What is Gmail?
Gmail is the free email program available from Google.
And what is Google?
You know, Google! The search engine that changed the way we use the internet. The company that openly pledges not to be evil. The workplace with free gourmet lunches and dinners every day and on-site oil changes, hair stylists, and doctors. The only verb that used to be a number.
(If you’re still not sure what Google is, well…google it!)
Okay, fine, you made your point. Can we get back to it?
Sure thing. Gmail is web-based, which means that your emails and other information are stored on servers out in Google-land rather than on your actual home computer. This is sometimes called cloud computing. (We’ll talk more about this in class #7: Cloud Computing).
Now, while this might sound insecure, keeping your email on the internet instead of your personal computer has a lot of advantages. For example, you can check your email from any computer in the world that has internet access, plus Gmail provides an enormous amount of storage space for every account. You also don’t have to worry if your home computer crashes: since your emails are stored safely elsewhere, it doesn’t matter if your nephew just poured his apple juice into the hard drive of your brand-new computer. (At least as far as your data is concerned. You might want to have a talk with darling little Billy anyway.) There are a lot of different ways to use Gmail, as our friends can demonstrate:
Michael just switched from Yahoo! to Gmail. Although the differences took some getting used to, he found he really liked the way Gmail is organized–he can easily search his messages to find just what he’s looking for, and he can quickly put tags on emails so he can organize and re-organize whenever he needs to without breaking a sweat. He loves the massive amount of storage space he gets and started using the chat feature for the first time after he found out how handy it is. Plus he likes being able to use a cute picture of Hello Kitty for his avatar. Sweet!
Gmail has business solutions that can be very appealing to a small business owner like Erin. She can’t afford to have someone on staff just to fix email problems, and it’s inconvenient and expensive to call a tech out every time there’s an email glitch. With Gmail, she gets the bonus of a big service upgrade without having to put money she doesn’t have into new equipment or people to keep it running. She also gets extra security to keep her proprietary information safe, not to mention her sales staff can check in from their phones after a sales call, plus it includes a calendar feature so everyone can coordinate lunch next Friday. With Gmail, as long as the internet is up and running, so is she. The only major downside is that she just spent the last two hours trying to decide if she wants her color theme to be purple or orange. If she’s not done in another half hour, we’re going to suggest she just flip a coin.
Sean uses Gmail for his all-in-one mail center, planner, and communications hub. The filters he’s set up route and organize his emails automatically, and he keeps his school and work schedules in the calendar so he can have them wherever he goes. He video chats with his best friend while text messaging his classmates for help with his homework at the same time. When there’s an internet outage, he goes right on working offline, and Gmail takes care of everything when he’s back up. He even set it up so that Gmail reminds him if he left an important person off of a group email, and will also double-check with him first if he tries to email his ex-girlfriend a drunken message late at night. That’s scary smart.
What you’re about to click on is a link to a Prezi presentation. What’s a Prezi? It’s a presentation tool that allows you to follow the text as it moves, turns, and zooms. If you haven’t used it before, here’s what you do:
- Click on the Play button (in the box below) to start it.
- Once the Prezi is loaded, click again on the “Play” button each time you want to move forward through the slides.
- When you get to the end and the Play button disappears, scroll down to the “Discovery Exercise” below the Prezi to get back to the class. That’s it! No, really that’s all there is to it. Enjoy.
Not working for you? Here are some Prezi alternatives:
- Are you using an iPhone, iPod or iPad? Download the free Prezi Viewer app and go to the Gmail Prezi online, then return to this blog when you’re finished.
- Is the Prezi too zoom-y? You can also view the Gmail Prezi as a PDF
, which has no motion.
Are you ready to get a Gmail account? Not quite yet? No, no, don’t worry if your shoe’s untied. No, don’t worry about that, either. Well, how about now? Yeah, we’re good? Okay, we’re going to start over.
Are you ready to get a Gmail account? Excellent! Get your Google goggles on and let’s get started!
First stop is google.com. At the upper left you’ll see a lot of links to different things Google does. They’re all interesting, but a little bit much for right now. We’ll talk more about these in the final part of the Gmail class. But if you want to go through any of it on your own before then, knock yourself out.
One other thing to be aware of is that, before you can start using your Gmail account, Google will ask you to verify your identify via text message or phone call. This might mean you need to use a friend’s phone if you don’t have one yourself.
Click on the Gmail link, then click “Create an account.”
