My first real world experience using email other than TELNET based email (back in the late 1980’s) was with POP servers and Eudora.
Eudora was great. They had the classic interface of a tri-pane window. I am referring to the folder view on left, message subject line and date which you could sort quickly on top right, and the message body below on the bottom left. Attachments were stored separately in a folder, not embedded in a PST file, making your email backups lean and mean.
By the mid 1990’s, and the introduction of Web based mail, this feature was missing while client software such as Outlook and Outlook Express supported tri-pane windows. Sadly, Eudora would eventually have a slow and painful death.
With today’s widescreen monitors, I like Outlook 2007 vertical tri-pane viewing mode in a 3 column (or 4 column) tabular format. It’s about real estate and productivity.
Triple Pane in the Cloud World
Of the big 3 web based email providers (Gmail, Yahoo! and Hotmail/MSN/Live), Yahoo was the first with the split panes.
Yes, these 3 giants are all competing for your business and market share.
With the increase of Corporate based Google Apps, where is the reading pane for Gmail?
In the cloud world, there’s Gmail with their “conversation based” email. Gone are folders (which I like), but emails are nested by subject line, hence conversations or threads. You can use labels, stars and their lightning quick search function to find the email you want. (If you don’t think their search is fast enough, see CloudMagic for Instant Gmail Search. There’s also Priority InBox which I’ll save for another day)
If you go to your Gmail account, Settings, and click on Gmail Labs, you will find Message Sneak Peek. Google defines it as “Peek into a conversation without opening it by right-clicking on a message in your inbox.” Once enabled, if you right click on the subject line, you get a nice popup of the partial body of email.
(NOTE: There are several Lab features to choose from.. some really cool, and some totally useless)
Even on multi-threaded conversations, you get a single popup box with a toggle to go back and forth between emails.
It’s a very handy way to quickly access which emails are important.
Are We There Yet?
More and more web based emails are adding other functionalities to the basic email, despite email usage dropping in favor if Instant Messaging, Social Networking, SMS and Twitter.
In addition, you will find these functions, along with video chat, phone calls, and numerous other ways to stay connected.
Because at the end of the day, being connected is what it’s all about.