Gmail, like Google's other free-to-use services, is ad-supported. Ads are contextual and personalized -- they're served based on what sorts of emails you've been receiving -- but you can opt out of personalized ad delivery if you wish.
Another major set of changes involves support for new mail-related protocols. Gmail has long supported IMAP and CalDav, but a new addition to the mix includes CardDav, for contact management with third-party clients like Thunderbird or the contact manager in iOS.
On the downside, Google recently discontinued the consumer version of Google Sync for Microsoft Outlook, which allowed Outlook users to keep their calendars, mail and contacts in sync with Gmail. Those who want to continue syncing have two choices: Pay for a Google Apps for Businesses account, which supports sync, or switch to an email client that supports CalDav and CardDav (e.g., Mozilla Thunderbird). Other Google Apps account features include the ability to use a custom (non-Gmail.com) address, a bigger inbox, uptime guarantees and live support.
In Gmail, the standard reply is edited via a form nested at the bottom of the original message.Click to view larger image
If you use IMAP to access Gmail from more than one device, take note of the "recent mode" feature. This allows the last 30 days' worth of mail to be made available to multiple devices, whether or not it's already been downloaded -- handy if you want to keep offline copies of mail on more than one device. Another nice touch for IMAP users: All folders, apart from the Inbox, can be optionally hidden from IMAP clients to streamline the download process.
Organizing with labels
On top of its usual type-to-search functionality (which returns results from your mailbox, your Google+ circles and your contacts), Gmail has an organizational system that lets you create hierarchical lists of labels (it uses the term "labels" rather than "folders") that can be applied to email. Apart from the usual Inbox, Trash, Drafts, Archive, etc., you can also create your own labels. The labels are all listed on the left side of the window; click on a label to see only messages with that label.
Within each label category, you can star individual messages (and then see just those by clicking on the "Starred" label). Google also lets you indicate which messages you consider important by clicking on a small flag-like icon in your message list. Over time Gmail will figure out what messages you consider important and automatically flag them; you can then see all such mail in a special view (labeled, appropriately, Important). If you want all your important, starred and unread email to be on top of your list, you can choose Priority Inbox.
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