve on some of Outlook's services. Since Gmail’s launch, it has grown in popularity, and currently has over 1 billion registered users.

Gmail is so popular because it combines cutting-edge features with ease of use. Gmail also works in cooperation with other useful Google products, such as Google Drive, Google Docs, and Google Photos. Gmail also has no limitations on how many accounts you can start, or how much you can use it.

The pros and cons of Gmail

Gmail is one of the world’s most popular email services for many reasons. For one, it’s completely free to use and has no limitations on usage, other than the 15-megabyte limit on memory storage space. However, 15 megabytes is rather good compared to most email services, and Gmail does offer the option of letting its users pay for more storage. Gmail leads in safety and security for its users, which makes it one of the most reliable email services to use. A lot of Gmail users also like its many cutting-edge features and ability to connect to other Google services (such as Google Drive).

Gmail does have some downsides, however. It compresses the space within which you compose emails, so your writing area can seem a little crammed at times. Its organizational system, while great once you get used to it, can be complicated and difficult to instinctively learn for some. Gmail also has advertisements, some of which are based on the contents of your emails (which can seem kind of privacy-invasive).

If you want more information about the pros and cons of Gmail and how they might affect your experience with Gmail, be sure to check out our review of Gmail.

Gmail competitors

Gmail may be an industry leader when it comes to email clients, but it still has competition. One of its most popular alternatives is Outlook, Microsoft’s email client. Like Gmail, Outlook works very well together with Microsoft's suite of office software, so it's good for PC users. Another popular alternative to Gmail is Yahoo Mail, which offers its users 1 terabyte (1000 gigabytes) of memory storage space for free! There’s also Zoho Mail, Mail.com, and Yandex Mail, all with their own unique features to offer.

To learn more about how Outlook stacks up against Google, be sure to check out our article where we compare Gmail and Outlook. To learn more about all of these Gmail alternatives, check out our article on the best 5 websites like Gmail.

 

 

There's a lot more to see with Gmail, so stick with us as we guide you through how to use this forward-thinking email client from Google in our Gmail course. We'll show you how to compose and send emails, reply to emails or forward incoming emails, archive conversations that are taking up space but may be important later, and even add a personal signature to the bottom of your emails. See how much more functional your email client can be with Google-powered Gmail!

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