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.