Category Archive: Official Gmail News

Mar 08

New in Labs: Refresh POP accounts

My little sister recently setup her Gmail account to retrieve messages from her school address, so she can check all of her email accounts in one place. She no longer has to constantly log in to two email programs, and she likes using Gmail’s powerful interface for all her mail.

However, sometimes she knows an email has already been sent to her school address, and she just can’t wait for the next scheduled fetch to have it show up in her Gmail inbox. As any big brother would, I tried to solve this issue for her and millions of Gmail users.

Turn on “Refresh POP accounts” from the Labs tab under Settings, and the refresh link at the top of your inbox will not only update your inbox with your new Gmail messages, it will also fetch messages from any other accounts which you have set up.

Try it out, and let us know if you have any feedback.

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/official-gmail-news/new-in-labs-refresh-pop-accounts-2

Mar 01

Fast new windows

One of the lesser-known features of Gmail is its ability to help with multitasking. Frequently, I find that I need to find an old message while I’m composing an email. When this happens, I click on the “new window” icon to pop my compose area into its own window:


There’s only one problem — it’s been slow! Today, we’re rolling out a change that will fix this (reload your account to make sure you get this change). Now, popping out a window is much, much faster. No more “Loading…” progress bar.

There are a number of places you can pop up new windows in Gmail.

  • In chat, there’s the little upward arrow in the title bar:

  • When writing a message, hold the “Shift” key while you click on the Compose Mail, Reply, Reply All or Forward links and you’ll get a new window for your new message. (Holding the “Shift” key while typing the keyboard shortcut — in other words typing “C” “R” or “F” — has the same effect.)
  • When you’re reading your mail, hold the “Shift” key while you click on a message to open the conversation in a new window. (Same holds true for the “Shift” key and the “o” or “Enter” shortcuts.)
  • If you’re reading an email and want to save it for later, you can click the “New window” link in the upper-right hand corner of the conversation view:

Keep in mind that the popped out window does not outlive the closing of the original Gmail window, although we’re working on a way to make that better. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to make this work in Internet Explorer, so to see the speed-up, you’ll need to be using Mozilla Firefox, Apple’s Safari, or Google Chrome.

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/official-gmail-news/fast-new-windows-2

Feb 24

Gmail Labs graduation and retirement

We launched Gmail Labs over a year and a half ago as a playground where engineers can come up with new features and let your input help decide which are good ideas and which don’t quite work out. Any engineer at Google can come up with a feature, code it, and launch it quickly to tens of millions of users.

Labs started out with 13 features and quickly grew to 60, with even more on the way. We’ve received countless comments and kept an eye on our stats: some of these experimental features were adopted by millions and others trickled along with little usage. A couple have already graduated from Labs and we’ve already retired one: Tasks was the first to become a regular part of Gmail, Right-side Labels was retired when we updated the way labels work, and Offline Gmail graduated a couple months back. Today, true to the original intent of Gmail Labs, we’re graduating six more features and retiring five.

Graduating:

  1. Search Autocomplete
  2. Go To Label
  3. Forgotten Attachment Detector
  4. YouTube Previews
  5. Custom Label Colors
  6. Vacation Dates

Retiring:

  1. Muzzle
  2. Fixed Width Font
  3. Email Addict
  4. Location in Signature
  5. Random Signature


These decisions were made based based mainly on usage, taking feature polish and your feedback into account. We’ve also tweaked some of the graduating features to improve them before making them default Gmail features. For example, we’ve combined Go To Label with Search Autocomplete, making it easier than ever for you to find what you’re looking for.

Search Autocomplete and Go To Label
Start typing in the Gmail search box (English only for now), and Gmail suggests terms that might help you find what you’re looking for — from contact names to labels and advanced search operators.


We’ve integrated Go To Label into this search box as well. If you have keyboard shortcuts turned on, type “g” then “l” and instead of getting the old “Go to label” pop-up, you’ll be in the search box with the “label:” operator filled in for you. Start typing the label you want to go to, and autocomplete will take it from there. All you have to do is hit enter. If you want to send your cursor to the blank search field, the keyboard shortcut “/” will do it.

