If you already own a domain name like yourname.com, you want to use your personalized email address--but you don't want to advertise to the world you're forwarding to and sending those messages from Gmail. While you can manage multiple email accounts inside Gmail by using forwarding, the POP fetcher, and different reply-to addresses, there's an easier way--especially for groups like your family or small business. Google Apps Standard Edition (formerly known as "Google Apps for Your Domain") can host your personal email at Gmail, but without tying you to a gmail.com address for free. Obviously you'll need a domain to use this service, which will cost something to register. When you sign up for a Google Apps account, you'll have to set your domain name's email MX record to point to Google's servers (you'll get instructions on how to do that when you sign up). Once that's done, you've got Gmail behind your personalized domain name. The Google Apps Standard Edition includes Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, and Google Sites (for simple web pages).
There are two main advantages to using Google Apps (for your domain). 1.) You can easily create other users at your domain. If my email is email@example.com, and I'm the domain administrator, I can set up addresses for my co-workers or softball team members too and make firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com accounts. Then everyone at my domain can collaborate on documents and a shared calendar easily. 2.) If you decide you don't like Gmail anymore? Just point your MX record to another host and you're done. Your email address never changes, like it would if you wanted to bail on your firstname.lastname@example.org address. Back when it used to be called "Google Apps for Your Domain", I explained more in detail how it works over at Lifehacker with some screenshots, then later at a post at HarvardBusiness.org. Check 'em out:
How to Make Your Small Business Look Big [HarvardBusiness.org]
Ask Lifehacker: What Does Google Apps for Your Domain Actually Do? [Lifehacker]