Technologizer posts about E-Mail

The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal is very unhappy about the new version of Gmail:

A month into Google’s experiment with the design of Gmail, we are safely past the reactionary phase of criticism. Now, we’re on to the searing and increasing hatred phase. It feels like Steve Jobs’ evil ghost doppelganger went through the interface and made everything just a little bit harder to use. The problems with the new Gmail are not about look and feel; they strike right at the core usability of the software. This is the biggest step back for email since I signed up for Gmail in 2004.

Madrigal’s biggest beef involves what looks like ill-advised changes to the integration of chat with e-mail. I almost never use Gmail for instant messaging, which may explain why I like the very same upgrade that’s driving him bonkers.

Posted by Harry at 1:10 pm

1 Comment

Google’s Gmail app, which was briefly available a couple of weeks ago before being felled by a nasty bug, is available again. Better news: Google says it’s working on a version with more features.

Posted by Harry at 12:51 pm

Comments Off

Gmail App for iOS Launches, Breaks

By  |  Posted at 11:26 am on Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Yesterday, Google’s official Gmail app for iOS was a rumor. Today, it’s live on the App Store. But as Sarah Perez of TechCrunch is reporting, the Internet’s gut reaction is not a happy one–especially since the app launches with a cryptic error message right now. (Maybe not 100% of the time, but I got it.)

My biggest disappointment: The app doesn’t support multiple accounts. If you have two Google accounts–one for work, one for personal use–you know that any solution that supports both of them is instantly more useful than any one that doesn’t. I’ve been using a $1.99 third-party app called G-Whizz Google Apps Browser to traverse almost instantly between both of my accounts. Looks like I’ll still need it…

Read more: , ,

Gmail is about to begin rolling out the new look which it’s been testing for months. Judging from the test version, which I’ve been using, it’s a major upgrade–for one thing, it’s far less cramped and claustrophobic. (It doesn’t, however, seem to introduce one feature which I’d kill for: The ability to flop the conversation view so the most recent messages are up top.)

Here’s Google’s video about the new version:

Google says it’ll be adding a “Switch to the new look” link to Gmail’s lower right-hand corner over the next few days.

Posted by Harry at 9:26 am


MG Siegler has me all excited over the possibility of Google releasing a Gmail app for the iPhone. (Hope it has an iPad version, too.)

Posted by Harry at 7:05 pm

Comments Off

The BlackBerry e-mail outage that has been impacting parts of Europe and the Middle East for days has now crept into the U.S. Here’s Ina Fried’s report on a conference call RIM held to (sort of) explain what’s going on.

I’m not an expert on e-mail back-end architecture, and it’s possible that BlackBerry’s overall uptime remains excellent. But these sweeping outages have happened before. Isn’t it a major problem for RIM customers who run their own BlackBerry servers that they’re still so dependent on things working properly up in Canada?

Posted by Harry at 1:00 pm

1 Comment

Google Apps Gets Offline Access (And I Get Tablet Gmail on a PC)

By  |  Posted at 8:21 pm on Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Back in February of 2010, Google announced that it was giving up on Google Gears, its neat-but-ultimately-unsatisfying technology that helped make Web services work even when the Web wasn’t available. The company said that it made more sense to concentrate on using HTML5 technologies to build offline capabilities into its Web apps. And now it’s done so, with offline-capable versions of Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Docs.

Continue reading this story…

Read more: , , , ,

Gmail Gets a Preview Pane. Finally!

By  |  Posted at 3:17 pm on Thursday, August 4, 2011


This might be the best Google-related news of 2011, so far: Gmail just added an optional feature in its Labs section that gives you a preview pane that puts the content of messages on the same screen as your inbox, letting you bop efficiently between messages without having to leave the inbox. It finally gives Gmail a capability that’s pretty much standard in the rest of the e-mail world: Outlook, Apple’s Mail, Hotmail, and Yahoo Mail all have it. And so does the version of Gmail for the iPad and Android tablets. (I like that version of Gmail so much that I sometimes run Apple’s iOS Simulator on a Mac so I can use it instead of “real” Gmail.)

Incidentally, I’m not sure why this feature is usually called a “preview pane”–when you have the pane open, you can reply, forward, and otherwise do all the things you’d do with the message in question. It’s not previewing the message so much as squeezing it onto the same page as the inbox.

Google’s implementation is nicely done: you can put the message pane to the right of the inbox or below it, or toggle it off altogether. The only issue I’ve found is that Rapportive, a cool Gmail plug-in that shows you information about your correspondents, doesn’t seem to work with the pane. I suspect that the Rapportive folks will fix this soon enough. And I like the pane so much I’ll cheerfully live without Rapportive for the time being.

Read more: , ,

Gmail Users on the New Gmail

By  |  Posted at 3:49 pm on Monday, July 25, 2011


I continue to like the new version of Gmail which Google is letting users sample (at least in part) by switching to a new theme. One of the things I like best about it is that it’s not packed to the point of illegibility with messages, options, menu bars, and sidebar items. Google aired the interface out with a lot more white space, and for me, at least, that makes for a far more pleasant, efficient experience. So I’m slightly worried by Google’s report on initial overall response to the new version:

What you like

  • The clean and minimalist look of the new design
  • Seeing a consistent “look” across Google products

“The new Preview theme is wonderful! It’s clean and crisp, easy to read and really focused on the one thing that matters most in Gmail — the mail! Thanks!”

