Technologizer posts about Gmail

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

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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

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Gmail App for iOS Launches, Breaks

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

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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…



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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

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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

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Google is killing some more products that never caught on, including Buzz, its 2010 stab at competing with Twitter. Buzz is famous mostly for the immediate controversy over its privacy practices; for a service built right into Gmail, it gained amazingly little traction. And now Google+ does everything it does, only better. So it’s no shock to see it go, and I wonder just how many people there are on the planet who will mourn its demise.

Posted by Harry at 11:44 am

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

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

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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…



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Gmail Gets a Preview Pane. Finally!

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

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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.



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Gmail Users on the New Gmail

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

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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.



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Gmail: What a Difference a Little White Space Makes

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

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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…



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

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

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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.



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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

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China Denies Google Claims of Beijing Gmail Frame-Up

By  |  Posted at 11:04 am on Tuesday, March 22, 2011

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The tension’s definitely ratcheting up as Google and China trade accusations and denials over who’s responsible for weeks of sluggish Gmail service.

Google recently claimed no foul and blamed China for turning the country’s version of Gmail into a slideshow. The company then took it one further, suggesting the slowdown was “a government blockage carefully designed to look like the problem is with Gmail” (though Google didn’t offer technical evidence to illustrate the problem).

As the slowdown continues to morph into an “all but” shutdown, it’s China’s turn to deny. Beijing officially rejected Google’s claims yesterday, its Foreign Ministry spokesperson calling the accusations “unacceptable” at a routine news conference, though that’s all she said.

Continue reading this story…



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Google Blames China for Slowing Down Gmail

By  |  Posted at 7:24 am on Monday, March 21, 2011

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The concept of “free internet” never really takes hold until the very first moment you sit down at a Chinese computer and type in “Facebook.com.” Here in China, it’s blocked. And even though tech giant Google pulled out of mainland China over a year ago, it’s only been harder to access Google’s services recently.

One of the most noticeable effects of China’s Great Firewall as of late has been Gmail’s increased inaccessibility. The slowdown has been reportedly going on for weeks, since early March. A source in Beijing reports that Gmail has been “…slower definitely. By far. Sometimes we’ve been unable to connect, and many times unable to use Gchat.”

Continue reading this story…



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One of Gmail’s best, least high-profile features is the Google Docs Viewer, which does a very solid job of displaying the contents of file attachments without requiring you to download them or have the appropriate application installed. (Its PDF support is so nicely done that I rarely download Acrobat files anymore.) And now Google is adding support for a dozen more formats, from the essential (Excel) to the surprisingly arcane (fonts in TTF format).

Posted by Harry at 2:25 pm

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Gmail’s Pinned Tab Tweak: More of This Everywhere, Please

By  |  Posted at 6:36 pm on Tuesday, January 25, 2011

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What a difference the little things make.

Before today, I hadn’t found much use for Google Chrome’s pinned tabs, which you can stick to the side of the screen by left clicking any tab and selecting “pin tab” from the drop-down menu. They’d be great for social and message-based Websites that you want to leave open all the time, but without the ability to show dynamic activity, such as unread messages in Gmail, pinned tabs don’t live up to their potential.

A new feature in Gmail Labs called “Unread message icon” addresses that issue for Google’s mail service, at least. Activating the feature adds a count of unread messages to Gmail’s pinned tab favicon, so you no longer have to switch tabs to see how many e-mails are waiting. With this information available at a glance, I may no longer have to confine Gmail to its own browser window.

But why stop there? Google should now extend pinned tab notifications to third-parties. Make it a feature of the Chrome Web Store, so TweetDeck’s app can let you know when someone’s pinged you on Twitter, or so chat apps can tell you exactly how many messages are waiting. Heck, add notifications to the Chrome home screen, so those web app icons don’t seem so much like glorified bookmarks. (A bunch of apps with numeric badges on them would, after all, look a bit like the iOS home screen.)

For now, an extension called Favicon Alerts provides a nice workaround: It appends message counts to pinned tabs for any website that displays this kind of information in the title bar.



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