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Gmail is one of (if not the) most advanced web email provider out there. With a brilliant UI that requires minimum page refreshes, a fantastic search functionality and large storage space; it has all the necessary ingredients you could ask from an email client.

Do you think it can overthrow desktop email clients such as Outlook and Thunderbird and be used as a viable option as a desktop email client? I think yes. In fact, I have been using it like so for some time now.

Here are the steps and features I have enabled that take Gmail at par with desktop clients if not better!

Create a more desktop-like application

First and foremost, create a desktop application for Gmail. This as easy as clicking on "Create Application Shortcuts" for Chrome users. Firefox users can install Prism Run Web Apps on your Desktop with Prism Run Web Apps on your Desktop with Prism Read More and create applications henceforth. This would give you start menu entries and nice desktop icons to access Gmail quickly. You will be able to use applications like Launchy How To Be More Productive with Launchy Program Launcher How To Be More Productive with Launchy Program Launcher Read More to launch Gmail if you so prefer.

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Make Gmail handle :mailto links

A click on a :mailto links opens up your default email client with the address field already filled in. The Gmail blog provides detailed instructions if you would like to make Gmail handle the :mailto links.

Enable offline support

gmail email client

You can enable Gmail offline via the settings page. Once enabled and after your messages have been downloaded, you will be able to view and interact with your messages offline; just like you would do with a desktop client. You will be able to compose new messages, which will be sent the next time you are online.

Configure multiple accounts

One of the most prominent reasons that people cite for using a desktop email client is the fact that they want access to multiple email accounts. If that is the case with you, look around inside Gmail’s settings. Gmail has built-in support to access as many as 5 other mail accounts. This is specially useful in situations where you would like to access your work email or other accounts inside Gmail.

To configure multiple accounts, head over to the Settings page, inside the Accounts and Import tab you can configure “Send mail as” and “Check mail using POP3” options to add multiple accounts. The settings you enter here in are just the same as you would enter in any email client.

With this much effort you will be able to check different accounts for new mail and using any configured email address.

Use filters and labels

gmail desktop

Folders as they are commonly known in various email clients are another desktop client strong hold. They let you sort your email into different folders for easy access and an organised inbox. Gmail does this one better. Instead of folders you get Labels inside Gmail. Labels are similar to folders only better, you can have a message with more than one label. You can quickly jump to a label, use it with a filter to automate tasks.

Infact filters and labels combined together give you near magical powers that can greatly reduce your daily email workload. You can automatically sort incoming mail into labels (or folders as some people want to see them as), archive emails automatically, delete them if you know you can overlook some of them. You can even create custom replies that will be mailed to the sender if the mail fulfils a certain criteria mentioned in the filter. How awesome is that?

Enable keyboard shortcuts

gmail desktop email client

If you like the ease of use and speed you gain by using keyboard shortcuts, then you just cannot ignore Gmail. There is hardly anything that you cannot achieve via keyboard shortcuts inside Gmail. Select conversations, apply labels, navigate forward and back, star, delete, archive, you name it and it can most certainly be accomplished by a keyboard shortcut or two. You can enable keyboard shortcuts by visiting Settings > General tab. Absolutely adore the keyboard shortcuts, you can get a quick overview of all the shortcuts by typing ‘?’.

Notifications

Almost every desktop email client offers notification when a new mail arrives. While Gmail doesn’t offer notifications natively just yet, you can use one of the many Gmail notifier applications. You have the choice to go with a barebones notification app or get a little more extravagant with animations and spiders!

Surely, looking above at all the features that Gmail has to offer, it is hard to dismiss it as a email-client replacement. The only issue presently is the speed. It seems painfully slow at times and is specially frustrating when you hit a few key combinations secretly feeling upbeat about what you just did and then you have to wait for Gmail to respond. And all it can come up with is "Loading". That said, I still prefer it over desktop clients, I love the interface and the ability to get more out of an application if you are willing to put in some thoughts and time.

A lot of people however, think just the opposite, swear by their desktop clients and can’t stand the web based interface for a moment. Which side are you on? Would love to hear your thoughts about your preferred choice. As for me, come Chrome OS and I already have my email client sorted out!

  1. Wayne
    September 19, 2016 at 2:21 am

    I agree, Gmail is great but there seems to be no way around my emails arriving on the recipients' system in horrible Times New Roman font. I've Googled and there seems to be no real fix for this.

  2. SirJeff
    July 26, 2016 at 12:35 am

    Opera Mail also has filters instead of folders, and I believe it was around long before Gmail :) Opera Mail used to be built into the Opera Browser ( version 12.8 was the last build :( ) and as of today I still use Opera Mail. I have around 11 email accounts ( mostly for work ) and they are all IMap. So I will never loose email and I can view all accounts online (view my phone). Gmail is ok but needs a better layout and support for more than 5 email accounts. Plus I don't trust the "cloud" (storing stuff on the interwebs). It's only a matter of time before the unspeakable happens .....

  3. Martin Lindelauf
    July 7, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    Can anyone tell me if GMAIL is PCI Compliant?

  4. Rosalind
    May 21, 2016 at 4:57 pm

    I hate the web interface. It looks messy and because it groups conversations by subject and not sender my emails in gmail are a complete mess. If I want to see what is going on with one person I need to use Outlook which completely slows my Mac to a crawl when open. I'm am definitely not a fan but use it as it keeps all my mails in one place and I can access them from all my devices.

  5. John Williams
    March 5, 2015 at 3:25 am

    How do I file and record my emails?

  6. Tony
    May 19, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    I always prefer web-based programs as I can access it from anywhere.

  7. ari
    March 29, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    I prefer web-based programs anytime. Thanks for this informative article.

  8. crescentdave
    March 28, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    I use Thunderbird as my desktop email client for Gmail. It's beyond easy to configure and is far superior in terms of overall options.

  9. Gotit
    March 27, 2010 at 6:04 am

    Seems like it might work for me, but it looks like I need 2 icons on my desktop to utilize the offline feature. One of the icons launches the real connection to gmail and the other launches the offline "connection" to the local db. And unless I did something wrong, I need to use the offline "icon/connection" to create emails and save them. Then once I have a connection I need to again use the offline "icon/connection" to get the saved emails to send, right?

  10. Mohammad Koubeissi
    March 23, 2010 at 4:31 am

    I use MailPlane on OSX to use my Gmail account. Great way to have access to my account on my desktop.

  11. Julianntrott
    March 23, 2010 at 12:29 am

    I prefere for security reason not having a desktop client.
    Your post is nice for debutant, but I like the animation (even if I don't like for productivity reasons - sic - being notified). I will make a post about it on my blog

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