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What is Gmail

What is Gmail

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Published by: arenroferos on Feb 22, 2012
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03/01/2012

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What is Gmail?

History of Google's free email service
On the 1st of April 2004, Google the successful search engine (and media) company, announced their free email service with an astronomical 1GB of storage space. They christened this service Gmail and released a beta version. To understand why this was such a "big deal", one needs to look at what was being provided by the competition at that time. Other trendy web based email services such as Hotmail (now called Windows Live Hotmail) and Yahoo! Mail offered only 2-4MB - a mere fraction of a gigabyte! By the way, a GB is 1000MB (one thousand MB). Note: Gmail is known as Google Mail in the United Kingdom and Germany. I really liked the way Google launched Gmail beta. The first thing was the timing awesome! The first of April (April Fool's day) jelled very well with the image Google was trying to portray - a nerdy fun loving company. The second was the gargantuan amount of storage space - beating the competition by miles and, yes, leaving them panting heavily. The third aspect was that, even though the service was free, one needed to get special Gmail invites to create an account. This was by far the best way to create a storm on the web. Suddenly everyone wanted a Gmail account because everyone wanted to see what was so special in the service that required an invite. At one time, Gmail invitations were sold through online auctions sites like ebay for $100 and more. A few days before the Valentine's Day in 2007, Gmail was opened to all Internet users. You no longer need a special invitation to create a Gmail account.

Send a Gmail email - how to create and send an email message
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This is a beginner's article in which I provide detailed instructions on how to send Gmail email - composing and sending a message from your account. Firstly, if you don't have a Gmail account, please refer how to create a Gmail address. At the time of writing, Google provides more than 7GB of Gmail storage space with loads of splendid features. You can get to know these gradually because the most important thing to know is how to send emails from your account. The Gmail interface is simple and intuitive and there is a reason why it's like that - so beginners like you don't feel overwhelmed by the features/options and can get down to work quickly. By the way, we've used the standard (new) version to send the Gmail email. If you find the screenshots and images different from your layout, you are probably using the older version. You can switch across the two Gmail versions with a single mouse click.

Compose a new email message in Gmail
Click on the "Compose Mail" link located under the Gmail logo (top-left). You'll now see an online form (the email composition section) with three fields. Ideally, to send Gmail email you need to provide 3 little bits of information - the email address of the recipient, the email subject and email body/message. So what are these?

The email address of the recipient It's the only item that's required to send an email and rightly so because trying to send an email without specifying an address is akin posting a blank envelop in the mail box - you need to address it to someone... right?

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The email subject line This can be anything you want - you can also leave it blank but I don't suggest that. The email subject is like a one-liner that describes what you are about to write. It doesn't need to be very long; just a few words would be fine. The email contents - the main message The main email message goes in the big (huge) box. You can write as much as you want and we shall also look at saving an email message and continuing it later if you need to abandon it in middle. Start by entering the recipient's email address in the To: field. By the way, you can send Gmail email to more than one recipient; all you need to do is enter the additional email addresses separating each one from the other by a comma. You can also send the email to multiple recipients through Gmail Cc and Bcc. Now type the one line email subject. Finally come to the third field in which you shall write the actual message.

Plain text or rich-text email
Gmail allows you to compose email of two types -plain text and rich-text. And what is the difference you ask? As their name suggest, plain text email is simple vanilla flavour without any formatting which mean text will be in black and white default font face. I guess you can understand the dissimilarity better when we compare it with rich-text email message. With rich-text message you can embellish your email message with various fonts in different colors and sizes, web links, emoticons, alignment and much more. For details, refer the tip on how to write Gmail e-mail with rich-text. But here is a brief anyway because we don't want to lose track of our topic at hand, do we? Right above the text box in which you type in your email message is what I like to call the "formatting bar" - see image below. It has several buttons/icons and you can understand what each one does if you move the mouse cursor over it. If you don't see this toolbar, you are probably using the older Gmail version - switch Gmail versions read to know more.

Some of the rich-text formatting that I use quite often include:
● ●

putting text in bold and/or italics changing font size and font type (the font family)
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● ● ● ●

adding color to selected text highlighting text including a web link (URL), emoticons adding formatted lists - ordered or unordered (bulleted)

If you are writing a long email (we've all written a few in our lives) and have to run off for an errand, you can always save it (the "Save" button is at the top and the bottom) and it will send to the "Drafts" folder. Once you get back in front of your computer, go to the Drafts folder, click on the email message and resume your efforts. FYI, Gmail automatically saves the email message you are composing so that you don't lose what you have already written - can be really frustrating if you've ever gone through this ordeal.

