Some people use their email inbox casually, as a way to collect receipts, appointment reminders and the occasional check-in from the relatives. Others use it hard: Email is where they get most of their work done, where they plan and organize and communicate. And, you know, the receipts and appointment reminders and relatives.
Starting this week, Google is rolling out a redesign to the Gmail web experience, its biggest change since 2011. While it eventually will come to all of the service’s 1.4 billion users, it’s part of a Google-wide effort to win more users over to its premium Business software, dubbed G Suite. It is especially meant to woo current Outlook users.
In my tests, I found the new Gmail is remarkably more powerful, with overdue productivity and security enhancements. It’s also more cluttered and complex. Though it took a little time to figure out, I’m already feeling better about my inbox.
For now, the new Gmail is opt-in—click the gear icon on the top right side of your inbox and select “Try the new Gmail.” If you do, don’t be alarmed when everything looks different. Google has brought a more modern design sensibility to the app, similar to the latest versions of Android, but other than some rounded corners and new fonts, the basic structure hasn’t changed.
There is something new, though. A sidebar to the right of your inbox can now display your Google Calendar events, plus notes from Google Keep and to-dos from Google Tasks, two lesser-known Google productivity tools that work on your phone or computer.
This makes it far easier to check your calendar while scheduling a meeting, or to check your notes to see which updates you’re emailing about.
Google missed some opportunities here: While you can drag an email to your to-do list to create a task, I’d like to be able to drag emails into the notes of calendar events, or attach Keep notes to messages. I’d also like to access my contacts in the same sidebar.
And while Google Calendar is fantastic, and Keep is a solid note-taking app, Tasks doesn’t measure up. It can’t handle simple things like recurring tasks, and even re-ordering tasks or adding due dates is complicated. (Confusingly, Google has another task manager, Reminders, that has nothing to do with Tasks.)
Jacob Bank, Google’s Gmail product manager, says he knows Tasks needs work. After years of Google ignoring the feature, Mr. Bank calls this Gmail update “a statement of intent” that Google won’t forget about Tasks again. The company finally released a standalone Tasks app for iOS and Android.
Still, just having these things in one place goes a long way. One enduringly great thing about Microsoft Outlook is that you can manage nearly your entire work life within one app. Gmail now feels the same way—even when I was working offline. Google plans to add a similar sidebar to other G Suite apps too.
Users of Google’s alternative email product, Inbox, have had access to a few email-ninja features now coming to all Gmail users: Snooze lets you temporarily boot an email out of your inbox. “High Priority” notifications mean getting bugged only about important emails. My favorite, Smart Reply, provides three guesses as to what you might write back. It likes exclamation points and says “Sounds great, thanks!” a lot, but it provides a right-enough response shockingly often.
I encountered one wholly new feature twice in my testing. If I let a message languish in my inbox but Gmail deems it important—maybe it’s from someone I usually respond to quickly—the new Gmail pops it to the top with a message saying it’s been three days, maybe I should respond. Turns out a little reply-now shame goes a long way.
Email isn’t to be trusted these days—it’s too hackable, too insecure for sending important information. So security is a key feature of the new Gmail.
When you compose a message, you can turn on Confidential Mode. As the sender, you can set the message to be deleted after a period of time. You can un-send any Confidential Mode message. You can even require the recipient to enter a passcode before they can read it. Messages still live in your sent folder as long as you let them, though, so you should periodically purge the most important stuff.
If everyone on the chain uses Gmail, Confidential Mode messages work like any other email, except nobody can print or forward it. If your company uses Gmail, you might want to make heavy use of Confidential Mode. If you’re emailing people outside of Gmail, it’s a little clunky but it works—they have to click a link to open the message.
One of email’s biggest security holes is phishing, in which hackers posing as a trusted contact try to get you to share information or even click on a compromised link. With this redesign, Gmail will now splash a huge, impossible-to-ignore red banner over any email it thinks is a scam.
“No user should accidentally click on an email we knew was phishing,” said Mr. Bank. Google can’t prevent all security breaches, he says, but this can help.
To prevent others from being able to read your emails, Google has to… read your emails. Last year, Google stopped using that content as part of its ad-targeting systems—the ads you see in the free Gmail are based on your overall Google profile. (Gmail that comes as part of a Business G Suite plan doesn’t serve ads at all.) But Google’s still processing all that data. And what your email knows about you might be scarier than what Facebook knows.
There are a few good email providers that don’t collect this kind of data, like ProtonMail. But Gmail is the de facto email standard now. With this redesign, I’m using it more than ever, and it’s cut down on the number of tabs I need open to live my life.
For the first time ever, I even feel like if you email me there’s a good chance I’ll respond. In a few days. When Gmail reminds me.
Source : WSJ