One of the things I like about gmail

I've been using Gmail now for longer than I can remember. And I still think that it's the best email solution out there, all things considered. Today I just want to write a few words about one of those little things that took me a long time to notice but which Gmail gets right. Please bare with me here, it's going to take a little while to explain all the background behind this.

Most email clients have a split view. One part of the screen shows a list of messages in the current mail box, typically the inbox. The other part shows the contents of the currently highlighted mail. Gmail does this differently. It starts out by showing only a list of messages (or conversation in Gmail lingo). When you select one of the conversations it changes view to only show that particular conversation.

When I use Gmail I mostly use the keyboard. To facilitate this Gmail has a little cursor which can be moved up and down between the conversations in the list view. When the cursor points at a specific conversation one can for instance open it, to see the actual conversation. When going back from the conversation to the list view the cursor still points at the conversation which we looked at last.

When viewing a conversation one can choose to archive it. If you started out from the inbox then that will mean that the conversation is removed from the inbox and Gmail switches back from the conversation view back the viewing the inbox. Now, here's the thing: since the conversation that we just looked at is removed, which conversation should the cursor now point to? It seems that there is no obvious right answer here. We could choose to point to the conversation above or to the one below, but any of those choices are bound to be wrong half of the time.

The way Gmail seems to do this is that it remembers the last two conversations that I looked at. If the second one I looked at is below the first then it will make the cursor point to the conversation below. Otherwise to the conversation above. For me this scheme works incredibly well! It does the right thing at least 90% of the time. I'm just so amazed at the fact that they've obviously given this very small detail a lot of thought and come up with an incredibly useful solution.

As always, hats off for Google.

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