Google Gmail Learns New Tricks

Revised Gmail interface makes it easier to write messages.
Google has made some changes in its Gmail message composition.

Gmail used to open a new blank message as a full Web page, with a text entry area and menu controls around it. This made it inconvenient to reference stored email messages: you had to save the message as a draft, open a stored message, and then return to the draft.

Now, selecting "Compose" prompts you to try the new Gmail compose experience. If you agree, you'll see a separate floating window in which to enter message text. The revised composition window occupies only a portion of the screen and remains active if you navigate elsewhere in Gmail to do something like search through the Gmail search bar.

The window resembles a Gmail chat window. It can be minimized, expanded to a full-fledged separate window, or closed. A triangular menu icon at the bottom of the window provides an option to revert to the old composition interface if desired.

[ For more Google news, read Google Debuts 3 Nexus Devices. ]

"The new compose is designed to let you focus on what's important: your message," explains Google product manager Phil Sharp in a blog post. "The controls are still there when you need them but get out of the way when you don't. We've even added some new features, like the ability to easily insert inline images, and have more to come."

Multiple composition windows can be open at once. To help ensure that users understand who is being added to a message as a recipient, Gmail now presents pictures of contacts, if available. Recipient addresses can also be dragged and dropped between Cc and Bcc fields.

Gmail will now save messages automatically. Users can verify that a message-in-progress has been saved by looking for the word "Saved" beside the trash can icon in the bottom right-hand corner of the message.

Google says it's working on several additional features to enhance the new composition format, including the ability to insert emoticons and event invitations, print drafts from the More menu, add labels to outgoing messages from the More menu, send read receipts for Google Apps users, and send canned responses.

Find out the nine questions you must ask before migrating apps to the public cloud in the Cloud Ready? special issue of InformationWeek. Also in this issue: It's time to lay to rest two common myths of the cloud computing era. (Free registration required.)

Editor's Choice
Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter
Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
Nathan Eddy, Freelance Writer
Brandon Taylor, Digital Editorial Program Manager
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing