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Gmail is a free, by invitation only, Web-based email system provided by Google, the most popular search engine on the Internet.

The purpose of this book is to teach you how to use Gmail as a primary or secondary email account. Many people these days ignore their free ISP (Internet Service Provider) account because it requires them to learn to use an email client, such as Microsoft Office Outlook, Outlook Express, Apple Mail, or Entourage. Because Gmail is accessible using almost any Windows, Mac, or Linux Web browser, there’s less to learn—even new users can quickly master a Web browser.

Gmail also makes an excellent secondary email account. Many users reserve their ISP or corporate email account for business correspondence and staying in touch with close friends. Web-based accounts such as Gmail can be used for site registrations and any correspondence in which there is a high probability of generating spam.

Of course, why you’ve chosen Gmail and how you intend to use it are up to you. Regardless, I think you’ll be pleased with your choice.

System Requirements

Gmail is accessible from any PC, Mac, or Linux computer with Internet access and a supported Web browser. Its display can currently be set for any of 38 languages.

Browser support

According to Google, these browsers and later versions fully support Gmail’s standard view (see Chapter 2):

  • Internet Explorer 5.5 (Windows)

  • Netscape 7.1 (Windows, Mac, Linux)

  • Mozilla 1.4 (Windows, Mac, Linux)

  • Firefox 0.8 (Windows, Mac, Linux)

  • Safari 1.2.1 (Mac)

Basic HTML view (see Chapter 2) is supported by these browsers and later versions:

  • Internet Explorer 4.0

  • Netscape 4.07

  • Opera 6.03

You must have cookies enabled in your browser. And if your browser supports it, you should enable JavaScript, too.

✓ Tips

  • The current version of Safari for Mac OS X (2.0.2) is not fully compatible with Gmail in standard view (Figure i.1).

    Figure i.1. When composing a letter in Safari 2.0.2, the option to format text is absent. Only plain text (unformatted) email is supported.

  • If you are using Safari 2.0.2, I strongly recommend that you use Gmail’s links to navigate among pages rather than clicking the Back button. Doing so can confuse Safari, causing it to go to the first page loaded prior to entering Gmail or forcing it to reload its Java application.

Language support

Gmail’s interface (buttons, links, and dialog boxes) can be displayed in 38 languages.

To set the language for Gmail
Click the Settings link at the top of any Gmail page.

The Mail Settings page appears.

If it isn’t already selected, click the link for the General tab.

Choose a language from the Gmail display language pop-up menu (Figure i.2).

Figure i.2. You can change Gmail’s display language by choosing an option from this pop-up menu.

Click the Save Changes button.

Switching to some languages is accompanied by a dialog box (Figure i.3). To use the chosen language to display all Google Web sites, click Yes. To retain the language settings you’ve chosen for other Google sites, click No.

Figure i.3. When changing languages in Gmail, you can opt to use the same new language to display all Google sites.

Gmail Benefits

Even if you already have an email account with your ISP (Internet Service Provider) or your employer, a Gmail account offers many important benefits:

  • Gmail provides more than 2,000 MB (or 2 GB) of disk storage for your messages and attachments. As a result, it’s unlikely you’ll ever need to delete messages because you’re running out of space.

  • Gmail doesn’t require you to carefully configure and master a separate email program.

  • Being browser-based means that you can check for new mail or compose messages on any computer—not just the one that contains your email program and account information. Reading your mail is just as simple when you’re at work, connected at a coffee house, or on vacation as it is when you’re sitting in front of your desktop PC or Mac.

  • If you prefer using an email program, you can configure it to work with Gmail. In addition to Web access, Gmail provides POP (Post Office Protocol) support (Figure i.4). As a result, you can configure your email program to send and receive Gmail. You can also forward incoming Gmail messages to your ISP or corporate email account.

    Figure i.4. Settings on the Forwarding and Pop tab of the Mail Settings screen enable you to forward Gmail to another account or to configure your regular email program to send and receive Gmail messages.

  • If you run the standard (Java-based) version of Gmail, it has a feature that distinguishes it from other Web-based email services, such as Hotmail and Yahoo! Instead of relying on an ancillary application to notify you of new email, Gmail automatically checks for mail every two minutes. There’s nothing to click or refresh just to see if you’ve received mail—it simply appears in the Inbox!

Gmail and Google Accounts

Google Accounts is your gateway to all your Google services, such as Google Groups, Froogle Shopping List, and Google Alerts. When you sign in to Google Accounts, you’re simultaneously signing in to all your Google services.

If you don’t already have a Google Account, signing up for Gmail creates one for you. To sign in to your Google account (at the address above), enter your Gmail user name and password.

Enhancing Gmail

Google and a host of independent developers offer a variety of free add-ons. They enhance Gmail by providing new features, improving existing ones, or linking to your Gmail account. After you’ve mastered the Gmail essentials by reading this book, you might want to check out the add-ons. Here are a few of the most interesting ones:

  • Gmail Notifier (Windows XP or 2000, and Mac OS X 10.3.8 or higher) notifies you of new Gmail, showing the subject, sender, and a snippet of the message. Gmail Notifier is discussed in Chapter 4 (

  • Google Toolbar (Windows XP or 2000, Mac OS X 10.2 or higher, Red Hat Linux 8.0 or higher) is a toolbar for Firefox and Internet Explorer. It includes a Gmail search button (

  • Google Talk (Windows XP or 2000) is a text chat/instant messaging application. (Mac users can connect via iChat.) If you have a microphone and speakers, you can also use it for voice chats. Like Gmail Notifier, Google Talk notifies you of new Gmail messages. You must have a Gmail account in order to use Google Talk (

  • Picasa (Windows XP or 2000) is a full-featured image organizer and editor. The current version (2.1.0) allows you to use your Gmail account (Figure i.5) to easily exchange favorite photos with friends and relatives (

    Figure i.5. You can instruct Picasa to use Gmail to email selected photos.

    For in-depth information on Picasa, pick up Organizing and Editing Your Photos with Picasa: Visual QuickProject (Peachpit Press, 2005).


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