Gmail: initial impressions

So, after rejecting a couple of Gmail invites that were offered on grounds of principle, it occurred to me that I was slagging off the Gmail interface without having even seen it, based solely on other people’s statements about it. This is, not to put too fine a point on it, a bit unfair. So I took one on (thanks, Paul), and I’ll note down some thoughts as I log in for the first time.
I can’t have “sil” as a username. Damn. So “stuart.langridge” it is, as “aquarius” was taken (curses!). (Don’t send me mail to that gmail address if you want to be sure I’m reading it!)
After completing the login screen, I got to a page saying “Redirecting to http://gmail.google.com/gmail/help/intro.html“, which conspicuously did not redirect there. In fact, that content is all the page had; no HTML at all. Don’t know what that’s about. So I cut-and-pasted the URL into the address bar.
Oddness. I log in, and I have a message from Paul. I bring up the message, and below the text of his email there’s an empty text box. So I click on the text box…and it disappears, to be replaced by a whole “reply to this mail” widget, with a ‘To’ box, another box to edit the mail, send button, the works. Weird.
Works pretty fuckin’ quick, I’ll say that for it. Is it all switchable JavaScript, or is it just bloody fast servers?
The check spelling interface is pretty nice, although the little pop-up menu of suggestions takes a while to come up.
Bastard! I was signed up with a Google account so I could use it for posting to Usenet, because my ISPs newsserver doesn’t carry alt.fan.grrm), and it’s just sent me a mail saying that my Google account has been changed from sil-google*kryogenix.org to stuart.langridge*gmail.com. Bastards! Now all my saved logins won’t work, I bet. Dammit. And all mail in response to Google usenet postings will go to my bloody Gmail account! Arse!
Default cursor location for replies is above the mail. Thanks a fuckin’ lot for encouraging top-post replies, Google. I thought they had a clue?
It is really fast. Almost fast enough to not make it matter that it’s webmail.
Clickable stuff doesn’t always appear clickable. When viewing a threaded “conversation” (an exchange of emails between you and someone else), they are shown with a header for previous mails and the latest mail displayed in full. The headers for previous mails are clickable, but there’s no indication of that, so you have to click them to see if they do anything. The indicator shouldn’t necessarily be the hand cursor (it’s not a hyperlink, this is a web application) but there shold be something. A subtle shading on the background or something, perhaps. Otherwise you have to click random places to see if they do anything, which is like playing The Secret of Monkey Island again. It is not so intuitive an interface that everything that you think might be clickable is so.
I like this conversations feature, I do.
If you drop down the “Apply label” list, to try applying a label, you get an error saying “No conversations selected“. If the menu isn’t useful until I select a conversation, disable the menu! Moreover, the error message appears above the main page content; I didn’t know what had changed when I picked off the menu, I just knew that the screen had shifted down a bit. Took me about 10 seconds to work out that it had displayed an error message and that that message applied to what I just did.
Hm. Using the o keyboard shortcut for “open” opens the most recent message (or is it the most recently looked at message? or the top one in the list?) Why can’t the label thing work like that?
So far, it’s a very (very) fast and slightly confusing webmail application. More news if and when I get around to looking at it again.

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