Forgotten Attachment Detector
From time to time, we all forget to attach a file and sheepishly send another email with the forgotten attachment. To help save you from that embarrassment, Gmail looks for phrases in your email that suggest you meant to attach a file and alerts you if it looks like you forgot an attachment.


YouTube Previews
If you’re like me, your friends probably often email you links to YouTube videos. Instead of having to click on the link and wait for a new window to load before you can watch the video, Gmail now shows YouTube previews right below the message. All you have to do is click the play button and enjoy.


Custom Label Colors
Why settle for a restrictive palette when you can choose from over 4000 possible color combinations to help distinguish and organize your labels? Just click on “Add custom color” from the regular labels interface.


Vacation Dates
If you specify which dates you’ll be away in advance, you won’t have to remember to turn on the vacation responder when when you’re actually on vacation. Set your dates in advance, and let Gmail do the rest.


Retiring features is always a tough decision — we invest in building and maintaining them and we realize some of you are probably fans of some of Gmail’s lesser-used features. But Labs are experimental features, and from time to time they may break (that’s why there’s a quick way to disable them), or even disappear. Over the next few days, you’ll see Muzzle, Fixed Width Font, Email Addict, Location in Signature, and Random Signature stop working and disappear from the Labs tab.

We’ll keep working on new Labs to help make your Gmail experience even better, and we’ll continue to graduate successful features and retire the ones that don’t work out to make room for new ones. Thank you to all the engineers who have worked on Labs features — especially Bruce, Darick, Jon (the intern), Ibrahim, Chris, Keith, Chad, Michael, and Marco! Please continue to send us feedback and remember that you vote for your favorite Labs features by using them and leaving comments.

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/official-gmail-news/gmail-labs-graduation-and-retirement-2

Feb 22

5 more Buzz tips: post by email, follow the Buzz team, and more

1. Post by email. You can post buzz by emailing buzz@gmail.com — super handy for posting photos you take on your phone. Photos that you attach to your email will appear along with the subject line of your message. You can choose who can see posts you email into Buzz from the connected sites menu (click “Buzz,” then “Connected Sites”).

2. Prevent your boring chat status messages from being posted to Buzz. By default, your chat status messages are posted to Buzz and shared with your chat contacts. Don’t want a boring message like “be right back” to turn into a Buzz post? Just put parentheses around it. If you don’t want any of your chat status messages to get posted, you can always disconnect chat from the connected sites menu.

3. Look for the yellow line to see what’s new. Can’t figure out what’s new on the Buzz tab? Posts and comments new since your last visit have a light yellow line along the left hand edge (if you’re using a different theme the color may vary).

4. Link to a post. Each Buzz post has a permalink, so you can link to it. Click the down-arrow in the upper right-hand corner of a post, and select “Link to this post.” Of course, you’lll only be able to see the posts you have access to.

5. Follow the Buzz team in Google Buzz. Visit buzz.google.com/googlebuzz and click “Follow Google Buzz” to get updates about what we’re working on and send us your feedback.

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/official-gmail-news/5-more-buzz-tips-post-by-email-follow-the-buzz-team-and-more-2

Feb 18

5 Buzz tips

Now that people have been playing with Google Buzz in Gmail for a week and we’ve rolled out the improvements we announced here over the weekend, we wanted to let you know about some tips and tricks to help you get the most out of Buzz. Here are five tips to get you started:

1. Format your posts. When posting in Buzz, you can format text just as you can in Gmail chat: *bold*, _italics_, or -strikethrough- all work.

2. View a summary of your own Buzz activity at www.google.com/dashboard. The Google Dashboard provides a private, consolidated summary of the data associated with your Google account, as well as direct links to control your personal settings. As of today, Buzz has its own section on the Dashboard, so you can see how many people you’re following, how many people are following you, and information about your recent posts, comments, and likes. You can also access your Buzz settings right there on the page.


