Review: Gmail, Google's Free Email Service

Is Gmail right for you?

Gmail is the Google approach to email and chat, bringing Google's renowned search capabilities to your email. Generous free online storage — 15GB as of July 2019 — allows you to keep and archive all your messages, and Gmail's simple but very smart interface lets you find mail precisely and see it in context without effort. Powerful IMAP and POP access let you receive your email through any email program or on any device.

Gmail puts contextual advertising next to the emails you read.

What We Like

  • Free IMAP or POP access from any address and device.

  • Smart sorting, searching, starring, and filtering allow you to find and organize emails and chat conversations in a way that works for you.

  • Offline access lets you compose replies even when you're offline and sends them when you reconnect again.

What We Don't Like

  • Shows contextual ads matched automatically to keywords found in messages.

  • Storage limited to 15GB, which is shared across other Google services such as Drive. Additional storage is available for purchase.

A Wealth of Features

Organization is a key focus of Gmail. Starring and custom color labels let you neatly organize threads (conversations). Precise search options find mail fast.

Create new label button in Gmail's Settings, Label tab

Filters can organize, forward and respond with a canned reply. You can use templates for new messages as well.

Screenshot showing how to make a Gmail filter to move emails into folders
Setting Up the Filter to Move Emails Into a Folder.

IMAP and POP access, forwarding, Exchange ActiveSync (available for Google Apps for Business, Education, and Government), SMS, and web apps bring your mail to many a device and program.

Connecting to Google Hangouts, you can chat, make voice and video calls, and text right from your Gmail screen.

Google Hangouts from Gmail screen

Integration with Google Calendar lets you create events and send invitations. Want to remember to get something done? You can turn an email into a task, complete with a date.

You can display many attachment types (PDF, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.) makes it easy to coordinate projects with others. Integration with Google Drive also lets you send files (up to 10 GB in size) easily and save received files to your Drive account directly.

Gmail's spam filter is highly effective at sorting out junk, viruses, phishing attempts, and malware.

Android and iOS apps offer fast access.

Expert Review: Key Points

If you use Google as your main search engine, you've come to expect powerful search capabilities along with simplicity and speed from Google products, and Gmail doesn't disappoint. Gmail's interface is simple and elegant, but also remarkably clever with useful keyboard shortcuts and speedy operation.

Of course, Gmail boasts a search box, which usually returns pinpointed results.

Conversations, Stars, and Tabs for Organizing

Gmail accurately identifies the relationships among emails to group them by "conversations" — a feature you can turn on or off as desired. You can quickly see what has happened previously, or whether someone has already replied. Gmail also offers starring so you can flag items quickly, both manually or via custom filters.

If a contact is currently online in Hangouts, you can chat right from Gmail; chats are automatically labeled, archived, and indexed.

A recent welcome addition to Gmail's screen is a bar on the right-hand side that offers access to Calendar, Keep (a note app), and Tasks. Turning emails into Google Calendar events, Keep notes, and Tasks is easy.

Gmail Calendar, Keep, and Tasks from right side of screen

Online Storage and Access via POP and IMAP

Integration with Google Drive makes it easy to share large files — up to 10 GB —via an emailed link, and Gmail makes it easy to save received attachments to your Google Drive account. All your emails are encrypted as they're sent.

Using Gmail With Other Email Accounts

If you use the Gmail web interface for all your email, you can have it collect mail from up to five POP accounts automatically and, if you like, choose which return address to use in the From line of each message you send.

The Verdict

All in all, Gmail offers a wealth of features and spam protection in a remarkably efficient, intuitive layout that competitors have mimicked. It's hard to beat for a free service, and once you try it, you'll see why Gmail has enjoyed such wide adoption.