Send the Gmail email... quickly
When you have finished writing your email, click on the Send button and the email will be on its way. When you send a Gmail email, a copy is placed in the Send Mail folder for your future reference. This is really helpful sometimes when you either need to dig out old correspondences or forward / resend the message. And I hope you checked the email for spelling mistakes using the Gmail spell checker; if not, there is always next time...

Send an email from Gmail to me at webdevelopersnotes@gmail.com letting me know if you were successful. Page contents: Learn how to send an email from Gmail accounts - A simple walkthrough for composing and sending messages from your account

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Gmail attachments - sending files with email, viewing and downloading attached files
What are email attachments?
Email attachments are digital files that you can send along with the main contents. You can attach almost any kind of file to an email including but not limited to text and PDF documents, spreadsheets, images, audio and video. Most email services have an upper limit on the attachment size and here Gmail is very generous. You can attach up to 20MB of files with an email message.

Attaching files to emails in Gmail
The Gmail interface makes it very easy, even for beginners, to attach files to email messages. In the "Compose Mail" window, you shall see a small paper clip icon with an "Attach a file" link right under the email subject line - refer image below.

Click on the link and then the "Choose File" button. This launches a pop up window that lets you navigate the hard disk of your computer - move to the directory that holds the file to want to attach. Double click on the file or select it and click "Open" button (on Windows Vista). This closes the pop-up window and sends the file to your Gmail account to be attached to the email. Please understand that the time taken for the file to be transferred from your computer to the Gmail server will depend on your internet access speeds and the size of the file. Obviously, on slower connections, a large file can take a frustrating bit of time to upload and attach.

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As long as you haven't crossed the 20MB attachment size limit, you can upload another file. In fact, if you're on a slow internet connection and want to attach several large files, I suggest you don't wait for each file to upload and attach to the email. Just select the attachments one by one - you can then write your email message while the files are transferred and attached one by one - saves time. By the way, when a file is successfully uploaded and attached to the email message it gets a small checkbox in front of its name. This lets you select the file in case you want to remove it from the attachment list.

Attaching a file that is larger than the 20MB Gmail limit
As mentioned in the beginning, Gmail has a 20MB limit on email attachment size. So how to you send a file that is more than 20MB in Gmail? There are two ways to go about this. First, I suggest you use a compression program (also known as a zipping program) to decrease the file size especially when the file is only a little above 20MB. Generally word processor documents, spreadsheets and PDFs can lose a lot of their flab when compressed. Zipping a file that's a little more than 20MB would probably bring the file size under the maximum value. However, zip programs are not very effective on images, music or video files. Make sure the recipient has the necessary compression program to be able to "unzip" the attachment and view/run the file. The second method is to "split" the file. Splitting very large files into manageable chunks that are less than 20MB works very well. In this case too, the recipient would need the splitting program to get the file back together as a whole. Another issue with file splitters is that if you forget to send even one part, the recipient would most probably not be able to do anything till he/she gets the lost section.

Viewing email attachments in Gmail
In Gmail, image attachments are displayed as thumbnails with two links beside each View and Download. Clicking on View displays the full size image in a new browser window or a new browser tab. Microsoft Word documents (including the latest docx files) can be converted
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by Gmail to HTML format so that you can read these online (no need to download) and other kinds of email attachments like PDFs and text files can be viewed through Google Docs.

Downloading Gmail attachments
You can download Gmail attachments either one by one or all together. Clicking on the Download link beside an email attachment will download only that file. The Download all attachments link is found right under the actual email message and just before the email attachments list. Depending on which web browser you are working on, email attachments will either be downloaded to a specified directory (the download directory set in the browser) or the program will let you choose the storage location.

Email attachments not allowed in Gmail
Google wants to keep its Gmail service clean and neat. Executable files, the ones with a .exe file extension are not allowed as attachments - ever! You cannot fool Gmail by zipping an executable file and then attaching it. So if you need to send such files, burn it on a CD/DVD and go to the nearest post office or upload them to your web server. Attached executable files pose a danger to the recipient as they can potentially harbour viruses that can cause considerable damage and loss of data. Page contents: A brief on Gmail attachments - sending emails with files, viewing and downloading attachments.
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