Definitions

  • Conversation: A Google conversation is one email or a series of emails with the same subject, presented as a single view.
  • Conversation view: A view simply means an open email.
  • Thread: The industry term for a conversation. When a series of common emails are presented in one view.

Why Gmail Uses Conversations

Time management

A conversation allows an individual to focus on one particular topic at a time. The individual sees the complete conversation. In a traditional e-mail program you would view e-mail messages individually as they arrive in the inbox. Thus your attention becomes fragmented across multiple topics, making the entire process take longer and receive less than your full attention.

See all of the facts first

The threaded view displays the entirety of a conversation and allows you to see all of the facts and understand the context before responding. This is particularly helpful when a conversation has been ongoing before you enter into it.

In other email programs, it is common for an individual to come back from a meeting and begin reading and immediately start responding to email, only to find out an issue has been handled by another person, or has gone in a different direction. Conversation view helps avoid embarrassment and allows you become more efficient.

To raise the most recent conversation to the top

Because a conversation is seen as a whole, it allows the most recent conversation to reside at the top of the "stack," instead of displaying only the most recent email. This allows you to deal more effectively with a topic that is happening right now instead of fishing through a pile of new email. It is designed to more efficiently handle a mailbox that receives hundreds of emails (or more) per day.

The ability to ignore conversations

Not every email you receive applies to you. Previously, you had to mark each individual message as read or deleted. Now you can click on it once and take care of the entire conversation. Even if the conversation continues into the future you have options on how you want to handle it. You can archive it and tell it to remain in the archive or you can re-engage with the conversation and will show you what has not yet been read. "Muting Conversations" below goes into the detail of how to do this.

Techniques for handling a threaded conversation

Learn to open and close messages in a conversation

A conversation can be thought of in the context of a deck of "cards". The first time you open a conversation, all of the "cards" (emails) will be open and ready for you to read. This may be 1 card, or 40 (or more). Upon subsequent visits to a conversation, the cards you have read will be closed; only new parts of the conversation will display as open. You do have the ability to open and close cards at will.

Closed cards will appear with the name of the individual in the upper left. Clicking on their name will either open or close the card. If it is an extended conversation, the names will sink in. Simply clicking on the gray top will expand all of the names. The names are color coded and will appear as the display name of the sender. If you do not like the display name the sender has chosen, you can rename it in your Contacts and Gmail will subsequently respect your preference. You also have the ability to expand or collapse all cards.

Understand how delete works

There are 2 delete options. The Delete button at the top and bottom of the screen will delete the entire conversation. The pull down list on each card will allow you to delete the selected card only. This can be helpful in eliminating useless contributions to the conversation.

Mor information can be found on Google's website at: http://mail.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=7401

Show quoted text

To save on screen space, Gmail will hide “quoted text.” This quoted text is actually the information displayed on the preceding conversation cards. Thus the conversation is actually working to de-clutter and organize information. If you click on the link – "- Show quoted text -" – Gmail will reveal all of the email. This is particularly helpful if evaluating replies to individuals within the conversation.

Pay attention to who you are replying to

The default is "Reply-to sender," though this can be changed to "Reply-to all." In the reply the screen will show you exactly what is being included in the message and exactly who it is going to. This gives you total control. We've heard concerns that the thread alters this in some way. In fact, it works just like GroupWise did!

Use Stars

Stars can be a powerful tool when dealing with threaded conversations. A Star can mean whatever you would like. Some people use a Star on a conversation card to indicate a person has been replied to. Others use a Star to indicate they need to reply to a person. Yet others will use it to flag key data. The use of Superstars (multicolored stars) allows you to do all three; Superstars can be activated through Google Labs.

Use mass mailing tools where appropriate

Threads can be more difficult when dealing with an email sent to thousands of students, and multiple recipients attempt to respond. Generally a regular email program is not the correct tool for this usage. We have options and will have further discussions on this in other areas.

Forwarding the entire thread

In addition to forwarding individual messages, you can also forward an entire conversation thread. To do this, simply open the thread you want to forward and select the "Forward All" option to the right of the message. This will open a new message window, with all of the content of the thread copied into the message body. From this point you can send it as you would any other email message.

Muting conversations

There may be times you have been part of a Gmail conversation, but no longer want additional messages regarding the conversation to show up in your inbox. You can mute the conversation to keep all future additions out of your inbox. Highlight a conversation in Gmail by clicking the checkbox to the left of it and select "Mute" from the more actions menu. Afterward, archive the conversation (and, if you don't want to archive the conversation you can always highlight it and select "Mark as read").

Conversation thread details

There are a number of factors involved on when a conversation will thread together:

  • It includes date, content, whom it was sent by and the subject line.
  • Up to 100 messages can be in a single conversation thread before Gmail will be begin a new conversation thread with the rest of the messages. This will continue to repeat in 100 message intervals for any one conversation.
  • Very long messages messages may be clipped by Gmail with a link to the entire message at the bottom.