3. Use an @reply to send a post directly to someone’s inbox. If you want to make sure one of your friends sees a certain Buzz post, you can direct it to their inbox with an @reply. Type the “@” symbol followed by the first few letters of their name, and select their email address from the list. Only you’ll see their Gmail address — other people will just see their name.

4. Try keyboard shortcuts to fly through buzz. Turn on keyboard shortcuts from Settings, and use “j” or “n” to scroll down the buzz tab, “k” or “p” to go back up, “r” to comment (same shortcut as reply in Gmail), and “shift + l” to like.

5. Mute posts so they don’t get sent to your inbox. Comments on your posts and comments after your comments send buzz directly to your inbox. If you don’t want a lively conversation to keep appearing in your inbox as people reply to it, you can mute it. Click the arrow in the corner of a buzz post and select “Mute this post.”


If you have keyboard shortcuts turned on, you can also mute buzz that appears in your inbox by hitting the “m” key while you’re reading it.

Check out our Help Center for more tips and answers to your common questions, and stay tuned for more here as well.

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/official-gmail-news/5-buzz-tips-2

Feb 13

A new Buzz start-up experience based on your feedback

We’ve heard your feedback loud and clear, and since we launched Google Buzz four days ago, we’ve been working around the clock to address the concerns you’ve raised. Today, we wanted to let you know about a number of changes we’ll be making over the next few days based on all the feedback we’ve received.

First, auto-following. With Google Buzz, we wanted to make the getting started experience as quick and easy as possible, so that you wouldn’t have to manually peck out your social network from scratch. However, many people just wanted to check out Buzz and see if it would be useful to them, and were not happy that they were already set up to follow people. This created a great deal of concern and led people to think that Buzz had automatically displayed the people they were following to the world before they created a profile.

On Thursday, after hearing that people thought the checkbox for choosing not to display this information publicly was too hard to find, we made this option more prominent. But that was clearly not enough. So starting this week, instead of an auto-follow model in which Buzz automatically sets you up to follow the people you email and chat with most, we’re moving to an auto-suggest model. You won’t be set up to follow anyone until you have reviewed the suggestions and clicked “Follow selected people and start using Buzz.”

For the tens of millions of you who have already started using Buzz, over the next couple weeks we’ll be showing you a similar version of this new start-up experience to give you a second chance to review and confirm the people you’re following. If you want to review this list now, just go to the Buzz tab, click “Following XX people” and unfollow anyone you wish. If you don’t want to share the lists of people who are following you and people you are following publicly on your profile, you can opt out at any time from the edit profile page.

Second, Buzz will no longer connect your public Picasa Web Albums and Google Reader shared items automatically. Just to be clear: Buzz only automatically connected content that was already public, so if you had previously shared photos in an “Unlisted” album or set your Google Reader shared items as “Protected,” no one except the people you’d explicitly allowed to see your stuff has been able to see it. But due to your feedback Buzz will no longer connect these sites automatically.

Third, we’re adding a Buzz tab to Gmail Settings. From there, you’ll be able to hide Buzz from Gmail or disable it completely. In addition, there will be a link to these settings from the initial start-up page so you can easily decide from the get go that you don’t want to use Buzz at all.

It’s been an exciting and challenging week for the Buzz team. We’ve been getting feedback via the Gmail help forums and emails from friends and family, and we’ve also been able to do something new: read the buzz about Buzz itself. We quickly realized that we didn’t get everything quite right. We’re very sorry for the concern we’ve caused and have been working hard ever since to improve things based on your feedback. We’ll continue to do so.

Update (2/18): These changes are now live with the exception of the similar version of the start-up experience for those of you who are already using Buzz.

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/official-gmail-news/a-new-buzz-start-up-experience-based-on-your-feedback-2

Feb 11

Millions of Buzz users, and improvements based on your feedback

It’s been just two days since we first launched Google Buzz. Since then, tens of millions of people have checked Buzz out, creating over 9 million posts and comments. Plus, we’re seeing over 200 posts per minute from mobile phones around the world.