As you’re setting up your new account, the first thing you’re asked for is your name. You can put your real name or not, depending on your preference. Whatever you put here will be visible to you when you’re looking at your email and when you send emails to other people. So if you just want to forward chain letters to your friends and family, please don’t. No one actually likes that. But if you’re only going to be using this email for personal reasons, or you’re just testing things out, it doesn’t matter what you put here. However, if you think you might send resumes or job inquiries from this email, or have to do things like emailing your child’s teacher, put your real name here. You’ll look like a pro.
Your user name: Next, pick out what you want your user name to be. This might be challenging; there are scads of people using Gmail and no one can have the same email address, so you probably won’t get your first choice. (That’s ok; we didn’t, either.) Click the “Check Availability!” button just below to see if someone has already picked this name.
TIP: Do you have a lucky number? Try adding some numbers to your user name, though for security reasons it’s not a great idea to use your birth year, age or pin number. You can also use underscores to separate words, as in:
Password: Next we come to the password. You’ll want to pick something a) no one else can guess, and b) you won’t forget. You’ll probably want to write down both your user name and your password, at least for a while, until you’re sure you can remember. Just put that paper somewhere safe!
TIP: So what makes a good password? It has to be at least 8 characters long; characters can be letters (upper case or lower case), numbers, symbols, or even a space. Remember that when you type in your password, it has to be exactly right every single time–there’s no spellcheck with passwords.
Security question: Then comes the security question. This is your emergency backup if you forget your user name or password. If you need a reminder, answering the security question right will get you back in to your email. Pick something that only you know and that someone else couldn’t guess or figure out.
The next question is your emergency emergency backup: another email address. This is so Gmail can email you information on how to get back into your account if you ever get locked out. If you don’t have another email, leave this blank.
With location, you can either put your real location or something silly. However, there are some times when Gmail will use your location to figure out what time it is where you are. For example, some of the Gmail themes (the color schemes to decorate your email account) will change depending on what time of day it is. No fooling.
Birthday: you can either pretend you’re 21 (again) or just put in your real information. Again, Gmail will sometimes use your birthday as an emergency, emergency, emergency backup if you need one, so don’t outsmart yourself by putting in a phony birthday and then forgetting what it is. You might find yourself locked out of your email altogether, and that is a real drag. (We speak from bitter experience here.) If you absolutely don’t want to put in your real birthday, try putting in something close, or use someone else’s birthday who you won’t forget.
We’re almost done, honest.
Now see those funky characters? Type what you see in the text box just below. This is to prove that you’re a human and not a computer programmed to automatically set up thousands of email addresses to send out billions and billions of spam. Yes, it’s a pain, but by doing this part you become a soldier fighting in the war against spam. Stand proud.
The last thing is the terms and agreements. Read this, or don’t, depending on how dangerously you like to live.
Click “I Accept” and let’s roll!
Hey, wait–why do they want my phone number?
This is something fairly new that Gmail has started doing to try and stave off the hordes of spammers. They will use whatever number you give them to either text or call you with a verification code you need to activate your Gmail. Once you get that code, and enter it you’ll be ready to roll!
Whew…now you have this thing and you’re ready to start using it! Try this handy beginner’s guide for more information on how to use your new email. Some ideas to play with:
Click on one of your unread emails (Gmail will send you some right away) and read it.
Go back to your inbox.
Write an email and send it to a friend.
Star a message.
Label a message.
Change your theme.
What else can you find to do? (Hint: a lot.)
More Information for the Curious
Once upon a time Google was a noun (spelled googol, a number equal to 1 followed by 100 zeros). Now it is a verb (“I googled it”), an adjective (the “Google generation”), a proper noun (“from the fine folks at Google”), an institution, a gateway…and with all the new ideas, products, and services they come out with all the time, Google truly is a force to be reckoned with.
Google offers a lot more than just search or email. To get an idea of all that it offers, check out this list of Google products.
Some of our favorites:
Google Maps – Try the search restaurants near (your city) and see what happens.
And a fun one: Google recipes! Try searching for a dish in Google–say, “chicken cacciatore” or “mushroom soup” and see what you get on the left-hand side.
Haven’t had enough yet?
Next week we’ll be moving to iGoogle, which contrary to what you might think, is not actually the same as Gmail. And although you can use your Gmail while using iGoogle, you don’t have to have a Gmail account to be able to use iGoogle. Confused? You won’t be after next week. Or if you are, just come and talk to us after class and we’ll get you straightened out.
Drop-in Sessions: get help or ask questions about these classes: Schedule.
Comments & suggestions welcome: Jenn and I welcome your comments about these classes! Comment in the “leave a Reply” form below or via the tech help comment form at: http://www.library.pima.gov/contact/tech.php