So the other day I read a weblog entry that explained how GUIs can be less efficient than old green screen applications for data entry because the interfaces for green screen interfaces are extremely structured and enable people to accomplish things with very specific sets of keystrokes. I was getting way behind on my Gmail account and I realized that a big reason for that is that I just wasn’t using the interface efficiently — Gmail uses some JavaScript trickery to allow you to use a keyboard interface very similar to the ones provided by console email clients like mutt, elm, or pine. This morning I looked at the help page for the keyboard shortcuts and set about using them instead of the mouse with Gmail, and man is it fast. I’ve been blowing through my archive of 250 conversations just like I would with mutt, except faster because in mutt, I’d be going through 1000 individual messages instead of 250 or so threads. It’s made me think about an application I’m working on that is more or less a data entry application, and how I can make sure that regular users can rely on the keyboard for efficiency. I’m also going to take a good look at the keyboard shortcuts for Thunderbird when I get home so I can go through my massive pile of 1500+ emails in my inbox there more rapidly as well.

It’s worth pointing out that the one gig limit in Gmail is a nice marketing device, but it’s the user interface that sets Gmail apart from other webmail packages. As I may have said before, I can get to my personal mailbox at using SquirrelMail. I’ve also used Yahoo Mail for a long time. Neither can compare in any way, shape, or form to Gmail, which is probably the most advanced Web life form I’ve ever encountered. I’ve gotten to where I barely read my personal mail at all now unless I can use a desktop client because SquirrelMail is so painful to use after having enjoyed Gmail. People always talk about the gig of mail and the ads when discussing Gmail, but it’s the interface that’s the story. For what it’s worth, my brain has completely blocked out the Gmail ads at this point, it’s as though there were no ads at all.