Gmail has become the standard for the best free email, offering functions and tools that most other programs only offer to paying clients. It includes spam filtering that automatically detects junk mail and keeps it out of your inbox, free cloud storage, IMAP support and a message translator so you can keep in touch with anyone in the world, regardless of whether you share a common language. Gmail includes instant messaging and video chat, plus it connects directly with popular social media pages to import contacts into your Gmail address book. These all give Gmail an edge, making it our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award for free email services.
You can create as many folders as you need with Gmail, though it comes with both a spam and junk folder already set up. You can set up folders with multiple rules, too, such as a folder for emails from family members that also contain photos, making family pics easier to find later.
As you send and receive messages, Gmail automatically remembers contact information and saves it in your address book. You can add additional information about each contact, including images and birthdates. Gmail is one of the few free email services that directly import social media contacts from your account into your email account.
You can redirect your other email accounts into your Gmail inbox, so you can read all your messages in one place. You can also create alias accounts to use for online shopping or online gaming without using your primary email address.
Gmail also has a preset folder for social and promotion messages. When you enable these, any email notices you get about your social media accounts will automatically be collected in the social folder. If you use your free email address to sign up for newsletters or other online subscriptions, notices from these will automatically be redirected to the promotions folder. This helps keep only your most important messages in your primary inbox.
Gmail supports IMAP, so if you download messages to a desktop email account your messages will still be available on to see through the website. Without this capability, any message downloaded to your desktop would be automatically deleted online.
Your free Gmail account includes 15GB of inbox storage space. This is one of the lowest of the free email accounts we reviewed, but it still gives you enough space to save around 300,000 email messages, and you can choose to pay for more storage if you need it. Because your Gmail account doubles as your Google account login, you have additional storage through the Google One Drive that is connected to your Gmail account. This gives you unlimited storage for Docs, Sheets or Slides that you create using Google Drive, or 15GB of storage space for storing documents, messages or images created using a program other than Google Drive.
One great feature is Gmail’s message translator. When you receive a message in a language other than your set language, Google Translate displays it in a language you can read and understand. This is a great and valuable tool if you have family, friends or even co-workers or clients, that speak and read a language you don’t.
As part of our testing, we checked out the Gmail mobile app. It took us a little while to figure out where all the tools and function were located since some of them are not located in the same places as the web version of this email service, but it became easier as we got used to the interface.
Gmail has all the composition tools you’d need in a free service. Be aware that many of them are located at the bottom of the new message screen, which isn’t very common for free email accounts. The Gmail interface also includes quick links to some extra tools, such as your Google Drive and an emoji database. You also have a quick link to Google Wallet that lets you request or transfer funds from someone else with a Google Wallet account.
You can attach multiple files (up to 25MB total) to a message at one time rather than individually – though we found this was not true of the mobile app. Gmail lets you view each attachment without having to download it first, so you can verify you had attached the right files. You also can preview files sent to you before downloading or sharing them.
In our tests, however, it took over three times as long to upload attachments to our outgoing messages as it did with the other free email providers we reviewed, including Zoho that attached the same files in half a second. Files were still attached fast, but the difference was very noticeable in each of our tests.
Gmail is very secure. It has spam filters that automatically recognize and tag spam messages, redirecting them to the spam folder. Most other free email services require you to set this feature up yourself, so we were impressed that we didn’t have to figure this out on our own. Gmail also automatically blocks phishing schemes from even making it into your inbox, and like all other services, it uses a virus scan to check out each message and attachment just to make sure there isn’t a threat lurking there.
If someone attempts to log into your account, or if Gmail suspects any other suspicious activity, it alerts you by sending you an email just to make sure everything is ok. If something is fishy, Gmail walks you through the steps to change your password and secure your account.
Gmail is part of Goggle’s large collection of free programs, and they can all talk to each other. You can add email invites to your Google calendar and get email notices (and even phone and text reminders if you want) when it is time to go.
Gmail also gives you access to instant messaging and video chat so you can connect with family and friends in real time. They will also need and account and access to the same chat program, however.
One fun feature is the custom themes you can choose to make your Gmail inbox more your own. These range from solid colors to fun animated characters to beautiful seascapes. While others won’t see any of these changes, it is fun to open your inbox and see something more exciting than the default white background. You can add personality to your outgoing messages by creating a personalized signature with color and images.
Google’s mail service offers multiple support options, including user forums and FAQs. We didn’t need to contact the Gmail support team directly since we found the program easy to use and any questions were answered in the FAQs. However, email support is available if you do need to contact someone about an issue.
Gmail is a strong leader in the web-based email arena and is the best free email service we reviewed. It’s a secure, easy-to-use program that includes advanced tools such as a message translator and powerful spam filters that you don’t have to manually set yourself. In addition to free email, you Gmail account connects you to several other Goggle programs, such as Goggle Drive and Google Calendar.
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Top Ten Reviews has reviewed the Best Free Email Services of 2019 so that we're able to offer you the authoritative buying advice you expect.