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Email

And speaking of email…

The email app that comes on the iPad isn’t going to win any awards in the Abundant Features category. As with Safari, it’s a pared-down and simple interface that allows you access to your Inbox, Sent Items, Deleted Items, and folders (Figure 4).

Figure 4 iPad’s built-in email app

I’m not going to go into detail about how to set up an email account on the iPad; you can find complete instructions by opening the Safari web browser, clicking on the Bookmarks button, and selecting the iPad User Guide that comes standard with all iPads. Instead, I want to explain why the iPad email app works for 95 percent of my needs and what I do for the remaining 5 percent.

I use Google email or Gmail. In fact, I have multiple accounts. And the iPad can be set up to pull in email from all of them, keeping the email separate and using the proper email address when I respond to a specific message. It supports the labels I’ve created within Gmail. (Not familiar with labels? Visit Gmail.com and search the help documentation for “labels” to find out why I think they’re the best thing since sliced bread.)

But even if you use a different email app (Thunderbird, Outlook, etc.), the iPad can be configured to access your email account(s) and pull in your messages and more. But this is where you’ll find out just how simplified the email app really is–it doesn’t really support all of the special frills that you may be used to with your current email application. And that’s where a little digging and experiment come into play. For example, the iPad email app doesn’t let me create new labels for my Gmail account. I’ll throw this into that 5 percent of tasks I mentioned earlier where the iPad just doesn’t work for me and now tell you in one word how I get around it: Safari.

That’s right–for me, Gmail is a browser-based application, so it’s a simple matter for me to open up Safari, visit Gmail.com, and log in. I have all the functionality I’m used to because I’m working directly from within Gmail (see Figure 5) instead of the iPad email app. Figure 5 shows the Mobile version of Gmail (what you might use on an iPhone or other smartphone), and Figure 6 shows the Desktop version that matches what I’d see on my home PC. (To flip back and forth between versions, click on “Desktop” or ”Mobile” at the bottom of the page as seen in Figure 5.)

Figure 5 Gmail viewed on the Safari app in Mobile mode

Figure 6 Gmail viewed in Desktop mode

The iPad email app is certainly lacking in features. While you can reply, forward, delete, and perform other basic email options, you won’t find the app enabling you to add attachments or fiddle with fonts and font sizes, for example. It’s as basic of an email app as you’ll likely ever find. But that’s exactly why I prefer it–its limited features constantly remind me to get to the point, keep my responses short and sweet, and get back to work.

But, as with web browsers, you’ll find a small collection of email apps available at the App Store that might contain a feature or two which you absolutely must have. AltaMail is getting some good reviews, and it appears to support WiFi printing. (If you find a great email app for the iPad, please let me know. While I’m not looking to change, I could be convinced if the right app comes along.)

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