We’ve had plenty of feature requests, and some direct feedback. In particular there’s been concern from some people who thought their contacts were being made public without their knowledge (in particular the lists of people they follow, and the people following them). In addition, others felt they had too little control over who could follow them and were upset that they lacked the ability to block people who didn’t yet have public profiles from following them.

Like Gmail’s chat service, Buzz helps you create a social network by automatically setting you up to follow the people you email and chat with most. You can change, delete or add any contacts you want to follow.

So here is some more information about how Buzz works, and some immediate improvements we are making today based on your feedback.

The first time you create a post or comment in Buzz, we ask you to create a limited public profile (at a minimum it’s just your first and last names). We do this so we’ll know what name to display next to your posts — and so the people you follow know who you are. As you do this, we notify you that the lists of people you follow and the people following you will be displayed on your public profile. You can view, edit, and even hide these lists. The lists of your followers/people you follow are not made public on your profile until after you go through this profile creation step.

That said, we heard from people that the checkbox for choosing not to display this information was too hard to find, and based on this feedback, we’ve changed the notice to make it very clear. We will roll these changes out to all Gmail users later today.

1. More visible option to not show followers/people you follow on your public profile
If you don’t want to share the lists of people who are following you and people you are following publicly on your profile, you can always opt out during the profile set-up when you first use Buzz or at any time from the edit profile page. We are making this option more prominent in the set up process, to ensure everyone who wanted to hide these lists can do so easily.

2. Ability to block anyone who starts following you
We are making it easier to block anyone, by adding “Block” links to the list of people following you. Previously, you were only able to block people from following you after they had created a public profile. Now, you can block anyone, regardless of whether or not they’ve already created profiles for themselves.

3. More clarity on which of your followers/people you follow can appear on your public profile
Initially, we showed you a list of all the people who would be following you once they created a public profile. However, only those contacts who had already created a public profile would show up on your public follower list. We’re making this clearer by explicitly distinguishing which of your followers have public profiles and will show in your public list of followers. With this change you’ll be able to see who is on the public list of followers that everyone else sees.

We designed Buzz to make it easy to connect with others and have conversations about things that interest you, and it’s great to see millions of you doing this already. It’s still early, and we have a long list of improvements on the way. We look forward to hearing more suggestions and will continue to improve the Buzz experience with user transparency and control top of mind. For more information about the choices you have when using Google Buzz, please visit our Help Center.

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/official-gmail-news/millions-of-buzz-users-and-improvements-based-on-your-feedback-2

Feb 09

Google Buzz in Gmail

Five years ago, Gmail was just email. Later we added chat and then video chat, both built right in, so people had choices about how to communicate from a single browser window. Today, communication on the web has evolved beyond email and chat — people are sharing photos with friends and family, commenting on news happening around them, and telling the world what they’re up to in real-time. This new social sharing is valuable, but it means there’s a lot more stuff to sort through, and it’s harder to get past status updates and engage in meaningful discussions.

Today, we’re launching Google Buzz, a new way to start conversations about the things you find interesting and share updates, photos, videos and more. Buzz is built right into Gmail, so there’s nothing to set up — you’re automatically following the people you email and chat with the most.

We focused on making the sharing experience really rich by integrating photos, videos, and links. No more fuzzy little pictures: Buzz makes it easy to quickly flip through photos and experience them the way they were meant to be seen: big and full-resolution. And videos play inline so you can watch them without opening a new window.

You can choose to share publicly with the world or privately to a small group of friends each time you post. And you can connect other sites you use, today there’s Picasa, Flickr, Google Reader, and Twitter, so your friends can keep up with what you’re doing around the web — all in one place.

To make sure you don’t miss out on the best part of sharing, Buzz sends responses to your posts straight to your inbox. Unlike static email messages, buzz messages in your inbox are live conversations where comments appear in real time.

You can follow the specific people whose posts you want to see, but Buzz also recommends posts from people you’re not directly following, often ones where your friends are having a lively conversation in the comments. If you’re not interested in a particular recommendation, just click the “Not interested” link and your feedback will help improve the recommendations system. Buzz also weeds out uninteresting posts from the people you follow — collapsing inactive posts and short status messages like “brb.” These early versions of ranking and recommendations are just a start; we’re working on improvements that will help you automatically sort through all the social data being produced to find the most relevant conversations that matter to you.

