Mountain View, California -- Ever since its launch the Contacts portion of Gmail seemingly has been ignored, but the search engine colossus Google on Tuesday announced that it is giving the contact management tool located inside Gmail an “overhaul,” a move based on constructive criticism from some of the Webmail application's roughly 200 million users.
Google yesterday moved to improve Gmail Contacts, and beginning today Gmail users will be saluted with a new and much enhanced version of Contacts designed with two key functions in mind: simpler contact management and a Contacts experience that is consistent with the rest of Gmail, in addition to adding keyboard shortcuts, custom labels, sort by name and other perks.
According to Gmail Product Manager Benjamin Grol, an improved Contacts interface has been the number one requested feature from user feedback. We are not surprised.
While, through the years many essential Gmail experience has been improved significantly since its 2004 launch, the Contacts interface has remained clunky and confusing for some time. But in terms of usability, it lagged far behind Google's other services.
The embellished version of Gmail's contact manager, which is already released out to users, brings with it a number of small tweaks, the biggest one being automatic saving. So, if you are making any alterations to a contact, you can be halfway through making edits or additions and if you close the page, or move onto something else, those changes get saved without any user input required.
Also, new attributes incorporates keyboard shortcuts that reflect Gmail's keyboard shortcuts, a sort by last name filter, faster editing options, auto-saving and custom labels so that users can add their own fields to contact records. Perhaps most notably, the Contacts section looks and feels exactly like the Gmail inbox.
Other improvements to Contacts include:
- Keyboard shortcuts (users must go to Contacts and hit "?" for the full list)
- Sort by last name (find it under "More actions")
- Custom labels for phone numbers and other fields
- Undo changes that have just been made
- Automatic saving
- Structured name fields
- Manual and bulk contacts merge
“We have been working on overhauling Gmail Contacts to make it work more like the rest of Gmail, so if you know how to use Gmail, now you should automatically feel comfortable in Contacts, too,” Grol said in a blog post.
Furthermore, links to Gmail Contacts and Tasks is now located atop the left corner of a user's Gmail inbox under a new Mail link. Previously these links had been well tucked just underneath a user's labels, where they could easily be lost under the fold. Also, those who do not wish to access Contacts or Tasks can hide these links by clicking near the right edge of the Mail link to hide the mini menu.
However, the Gmail Contacts enhancements would not be made available to Google Apps users. Grol said his team is working on “making domain-specific features work well in the new interface.”
When that is accomplished, Google will release the Contacts to Google Apps customers.
Google also modified the Compose Mail option in Gmail a button instead of a link. Also, the Select All, None, Read, Unread and Starred links, which used to sit above messages, are now options in a drop-down menu next to the Archive button.
But the Contacts improvements should be especially well acknowledged.
The new Gmail Contacts enhancement comes just a week after Google rolled out multiple sign-in access to users looking to access up to three Google accounts from the same Web browser.