This is the second part of my series about bugs and usability issues with various Google services. My previous post was about Google Picasa and Google Checkout and also included some general comments to Google Storage, which is a paid service provided by Google to increase the amount of data you can have in your account and use for files and other things. Part II talks about the general Google Account, Google Desktop Search and Gmail (Hosted and Regular) as well is the migration of Emails from platforms like MS Outlook into Gmail.
I would also like to merge my existing Gmail.com Google account with my Cumbrowski.com hosted account. I would like to access and use all services I signed up with my Gmail account user with my hosted account user as well, but I don’t want to simply ditch my old account and all the data and history and restart it with my Cumbrowski.com user account.
This includes: Picasa, Google Alerts, Bookmarks, Notes, Docs & Spreadsheets (and presentations), Reader, Calendar (which kind of works if you share the calendars with your other account, but I cannot do everything), AdSense, AdWords, Analytics, Co-Op (and custom search engine, including the paid one for the site search of Cumbrowski.com), Checkout, Pages, Home Page (Personalized), Local, Grand Central, Video, Talk etc (usability issue #5).
I could care less about things like a centralized Google user profile page, which I already have for some Google services.
This incapability of merging accounts requires me sometimes to login and log-off, especially in cases where I started to use a service with both accounts (mostly by accident).
Another thing that drives me nuts is the inability to get from one Google service to another easily. I can’t even get to neither my Google personalized homepage for my Gmail.com account nor to the Customized Homepage on my Google Hosted account for Cumbrowski.com (usability issue #6).
Google Desktop Search
I deal with a lot of emails and also developed the habit to use me email as archive. I don’t delete any emails, except for spam and advertising I don’t care about. I also send myself emails with information that I want to keep and archive. The amount of data generated over the past 10+ years already knocked Microsoft Outlook out. This caused me to use two Outlook installations on two computers and on one of the computers am I also using Outlook Express. This makes three email databases. I was able to separate the emails that they are somewhat separated by subject or purpose with some exceptions that cannot be avoided.
I used to use Google Desktop Search to crawl everything to be able to search my emails quickly (I enabled the share across computers feature.) I also wanted to index web history and documents, but Google Desktop Search already created issues when it had to deal with my emails only. The issues are mostly performance related and also with the extensive wear and tear on the hardware, specifically the hard disk. I had to uninstall it.
To the defense of Google I have to say that their product did outperform the others I tried, including Copernic and MS Desktop Search. Both of them died already before they completed the initial indexing phase. I did not try the desktop search products by Yahoo or Ask.com, because I figured that they will probably not do better than Google. If anybody can confirm that I am wrong in this assessment, please let me know.
I will not flag those issues as bug or usability issue and let Google off the hook for this one. However, some improvements would not hurt in this instance either.
This brings me to my next problem that I just happened to encounter also during the past few days. Those issues are related to Gmail.
Gmail (Hosted and Regular)
Anyhow, I was thinking of solving the problem with Gmail. The problem was that I could not upload my old email archive into any of my Gmail accounts. I did not have MS Exchange, which would have allowed a migration to Google Hosted. MS Outlook or Outlook Express is not supported.
Google released recently an API for Gmail and some third party vendors created some migration utilities using the API and also the existing POP3 features of Gmail. Google recommends LimitNone who offers a desktop migration utility for $19.00 called gMove that allows the migration of MS Outlook content to Gmail Hosted or regular Gmail and a free Widget for Google Personalized called gXFER that allows the migration of one Gmail account to another (Hosted or Regular, both types are supported).
The gMove tool is a bit “bumpy” and it took my some time and multiple executions to migrate one MS Outlook account to Gmail. The gXFER is straight forward and easy to use. It seems to run automated on their servers. It runs for a while though and still running for my accounts btw. Roughly 7,000 emails were migrated within a period of 30 hours, which is less than 250 emails per hour (230 roughly).
That the tool cannot handle emails with large attachments is a bummer, but the limitation is set by Gmail and not them. It creates labels for each Outlook folder, but it is not preserving the original received date and time, which makes the migrated emails appear to look like new emails.
Gmail does not allow you to see the entire email header (usability issue #7), but you can see details if you download emails via Pop3. There you can see the original “sent date” of the email. Google should allow access to the email header information to advanced users. Also the option to create filters for any of the available email properties would be nice.
Google has the option for the POP3 feature to automatically “archive” emails that are pulled into the account via POP3 to make them skip the inbox. This is useful for the migration, but there is a flaw. The emails will still be downloaded to your computer, if you also happen to download emails from your Gmail account to an email client such as Outlook.
The selection of the option “Enable POP for mail that arrives from now on” under Settings\ Forwarding and POP/IMAP does not help, because all imported emails are considered new. There is no option or filter I could create to avoid downloading the migrated emails to my computer again (bug #5).
You have an opportunity here to expand your business. Make it easy for people to get their stuff uploaded to Google, including emails from popular email clients, calendars and task managers like MS Outlook and the upload of files, including MS Word 2007, MS Excel 2007 and MS Power Point 2007 files to Google Docs, Spreadsheets and Presentations (MS Office 2007 documents are still not supported by Google, even though MS Office 2007 was released over one year ago) . Integrate all this to make it easily accessible like it is from the desktop of a Windows PC or MAC OS Apple computer.
Finally make all this content searchable from the users Google Personalized home page, including content from other applications like Google Reader, Calendar, Co-Op, Google Custom Search Engine, Bookmarks and others. Make the information of my world, the users world searchable, which was already pre-filtered and that I actually need every day.
I have no problem at all to pay for this service and I am not alone. You can provide a free version with volume restrictions and advertising to pay for it, if you like, but allow the user to make the choice to pay to get more resources, no ads and customer support, if he needs it.
I have more comments to Google Hosted, Google Pages, Google Reader, Google Calendar and some other services and might sit down and write up my thoughts next year. The things I mentioned in my two posts are the most important ones on my mind and I hope that you will fix the bugs and core usability issues I mentioned quickly and then think about the other suggestions I made. I cannot believe that I am the only one who has these specific needs.
I invite again everybody to provide his thoughts and comments on the mentioned items via the form below. Thanks, Cheers and Happy Holidays!