A reader wrote to say he was fed up with his email program and was waving the white flag. We advised him to try Google’s Gmail. We made this switch four years ago and have been happy with it ever since.

The one great fear that people have about switching email hosts is that they will lose the old mail and lose touch with everyone who wrote them at that old address. This doesn’t happen. You can keep the old email addresses, just as we did, and check off the box to have that mail automatically forwarded to the new Gmail account. This fear of being cut off is so strong, by the way, that we have a friend of many years who refuses to make the shift despite our assurances. Believe us, there’s no danger.

Bob has over 5,000 emails in his Gmail inbox. Rather than delete old ones, he uses the search function to find messages. Joy, who is much more organized than Bob, likes to use the “archive” button to get the mail neatly put away each day. The emails are all still there and can be searched, they just aren’t in her inbox.

Joy uses labels to categorize her emails. For example, one group is labeled “Mary Schmitendorf” If a new note from Mary comes in, it is automatically labeled and archived, so she can reply on the weekend when she has more time. If you want to just label an email, without archiving it, you can tap the “v” key on your keyboard or click “move,” to move an email to one of your folders. To reply to a message, you can just tap “r,” and to reply to everyone involved, you tap “a.” You can even have more than one email account visible on the same screen. There are dozens of shortcuts. You can find them by — what else? — Googling “Gmail shortcuts.”

There are a ton of advantages to using Gmail, including an excellent spam filter and the ability to check your mail from any computer that can connect to the Internet.

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