mailThis post is part of my Working with Chrome OS series. With Windows XP support coming to an end I’m taking a look at whether Google’s operating system is a viable option for attorneys. Given that Chrome OS usage is growing exponentially, it’s safe to say more and more attorneys may be interested in giving this low cost option a try (and yes I’m typing this on a Chromebook). In this article I’m going to look at how Gmail, the main email option in Chrome OS, is better than Outlook.

Attorneys have been locked in an epic struggle against their email since the mid-90’s. You come into work in the morning having armed yourself with a double-shot latte and feeling prepared for battle. Then the enemy sends the first wave – 50 messages occupy your inbox first thing in the morning. After a legendary struggle, that will be worthy of story and song, you slay the oncoming horde just in time to have lunch with other able counsel. You come back feeling recharged only to find that the enemy has attacked with a second wave of messages. After an epic struggle, you are able to turn off the computer and go home for the night knowing that the battle will begin anew the next morning. Leaving the office, you look like this:

Hand reaching over desk for computer

OK, maybe I’m being a tad melodramatic. But wouldn’t it be nice to speed up the rate with which you get through your email and simplify your day? Let’s take a look at how you can do that with Gmail. As a disclaimer, I’ve been using Google Apps, the business version of the Gmail productivity suite, since 2010 so I’m biased.

Improve your Gmail experience by adding the right browser extensions in Chrome

If you want to ditch Outlook then I suggest using Google’s Chrome browser because of the excellent Gmail extensions that are available. To get the most out of Gmail here are the extensions you want to add:

  • Send From Gmail – This little guy is awesome. This extension creates a button on your browser that allows to quickly email out any webpage with one click. Being on any site and being to email it to someone comes in more handy than you think and I use this quite a bit.
  • Google Calendar extension – This creates a notifier button in your browser that you can click on and view a dropdown of your calendar for the next seven days regardless of if you actually have your calendar open or not. In other words, you can view your calendar from any web page without actually having to leave the page.
  • Google Tasks Panel – Google Tasks is a great “to do” manager, especially because of the way in which it ties into Gmail and Google Calendar. This extension creates a button on your browser that allows you to pull up your task list regardless of what page you are viewing. Again, this allows you to view and manage your tasks without having to leave whatever it is you are looking at.

Enabling priority inbox arms you with Gmail’s “killer” feature

Gmail introduced its “priority inbox” feature in 2010. I’ve loved it since day one and have never turned it off. The concept is simple – by comparing the emails you actually read and respond to against the ones you simply delete, Gmail is able to tell which messages are more important. These more important messages are then grouped at the top of your inbox so you can get through them sooner. This gets your priorities resolved much earlier in the day and having all your less important messages grouped at the bottom lets you weed through them, with bulk deletions, much faster. Here’s Google’s video on the benefits of priority inbox (you’re costing yourself efficiency by not using it).

In other words, priority inbox will help you get through your email faster.

Using Google Tasks will keep you “on task”

Attorneys regularly buy project management or “to do” software and quite often it goes unutilized. Do you know why? It’s due to the fact that most to-do-list software programs are so cumbersome they wind up being a time-consuming, rather than time-saving, affair. Google Tasks takes a minimal approach and integrates so nicely into your email and your calendar that the experience is seamless. Here’s a quick video on the topic which I found on Youtube:

Sometimes less is more and Google Tasks’ minimalist approach certainly proves this.

There’s no reason for attorneys to keep using Outlook

Outlook can be expensive to purchase and brings many of the problems inherent to local software. Switching to a paid Gmail account means that for $5.00 per month you will always have the latest version of an excellent email client and you won’t have the technical problems that many attorneys battle with Outlook. Also, if you’re worried about the fact that you currently have information in Outlook then using Gmail’s Outlook migration tool will solve that problem.

I would certainly say that Chrome OS, which relies primarily on Gmail, is a go for attorneys wanting to get rid of Windows or Mac OSX but are concerned about losing their local email client. What are your views on using Gmail as your firm’s email program? Feel free to chime in below.