Gmail Gets a Preview Pane. Finally!

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

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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7 Comments For This Post

  1. John Baxter Says:

    When messages were longer on average and screens were effectively smaller (big clunky text because of the large pixels), messages tended not to fit in the preview pane.

    I've seen people trying to rename the things to "reading pane" but it doesn't seem to catch on.

    –John Baxter

  2. ameliaITManagement Says:

    Interesting observation, Harry. It's not really about "preview" much as it is about squeezing all those info for one quick glance. Nonetheless, this may be helpful for some of us who want to see everything without consciously going into the details.

    |'m curious though. As a "preview" feature, does this not affect page loading in any way?

  3. z3l4d0r Says:

    No. It's a no go.

    When I use an horizontal split (that's the way I like it), it makes 4 scroll bars (one for each message panel, another one for my labels list, and a last one for my chat panel).

  4. Jason Anderson Says:

    It actually looks exactly like Apple's new Lion which is amazing in Fullscreen mode.

    Which I use all the time instead of actually going to Google's website.

  5. Luca B Says:

    Doesn't work for me, for a very simple reason: text size is so big I can only see a fraction of email in preview pane, while everything looks cramped on items list.

    Preview pane works on Outlook and other programs because they use tiny fonts. So unless you run Gmail fullscreen on a high res monitor this is fundamentally broken.

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