Now For Something Completely Different: CloudMagic

By James Fallows

There is lots more in the hopper -- budget deals, an elegy to past guest bloggers, Chinese crackdown, reader mail, and so on. But just to change the pace, a little tech tip:

CloudMagic.png

If you are using Gmail, and you're not using CloudMagic, you are shortening your effective lifespan, plus sapping the economy, by wasting your precious time.

Gmail itself is of course magic in countless ways. But its search-your-own archives function, while effective, is not elegant or lightning-quick. It retrieves results in relatively small batches, usually 20 at a time -- I assume as a way to buy extra processing time as it goes back through your older archived mail. Its Boolean search features are OK; if you're looking for old mail it can be slow (man, are we spoiled!); and when it brings up results, it puts them in your normal mail window, so you don't see the message you might have been working on. Yes, there are ways around this last point -- and again, I stipulate that the world's got bigger problems than this. But still.

CloudMagic, which is free and works with Firefox and Chrome on Windows, Mac, and Linux, allows you to retrieve Gmail messages almost instantly, and to view them in a side window next to your main Gmail inbox. It does this in a way that uses up a modest amount of disk space. It essentially mirrors your Gmail files, contacts, and documents onto your own computer, via IMAP, and then indexes them for retrieval right on your machine. For a gauge of the necessary space: I have about 10GB of stuff in several Gmail accounts, and the CloudMagic support files on my computer for all of them occupy about 2.6GB. These days, if you have to worry about 2.6GB on the disk, you've got other computing problems.

The advantage of the local store is speed. When you start typing the word or name you're looking for, matches come up immediately, as if you were working with Google's online instant search. The index can cover several Gmail accounts and bring results from them all at once, which I find a big convenience, and it also extends to Google Docs and contacts, all from the same search box. More info here, and demo video here. If it has bugs or problems, I haven't run into them.

The program -- which actually installs as a browser extension -- comes from the Webyog company, with offices in Bangalore and Santa Clara. Speaking of being spoiled, I have one small item for for the CloudMagic programmers' to-do list: even though its material is stored off-line, you have to be online and connected to "real" Gmail for the searches to work, for reasons explained here. But I'm not spoiled enough to be other than grateful for this application. Check it out.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/04/now-for-something-completely-different-cloudmagic/237050/