For all those times when you want to share something but aren’t in front of your computer, Buzz is also available on your phone. When you’re out in the real world, a lot of the information you want to share often has to do with where you are: for example, you may want to talk about a new restaurant you discovered or the score of the game you’re watching. So rather than simply a small screen version of the desktop experience, Buzz for mobile brings location to the forefront and makes it easy to have conversations about places. In addition to checking out buzz from people you’re following, you can also see nearby buzz from the people around you.


We’ll be rolling out Google Buzz to everyone over the next few days; you’ll see a new “Buzz” link under “Inbox” when it’s on for your account. We’re still working on some features to make Buzz work well for businesses and schools, so it isn’t yet available in Google Apps, but stay tuned. If you want to learn more in the meantime, visit buzz.google.com or check out the Help Center.

Update (2/10): The video of yesterday’s Google Buzz launch event is now available.

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/official-gmail-news/google-buzz-in-gmail-2

Feb 02

Improved Google Search in Labs

Hello again. I’ve been taking advantage of my 20% time to make some improvements in the Google Search lab I told you about last April. For starters, I’ve hooked up a bunch of Google’s most popular search features, including:

  • Dictionary definitions: use a keyword like “define” in English and you’ll see the first definition of the word, with a link to the dictionary from which it came.
  • Spelling corrections: if you mistype something in your search, Google’s spell checking software will automatically ask if you meant a more common spelling of that word (especially helpful when looking up a new word).
  • Calculations: type in an arithmetic expression and you’ll get the result. In this case the “Paste result” option from the result’s pop-up menu will actually paste the result of the computation.
  • Local results: you can search for a particular place or for things near a particular place (map results will show up in a few weeks — they’re a little broken by our recent switch to use https). The “More info” link will take you to the place page.
  • Weather: just type “weather” followed by the city and state, zip code, or city and country.
  • News: if your query matches something in the news, we’ll show you one hit and an indication of how many related articles there are, with a link to go see them.


In addition, you can now use this Labs feature in any available Gmail language and you’ll get search results that match your preferred language.

Finally, as some folks have already noticed, I added a search button to the toolbar when you’re composing a message:


If you’ve got text selected when you click it, Gmail will search for that text. If you don’t have text selected, you’ll just get a search box where you can start typing.

That’s all for this installment. As always, we welcome your feedback.

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/official-gmail-news/improved-google-search-in-labs-2

Feb 01

Gmail Chrome extensions

There’s always that email. You know the one I’m talking about: the message we’re waiting for so anxiously that we end up checking our inbox 100 times a minute to see whether it’s arrived. Since last Monday, I’ve stopped being a manic tab switcher and the F5 key on my keyboard has breathed a sigh of relief — all thanks to the Google Mail extension in Google Chrome.

Extensions are small programs that help you customize your browsing experience. They can give you quick access to your favorite websites like Weather.com or eBay, provide alerts or updates from sites like Woot.com or NPR, or help you perform common online tasks such as getting driving directions or simply change the look and feel of your browser.

The Google Mail extension adds a nifty little button next to Google Chrome’s address bar that provides an updated indicator of the unread messages in your inbox. It also lets you access your inbox with just one click.


There’s also a Send from Gmail extension which makes Gmail your default email application and opens a compose window whenever you click an email address on a webpage. It also adds a new button next to the address bar that makes it easy to send an email directly from Gmail, pre-filling the subject of the message with the title of the web page you’re currently on and the body with selected page text and the link address.


There are several other Gmail extensions that the Google Chrome developer community has written; you can check out these and more than 2,000 other extensions in the Google Chrome Extensions gallery.

Google Chrome Extensions are now available for all Windows users. For those of you on Linux, extensions are enabled on the beta channel. Mac users, hang tight — extensions are coming to the beta soon.

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/official-gmail-news/gmail-chrome-extensions-2

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