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Why Gmail sucks

Not that anyone cares, but it helps to vent. This post is continually updated whenever I feel like it.

Why do I use Gmail if it sucks? I use it only as a storage container for mailing lists that I don’t read daily, and I read that mail using mutt via IMAP (more precisely, I read responsive local maildirs that get synchronized by the wonderful OfflineIMAP). Unfortunately, some people see my Gmail account and use it to send me mail directly, so I have to deal with these mails somehow.

Gmail is also great for IM‘ing with people using the open standard XMPP protocol, which is what Gmail uses for its chat feature. People won’t understand they can add my other XMPP account to their Gmail chat, but they understand how to add a Gmail address, even though it’s no different. In their favor, I’ve also found Gmail’s XMPP server to be very reliable, and it doesn’t kick you off for being logged on from multiple locations.

So here’s the list:

  1. No wildcard search. Try searching without wildcards in a language like German, which uses inflection much more than English and infamously contains many compound nouns. This alone makes Gmail unusable for me.
  2. Cannot apply filters in a certain order. So it isn’t possible to apply one rule to all mails that didn’t match any of the previous filters. Sure, procmail is unintuitive like hell, but at least you can read up on it and then it really does what you want it to do.
  3. Cannot display individual messages on their own or sort mail, e.g. by sender.
  4. I regularly have lots of false positives in the spam folder. Most of them are from mailing lists that also match a rule that labels them and moves them out of the inbox. When I manually click “Not spam” in the spam folder, they get labeled correctly, but then moved to the inbox. So I have to manually remove them from the inbox. And in the inbox, there isn’t even a way to quickly mark all messages that have any label, no matter which one! (In mutt, I would just have to type T ~y . and hit “Enter”)
  5. Did I mention I have lots of false positives in spam, and no way to set the threshold?
  6. Filter rules are really limited in what you can do with them, and the standard filter setup form doesn’t even have the option to filter by “cc”, or to choose between Boolean operators. (you can do this by putting something like to:this.address@blah.com OR cc:this.address@blah.com into the “Has the words” field.)
  7. Aug 16 edit: Recently, Gmail automatically added some labels like “Travel”, “Personal”, “Receipts” for users who had no labels. Maybe those users wanted no labels? Maybe some of them are like my parents, for whom I’ve set up Gmail accounts, but who normally access them using Thunderbird, and who might be confused by things suddenly appearing when they do use the webmail interface, like when they’re traveling? Even worse when these extra labels bump the not-so-unimportant labels of “All Mail”, “Trash”, and “Spam” out of view.

Gmail is probably pretty cool if all you were using before was a very limited webmail interface. Do yourself a favor and try a decent desktop mail client, like Thunderbird. If you want your mail to be available online, you can still use that client to read Gmail via IMAP.

One Response to “Why Gmail sucks”

  1. James Says:

    It never loads for me… I like to use tabbed browsing and for some reason I can’t open more than one or two lousy windows with the interface at the same time… plus the help articles continually reference features which simply DO NOT EXIST…

    I hate it… I will stick to email which resides locally on my machine…

    Maybe HTML 5 will fix that… but until then… Webmail Sucks in general…