New Labs Tools Turn Gmail Into an iGoogle Replacement
If you’ve ever wanted to be able to directly access other Google services from within Gmail, the Gmail Labs team has your solution. Two new options in Labs add a quick overview of your Calendar and Google Docs documents to the Gmail sidebar.
Even if you use several Google services — Reader, Docs, Calendar, etc — you’ve probably noticed that you still spend the majority of your time in Gmail. Gmail acts as a kind of communication hub with e-mail, calendar reminders, event invites and more trickling in over the course of the day. It makes sense to have a quick view of other, related services and that’s exactly what the new Labs features offer.
The Calendar option adds a small list view of your upcoming events while the Docs gadget shows your most recently edited documents. Both gadgets can be customized to filter out unimportant items. The Calendar gadget allows you to show and hide individual calendars and there’s also a quick link for adding new events without leaving Gmail. The Google Docs gadget offers filters to show only specific kinds of documents and offers a quick link to the full Docs page.
If you use the new offerings in conjunction with the Labs tools that allow you to reposition your contacts and label boxes, it’s not hard to create a fully customized communication hub — Gmail messages in the middle of the screen with labels and chat in the right sidebar and Calendar and Docs gadgets in the left.
It’s also worth noting that the Docs and Calendar gadgets aren’t the only possibility — there’s also a new generic gadget feature which allows you to add any Google Gadget to Gmail by simply plugging in the URL. In the long run this might turn out to be the big news since it appears to open the door for Gmail-specific gadgets.
At the moment however you should keep in mind that not all Google gadgets are fully compatible with https, so if you’re connecting to Gmail via https (and you should be), you may see mixed content warnings caused by parts of the gadgets being served over http. The Gmail team is reportedly working on fixing the issue.
And remember that if the preview version of Calendar isn’t enough for you, you can try this Greasemonkey script, which will add your full Calendar page just below the main Gmail screen using an iFrame to insert the calendar.
To get in on fun, head to the Labs section of Gmail (click the green beaker icon at the top right hand side of the page) and enable the new features.