Get a Better View of Your Gmail Inbox

Not happy with how Gmail looks and feels on the Web? Make it better by accessing your account with an e-mail program.

Everybody loves Gmail, right? Wrong. My friend Shelly is so fed up with its "threaded" conversation view, he's ready to jump ship for Hotmail, Yahoo, or another service.

I can't say I blame him. Call me a traditionalist, but I despise the way Gmail groups conversations--especially when they're lengthy and/or involve multiple people.

Thankfully, just because Gmail is a Web-based mail service doesn't mean you have to use your Web browser to access it. Instead, you can do what I do and connect to Gmail using familiar desktop software: Outlook, Windows Live Mail (formerly Outlook Express), Thunderbird, or the like.

Programs like these let you not only group and view e-mail conversations using whatever method you like best, but also organise mail into folders--something Gmail proper still doesn't offer.

Making this move doesn't permanently alter anything about your Gmail account. You'll still be able to sign in using any Web browser on any PC--one of Gmail's most compelling benefits. The desktop software simply affords you a more attractive, more intuitive "front end" for your day-to-day mail operations.

If you don't already have such a program, I recommend Microsoft's Windows Live Mail. It's easy to set up and use, and it offers worthwhile features like dynamic search and Web-calendar syncing.

Google has simple instructions on configuring Windows Live Mail for use with Gmail, so I won't rehash them here. I will, however, return tomorrow to discuss the merits of using IMAP instead of POP--regardless of how and where you access your Gmail account.

In the meantime, hit the comments and share your thoughts on Gmail's threaded conversations. Awesome or atrocious? Most people I know feel one way or the other.

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Rick Broida

PC World (US online)

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