I was about to write to write that Gmail is a great reinvention of browser-based email, but mightn't be the best solution for everyone, particularly those who rely upon the features of POP email. Thanks to some last minute fact-checking, I learned that Gmail does support POP and it's possible to configure it so that Gmail will keep a copy of all incoming mail, even after it's been accessed with POP. Google doesn't yet support IMAP, and I know that some people prefer IMAP to POP, but not me. Before I was kind of blase about Gmail, but now I've been converted and think that it offers the best of worlds in email.
I use Entourage 2004 (the superior Mac equivalent of Outlook 2003) to manage my email, and this means I can use Gmail and have it work like a regular POP email account. This is really helpful and means that I can access my email if I'm offline, as well as link my email with my calendar, contacts and ongoing projects in Entourage's project center. It works like a mini and personal documentation management system.
But if I want, I can also log into the browser version of Gmail - all the incoming email would mirror what I have in Entourage - and take advantage of some of Gmail's unique features. Full-text searching of past emails. This sounds basic and elementary, but no other email system that I know of offers anything quite like it. I don't know how much time I've wasted looking for old emails, hoping that any title or category information will help me find the right one. Sometimes it does, but all too often, I need to open every likely-looking email written during what I guess is the right time period.
The only area where Gmail is behind some of its competitors is integration with mobile phones and an instant messaging system (there is only the new Gmail Notifier application, currently Windows only, which informs you when there is a new message in your Gmail inbox) . There have been occasions when it has been useful for me to receive a text to my mobile alerting me about emails from particular senders. I am less likely to get into sending & receiving instant messages from my phone, just because I think it's much easier to use a keyboard than a phone to write text, but I can still imagine instances when this might be helpful.
I can't review Gmail without least a mention of some of the privacy concerns. I've decided that right now, for myself, I'm not concerned. I have a lower standard for myself than I would for my library patrons, were I in charge of a library. I do think that Google as a company, seems genuine about not doing evil. One part of me wonders what would happen if Google changes, as companies are wont to do, and decides that it will do whatever it likes to make a buck?
Following misseli's example, I have 8 Gmail invites to give away to people who read this blog. Just send me an email (there's a link on this blog) - no requests via comments please. It will be first in, first served, with a limit of one per person. There's no way I can know if you already have a Gmail account unless that's the account you email me from, so don't use your existing Gmail address if you want a response. When I've given away all the invitations, I'll post something in the blog as well as delete this paragraph.