The fact that you can utilize the IMAP server means yes, you still can use Outlook or whatever email program you want but when it breaks, you must remember you can always go back to the source, which would be gmail.com directly. This is why I make every effort to move every computer I work on, over to a gmail account, simply because I know I can always direct them to their email when the program they (continue to use and complain about) doesn't work.
The problem seems to always be, when attempting to teach a 'new way of doing things', the resulting complaints are always because the person has learned another way (which is to use outlook express or outlook) and as much as method in which you deal with your mail is completely different, given a month of using nothing but GMAIL through the web is typically enough time to make the person realize just how wonderful it truly is. I know, it is the ARCHIVE feature and then using the SEARCH to find the message which always seems to be the problem, but once you realize in order to find a message, you simply have to ask yourself what it is you are looking for and simply type that in to the search window to find the message, it does seem to work. Like anything we do with computers, the more you use any program, the more you will understand it and, as always, don't be afraid to go in to the options/settings of that program to see just what the program is capable of doing. Google email is no different. Take advantage of the LABS features as you will find there are many 'shortcuts' or other quick ways to do just what it is you want to do.
The fact that Gmail wasn't around 10 years ago and the fact that so many people are STILL using an email program that 'downloads the mail to the one specific computer' is so antiquated and wrong! True, there may be attachments that you do wish to have located on that specific computer, but why wouldn't you want to have your mail accessible any time, from anywhere, no matter what computer you use?