Google Offers New Features To Gmail Users

October 31, 2008 0

San Francisco — Google is continuing on its effort of bringing forth new features, earlier this week announced the release of a number of “experiments” for Gmail. Henceforth users will get more sidebar options from Gmail Labs that enables them to add the gadgets Google Calendar and Google Docs.

Google’s released gadgets created by its Google Labs project that offers Gmail users to look at Google Calendar and Google Docs data without having to open the hosted applications.

“Users can now add gadgets to the left-navigation panel of their Gmail account, next to Labels and Gchat.”

Among the key feature of the new gadgets is the ability to quickly view Google Calendar and get event alerts. For example, Gmail users can use one of the gadgets to see their Calendar agenda and get alerted when a meeting is scheduled, Google said. Another gadget could display users a list of recently accessed Google Docs and let them search across all documents from within Gmail.

The new offerings are the hottest in a series of products that come out of Google Labs in recent months.

Earlier this month Google Labs rolled out Mail Goggles aimed at preventing Gmail users from sending email that they might later regret. Last month Google Labs rolled out a test version of an audio search indexing system that is designed to find specific words in videos and let users jump to the portion of the video where the words are used. Way back in August, the company unveiled Google Labs-developed Google Suggest, which suggests search queries as users type words or letters.

According to Google, the Gadgets, in their present state, are intended for developers — still in sandbox mode. Gadgets can be added by pasting the URL of the gadget’s XML file.

Perhaps recalling the recent backlash from users over the new navigation style of iGoogle, Gmail engineer Dan Pupius says, “We are not tied to the left-navigation panel as a primary way to extend Gmail — in fact we think it is relatively limited and does not offer scalable real estate. There are also some downsides to the iframe-style Gadgets we are using today — they can sometimes slow down the page. We are fanatical about speed, so we will be keeping a close eye on performance.”

This offer was demanded by many of the company’s users and Google finally decided to act on it. Both gadgets can be enabled by accessing Google Labs and once the new settings are saved, everything is good to go.

Pupius said he hopes to get more feedback from users on the new gadgets. “We realize this is not very user friendly right now; it is a sandbox mainly aimed at developers who want to play around with gadgets in Gmail. He went on to note that not all of the new gadgets are fully compatible to Hypertext Transfer Protocol over Secure Socket Layer (HTTPS), so users connecting to Gmail via an HTTPS connection may see content warnings caused by parts of the gadgets being served over Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP.)

Rick Turoczy, a blogger at Read Write Web, noted that many users of Google Apps spend a lot of their time in Gmail, where the majority of activity happens. However, he observed that they likely are still interested in keeping tabs on their schedule and what is happening with their work.

“The new Gmail gadgets are designed to make your Gmail interface more inclusive by providing views into your other Google apps — without having to leave your Gmail inbox,” he added. “While the real estate is constrained, the view manages to provide just enough detail, giving you access to upcoming meetings and appointments and a glimpse of the latest documents on file.

Google Labs has been at the forefront of innovation at Google lately, releasing a plethora of new features for Gmail’s 100 plus million users over the past month. As a quick recap, we had emoticons, canned responses, contacts improvements, advanced IMAP controls and Mail Goggles, all in just one month.

Turoczy went on to add that the Google Labs likely holds the key to future Gmail features.

“It will be interesting to see what users choose to install and adopt from Labs – and equally interesting what they choose to ignore – because that will determine what Google decides to bake into future features of Gmail, itself,” he said. “I think it is safe to assume that these two latest gadgets from Labs are leading candidates for core Gmail functionality, especially given how simply and effectively they combine access to the most popular Google apps in the place where most users live and breathe – their inbox.”

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