File Under: Web Apps

Gmail Features Graduate From Labs to Big Leagues

Google has pushed six of its Gmail experiments out of the Lab and into Gmail proper. Handy tools like the forgotten attachment detector, search auto-complete, vacation dates, custom label colors and in-mail previews of YouTube videos are all now standard Gmail features.

The features Google moved from Labs to Gmail proper feel a bit arbitrary — for example, why make YouTube previews standard, but ignore the Picasa, Flickr and Google Docs preview tools? But the Gmail blog says that the decisions were based “mainly on usage,” so presumably these are the six most popular features in Gmail Labs.

The good news is that the two search tools, search auto-complete and Go To Label make for a much-improved Gmail searching experience, particularly for those with a lot of labels to filter through. Go To Label adds a keyboard shortcut that lets you quickly jump to a label, just type “g l” (if you use Gmail’s keyboard shortcuts) and then type the first letters of the label you want to find. Search auto-complete will kick in and let you quickly jump to the label you’re after.

Sadly, some of Gmail Labs’ less popular — but still no doubt useful to some — features have been given the boot as part of this “upgrade.”

Among the features removed from Gmail Labs are the fixed-width font option, and Muzzle, a very useful add-on that hid your contacts’ chat status messages for a cleaner-looking sidebar. Also no longer available are e-mail addict, a time-limiting script that encouraged you to take a break from e-mail, as well as both random signature and location in signature, two features for automating your e-mail signatures.

If you happen to miss any of these tools, there’s a pretty good chance something similar exists for Greasemonkey. For example, if, like us, you happened to enjoy the Muzzle feature, there are some Greasemonkey scripts that bring Muzzle back to life (and one that hides Gmail Chat altogether).

With five projects booted out of Gmail Labs and six more moving on to be real Gmail features, it seems reasonable to think perhaps some new e-mail experiments might be arriving soon. So far, the Gmail teams hasn’t announced anything, but we’ll be sure to keep you posted.

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