Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Converting from Outlook to Gmail

Last week, I gave up on my Treo and replaced it with a Samsung D807. It’s not a smart phone, it doesn’t have a keyboard. But thanks to the phone, I switched from Outlook full-time to Gmail. And after just a couple days, I’m hooked.

OK, the details: the D807 is one of many phones that have the ability to run Gmail mobile – a Java app that talks directly to the Gmail server. Unlike my Treo, which relied on POP3 to access Gmail, the D807 is a real-time front-end to Gmail. I can delete from the server, reply, filter the inbox by label, etc. It even opens Word, PDF and image attachments. In other words, this non-smart phone was both a faster and a more fully-featured e-mail client than my Treo was. (The real reason for replacing the Treo was that it had ceased being even a passable phone – months of missed calls convinced me its time had come.)

So the phone is a great front-end to Gmail. Big deal: Outlook still has the advantage of being an integrated contact manager and calendar, right? Sure, but once you see the Gmail + Google Calendar integration, its harder to think of Outlook as smarter. Gmail detects language in an e-mail that indicates an appointment – yesterday, I received an e-mail from Eric saying: “Can we talk at 1:30 about FAN approval?”. Right next to the headers of the message was a simple link: “Create task for this e-mail” along with a preview of the day’s events so I could see if I was free at 1:30. In one click, the e-mail turned into an appointment on my calendar. With Google Calendar’s “quick add” I could type in plain English “Call Jeff at 2pm” and it does the right thing.

In telling Eric about how great this was, he replied, “Sure, but Google Calendar doesn’t have notification of events”. Except that now they do: by e-mail, SMS and pop-up window.

But the clincher had to be the Getting Things Done Firefox Extension for Gmail. I’ll note in passing the irony of me postponing jumping back on the GTD bandwagon, and say that I’ve had the book in my briefcase for a few weeks as I looked for time to re-read it. (Yes, I know. It’s ironic. I get it.) What GTDGmail does is turn Gmail into a flawless GTD console: e-mails get action/next action/waiting on/etc. labels which are dynamically updated. E-mails can have projects associated with them. I got more done today than I’ve gotten done in months, and I feel more on top of my current todo list than I have since, oh, I don’t know when. (Oh, and did I mention that all of this info is accessible from my cell phone?)

I actually love the Outlook 2007 interface. But the reality is that Gmail + Google Calendar + GTDGmail + Gmail mobile make me orders of magnitude more efficient than my old setup did. You know, I think Jason just might be on to something…

For those who care, the phone itself is great. Far superior sound quality over the Treo (that’s not much different than saying “He throws better than Rex Grossman”, I realize), the data connection is pretty zippy, the voice commands work surprisingly well, and it’s got a great form factor. I realize I’m still in the gadget honeymoon phase, but given that you’ll actually pocket $100 if you buy it through Amazon (after rebates), that seems like a pretty good deal to me.


  1. Thanks Rick for the GTDGmail plugin. Playing with it right now...

  2. D807?

    Where's the N93?

    I thought I had you sold on that for sure....

    That and a cheapshot at Rex in one post, almost more than I can take.

    Rex doesn't throw badly... he just sometimes throws, um... wrongly - or something.

    First full year in the league, he loses in a rainy Super Bowl where his defense doesn't show up and everybody's ready to throw him to the dogs.

    I don't think he's been around long enough yet to say he's good or bad. I do think however, a lot of the bashing is premature.... I've been a Bear fan for a looong time and I can think of lots worse QBs.

    And yes, Gmail mobile is handy as thumbs.

  3. The N93 isn't subsidized by the carrier, so I had the choice of an almost-free phone or a $600 phone. Prudence dictated that I not show up at home with a $600 phone so close to Valentine's Day... ;)

    As for Rex: fair points. Though I have a hard time excusing him for performances like his New Year's Eve game against the Packers, when he admitted that the fact that it was New Year's Eve had "distracted" him. I mean, when Jim freaking McMahon is the voice of discipline in a follow-up interview, you know you've got issues.

    It was a fun year to be a bandwagon fan (I grew up a 49ers fan), and they're most certainly a fun team to watch. Hester's return alone was more exciting than any of a number of recent Super Bowls... here's to next year!

  4. [...] put up a great post yesterday talking about his move from Outlook to Gmail + Google Calendar. After hearing about the [...]

  5. Great ideas Rick - for me the deal breaker is the enhanced inking ability in Office 2007 - especially Outlook. Since Santa was nice and delivered me a brand spanking new Lenovo X60 - I am still in shiny gadget love as well, and I can't give up my ink.

    And as a former South Bendian - I couldn't lose either way - as I was equi-distant from both and lived in both cities. I think that the outcome was as it should be. =)


  6. I have the same phone!
    love the feel of the phone. The slide is a great feel and numbers are nice and large.

    But the Apps on the phone are not that great.
    The calendar is poor, an all day appointment will carry over to the next day.
    The contacts will always default to the mobile number and don't store a address.
    The CallerID with picture is a nice touch, but it doesn't fill the screen! You have a 3x2 in screen and when the callerid picture is displayed its 1/2" x 1/2 " What a waist of space.
    The ring and speaker phone isn't very loud, but does pick up sounds well.
    Sync program has bugs, with deleting and all day appointments.

    I'd return it for a different phone if I didn't go past my 30 days

  7. Hi Rick,

    "I actually love the Outlook 2007 interface. But the reality is that Gmail + Google Calendar + GTDGmail + Gmail mobile make me orders of magnitude more efficient than my old setup did"

    This line of your post is making me think... what risks would there be for an SME (150+ workstations) making the move you've just made?

  8. Dave -

    Couple things spring to mind. On the pro side is cost: multiply 150 workstation by however much your reseller is charging you for Office, and you're looking at savings that certainly run into the thousands of dollars, probably $10-20k.

    I haven't tried to quantify it yet, but I'd guess that I'm saving an hour or more a day. While I generally don't think the soft costs/savings of 'productivity' end up being meaningful to most, I think there are some definite productivity gains that would be realized across your enterprise once people acclimated to this environment. (Even if it were just a half hour, * 150 people = 75 hours per day... nearly 400 hours of productivity gained per week.)

    On the con side, I see support (or lack thereof) and a reliance on a free service (with some reported outages lasting a few hours) as big concerns in an enterprise environment. Backup is possible - a server-based POP3 solution that did a daily login to your mailboxes and downloaded everything would allay most concerns, but should Gmail (or GTDGmail, if you use it) get flaky with a browser upgrade or experience a significant outage, you'd have a hard time finding anyone to help with the support challenges that would result.

    I've started seeing more and more reports of Google Apps for your Domain - a hosted enterprise offering of a sort. I have it configured for one of my domains (mostly to play with it) - but that's probably the direction that any small business ought to consider if they're looking seriously at this as an infrastructure option. A planned upgrade will incorporate Google Docs as well, which would give you a hosted e-mail, calendar and office suite all in one. A pretty good deal, if you ask me.

  9. Rick,

    Some good reasoning there, but the major concern I have, you have not mentioned. If you take a step back, are you not concerned that Google (despite the "do no evil" motto may just become the 2nd of the "evil empires"? I'm not sure I'd want my corporate data in their hands.

    But then I could probably be classified as a closet paranoid conspiracy theorist when it comes to big corporates with significant market power. Comes with the "telco turf" I tread...

  10. [...] of the enterprise server/Exchange server.  I’ve written before about why Gmail is so perfect for me; convenient that I now work at the company responsible for making it. I’ve also got [...]