Gmail doesn't follow the others with an Outlook- alike drag-and- drop multi-panel interface, adopting a list view instead of folders. The 'search, don't sort' approach works extremely efficiently.

Coupled with the quick message loading times, this makes Gmail the fastest of these Betas to use. Also, the advertising is far less distracting, being not only text based but relevant to the message you're reading. Google insists that this contextural advertising is machine driven and that no human ever reads your mail.

Pulling in the punters is the 2,742MB of online storage that allows for a decent email archive. Likewise, the automatic forwarding and POP3 access, antivirus and highly effective spam filtering, calendaring and contact integration, not to mention the built-in IM sharing contact information with email, makes that Gmail is hard to fault. Indeed, Beta or not, invitation only or not, it's the webmail service we recommend. Davey Winder