Gmail is arguably the best web-based email client out there, but it’s far from perfect. Just navigating your inbox (particularly when it’s a big one) can be an exercise in frustration… and then there’s Gmail Search, which is just painful. Wait times of 30-40 seconds aren’t unheard of, to the point that it’s becoming the butt of jokes (what can you do in the time it takes to run a Gmail search?)
Enter Greplin, the Sequoia-funded startup that’s looking to search all of your online data from a single search box. Today the company is upgrading its Chrome browser extension to take that search box with you, and they’re starting with Gmail. Put another way: they’re finally making Gmail Search work well.
To get set up, you’ll first need to install the plugin and sign up for a Greplin account, then connect that account to your Gmail (and any other supported services you might use, like Facebook and Evernote). Next, log into your Gmail as usual and you’ll notice a subtle change: the search box will have a small, grayed-out magnifying glass. Click it, and you’ll activate Greplin search.
In my testing so far, Greplin search has bested the default results in almost every way. They’re faster (they take less than a second to pop up, as opposed to the 20+ seconds you can run into on Gmail). And once you’ve started searching, you’ll notice that tweaks to your query show up in real-time as you type each character, the same way they do on Google Instant. And it shows results for partial-word matches (“Tech” would match for both “Technology” and “TechCrunch”) — which Gmail doesn’t do. The one thing I noticed that Greplin doesn’t do yet is spelling correction, but partial matching is often more helpful, anyway.
This is Gmail search the way it should be.
Of course, there’s one possible issue for those of you who are concerned about your privacy — because Greplin needs to index your emails for quick searching, it has to actually store your messages. Most people probably don’t care about this, and the service has everything riding on its ability to keep your data secure, but it’s something to keep in mind.
I spoke to cofounder Daniel Gross and asked him how exactly Greplin could return these results so much faster than Google could. Gross said he didn’t have much insight into the way Google runs things, but points out that Greplin is focusing exclusively on search, while the Gmail team has to spread its attention across a much bigger product.
I also asked him how much delay there was before new email messages would appear in my Greplin index (which is an important factor when dealing with email). He urged me to take the ‘Greplin Challenge ‘and test it for myself. So I did — a message with 500k of attachments showed up in my search results within a second of receiving it. Not too shabby.
Greplin’s Chrome extension launched earlier this week, but this Gmail functionality is new — and it’s going to get even better. Gross didn’t give any specifics, but it sounds like Greplin users will be able to ‘replace’ search boxes on more services in the future.