All posts tagged ‘gmail’

File Under: Social, Web Apps, Web Services

Making Contact With Mr. Gmail

Google's Todd Jackson, product manager for Gmail and Google Buzz

Google’s Todd Jackson carries the weight of the web on his shoulders. As the product manager for Gmail, it’s his responsibility to make sure your inbox experience is fast, secure and always available. Jackson is also the product manager for Buzz, Google’s real-time social sharing system that launched in February and was promptly criticized over privacy issues and its “noise” problem. Talk about a tough gig.

We got the chance to ask Jackson about the inner workings of the Gmail team, what’s ahead for Buzz as far as user controls, and what it feels like to bear the collective rage of Gmail’s 140-million-plus users when the system takes a dive.

Webmonkey: Do you think we’re going to see the death of the desktop e-mail client anytime soon?

Todd Jackson: We don’t like to think of it that way (laughs). No comment! Seriously, though, we think deploying an app in the browser is something that easily makes sense to users now. They can log in on any computer, all their stuff is in the cloud. It’s just easier. And for us, we can push frequent updates and improve the product iteratively.

At Google, we run our own business on Gmail — we call this “eating our own dog food.”

Webmonkey: So do you suffer the same service outages as the general public?

Jackson: We do. When Gmail goes down, it goes down for us. That’s one of our first alerts.

Webmonkey: What happens in your office at Google when Gmail goes down?

Continue Reading “Making Contact With Mr. Gmail” »

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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File Under: HTML5, Mobile, Web Apps

Google: Mobile Gmail Exemplifies HTML5’s Power

Over the last few months, Google has been busy optimizing its free Gmail service for mobile phones.

In a post on the Google Mobile blog, the Gmail team highlights the various optimizations it has steadily been building into the mobile version of the webmail site. The result is a Gmail web app that exhibits many of the same behaviors one would expect from a native client application, and a site that now loads, according to Google, two to three times faster than it did eight months ago in April, 2009.

The biggest shift towards a faster, more sexy Gmail has been the proliferation of modern web browsers which support HTML5′s many advancements, according to Google engineering manager Alex Nicolaou, the author of Thursday’s post.

Mobile Safari, the Android browser, Firefox Mobile and Opera Mobile are thoroughly modern browsers that embrace the emerging HTML5 standard, and the fact that more people are using them on their advanced phones means that Google can serve out faster, more app-like versions of its web apps.

“So yes, HTML5 and the mobile web are clearly up to the task of building rich and powerful apps,” Nicolaou writes.

His comments come during what has been a week of intense debate among developers over which platform they should choose for their apps — native iPhone and Android apps, or the web.

Of course, the web has the greatest reach since it means you can gain users on every platform where a browser exists. Web apps have other advantages, but you sacrifice some key things when you go the web route — a richer user interface, advanced scrolling behaviors and animations, specialized layouts and fonts, offline access and interactions with hardware sensors on the phone.

The great promise of HTML5 is that it will do away with those limitations, giving developers the ability to put new types of advanced interactions into their browser-based apps.

HTML5′s arrival doesn’t quite signal the end of the downloadable, native application, but it does blur the line between the platform-based device operating system and the broader web operating system.

Google recognizes that as well.

“It’s also worth noting that as a worldwide mobile team, we’ll continue to build native apps where it makes sense,” Nicolau says. “But we’re incredibly optimistic about the future of the mobile web — both for developers and for the users we serve.”

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File Under: Software & Tools

Gmail Improves Rich Text Editor with Inline Image Support

Gmail has added a new inline image option to its wealth of experimental Labs features. The inline image option allows you to embed images within your message text while composing an e-mail.

Those who use other e-mail clients may wonder what the big deal is, but for Gmail users who live and die by the application’s web interface, the new Labs feature makes Gmail’s rich text editor much more useful.

To turn on the new features, head to the Labs tab in your Gmail settings and enable the new “Inserting Images” option. Then, assuming you have “rich formatting mode” as your default composing option, you’ll now have the ability to embed an image inline with the text of your message. Just move your cursor to where you’d like the image to show up, then click the new “image” button, which should now show up on the compose toolbar. You can then grab an image off your hard drive or paste in a URL. Sadly, the feature does not take advantage of Gmail’s multi-file uploads, so you’re limited to plugging in one image at a time.

Just because you compose messages with inline images does not mean your recipient will see them that way — the results depend on the recipient’s e-mail settings. Still, at least you now have a way to send messages to those who do allow inline images.

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File Under: Software & Tools

Gmail Adds a Way to View OOXML Files

GmailWhile Google Docs still can’t convert your .docx files, Gmail has added the ability to at least view those files as HTML documents. HTML isn’t perhaps the ideal format, but if you just need to read the contents of a file, it gets the job done. The new HTML conversion also works with Google Search results.

While we’ve been fortunate enough not to run across too many documents in Microsoft’s Office Open XML formats, if you need a quick and dirty way to convert them to something more useable, now you can just send them to your Gmail account.

Obviously the HTML conversion isn’t perfect, but for a quick look at what’s in the document, this is easier than asking the sender to use a different format or visiting another site to convert.

Of course there are also some other online tools like Zamzar and, our favorite, Zoho Writer that can handle converting .docx and its siblings to all sorts of other formats. Also be aware that the new OpenOffice 3.0 can convert them as well.

[via Google operating System]

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