What you want to change

  • Too much whitespace and not enough information (though interestingly, many people reported that they appreciated to lower information density after a while)
  • Not enough contrast
  • Darker theme options

Fine by me if there’s a dense version and a lighter, airier one. (There already is–the new theme is available in two variants.) But for purely selfish reasons, I hope that Google doesn’t react to the “Too much whitespace” feedback by cramming more stuff back onto the page. My eyeballs are very happy with the new look just the way it is.

Read more: , ,

Is your e-mail password “password” or “123456?” It shouldn’t be–and Hotmail has decided to make sure it isn’t.

Posted by Harry at 2:28 pm

Comments Off

Gmail: What a Difference a Little White Space Makes

By  |  Posted at 12:51 pm on Friday, July 1, 2011


Almost every week is a big week for Google news–but this one has been particularly jam-packed. There’s Google+, its pretty cool answer to Facebook. There’s the refreshed Google home page. There are rumors that it’s interested in buying Hulu.

But my favorite Google news of the week is an item that doesn’t sound all that explosive: it released a couple of new themes for Gmail. I’m using one of them now. All it does is to give Gmail a bit of the new look that’s also visible in Google+ and the revised home page. And that turns out to be a big deal.

Continue reading this story…

Read more: , ,

Google’s (Unpleasant, Heavy-Handed) Father’s Day Surprise

By  |  Posted at 10:46 am on Monday, June 20, 2011


To celebrate Father’s Day, Google inserted a line underneath the Google Voice calling feature in Gmail’s Chat feature: “Reminder: Call dad.” Sounds innocuous, huh?

Well, no. Some people who don’t have dads were understandably upset by the note. Eventually, most of us won’t have a dad to call; I’m surprised that nobody at Google figured out that the message would be at best irrelevant and at worst an unhappy little moment for a meaningful percentage of Gmail users.

Companies like Hallmark and 1-800-Flowers presumably don’t worry much about Father’s Day and Mother’s Day advertising hurting anyone’s feelings. But Google’s “reminder,” while promotional in nature, was presented as a task-like item within a piece of Web-based productivity software. That made it feel more personal. It also involved Google futzing around with an application used by millions of people. Microsoft wouldn’t insert a Father’s Day requirement reminder into Outlook–and even though Outlook is a paid product and Gmail isn’t, Google crossed a boundary which it apparently didn’t realize existed.

It’s a safe bet that Google won’t commemorate Father’s Day or Mother’s Day in this particular way again. But I hope it comes away from this with another lesson: it needs to tread gingerly when it comes to messing around with Gmail and other apps for any reason except making them better. And sometimes even then.

Read more: , , , ,

What’s Gotten Into Gmail?

By  |  Posted at 1:55 pm on Friday, May 27, 2011


My, how hyperactive Gmail has become.

Google’s web mail service just rolled out a “people widget,” which shows information about the person you’re e-mailing right next to the message, but that’s not the only change we’ve seen recently in Gmail. Here’s a quick rundown of other changes:

  • Importance Markers: Like a light version of Gmail’s priority inbox, these little yellow tabs attempt to decipher which e-mails are truly important. You can help the algorithm out by using plus and minus markers in the top navigation bar.
  • AIM in GChat: AOL now lets Instant Messenger users migrate their buddies to Gmail’s chat service. You can add individual buddies by typing their screen names followed by “,” or add everyone by choosing “options” in AIM, clicking “Add to Buddy List” and selecting “Set up Google Talk.”
  • Advanced advertisements: Google’s been rolling out a new automated ad system for Gmail that looks not only at the content of e-mails, but at whether the user is reading or deleting messages. The idea is to make ads smarter by pinning down the user’s main interests.

I don’t know what’s going on in the Googleplex, but Yahoo, meanwhile, has been rolling out its own big upgrades for Yahoo Mail, and they’re quite nice. Perhaps Google is rapidly releasing its own new features to stay competitive, or maybe it’s just coincidence.

Whatever the case, I don’t find any of Gmail’s recent changes intrusive or offensive, but they’re not game-changers, either. And that’s okay; I like Gmail just the way it is.

Read more: , ,

Google is rolling out a “people widget” for Gmail that puts info about the folks you e-mail with in the space to the right of a message. (It looks rather like Rapportive, which I use and like.)

Posted by Harry at 10:43 pm

Comments Off

The New Yahoo Mail: Quite Nice!

By  |  Posted at 7:42 pm on Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Yahoo has started rolling out the new version of Yahoo Mail it’s been beta-testing since last fall. I’ve been playing with it for awhile and mostly enjoying the experience. It’s a very credible Webmail client–similar in general feel and some particulars to Hotmail’s 2010 update. If, like me, you spend most of your time in Gmail (and aren’t 100% happy with the experience) it’s kind of refreshing to spend time in an alternative which is quite different in approach.

Continue reading this story…


Office 365 Public Beta: A Web-Based Way to “Go Microsoft”

By  |  Posted at 10:58 am on Monday, April 18, 2011

1 Comment

Last October, Microsoft announced Office 365, a new product (replacing something called the Business Productivity Office Suite, or BPOS) that ties together an array of offerings into one Web-hosted service. Today, it’s launching a public beta, which you can sign up for at It’s letting folks into the service in batches, so expect a bit of a wait until you can try it out; the final version should go live later this year.

Office 365 enters the market as the instant archrival of Google’s Google Apps, but the two services are anything but exact counterparts. Philosophically, they’re at odds: Google Apps is based on the idea that you’ll do most or all of your work using Web-based apps, resorting to a traditional suite such as Microsoft Office either not at all or only in a pinch. (Google continues to acknowledge that many businesses aren’t ready to dump Office by introducing features designed to make Apps and Office work better together.)

Continue reading this story…

Read more: , , ,