Everything you need to know about the new Gmail

August 26, 2018

You might not be aware of it yet, but Gmail got a facelift. Google upgraded the Gmail web interface earlier in 2018, but as usual, they did not enforce the upgrade immediately but rather gave people the option to opt-in to the changes. However, according to the latest timeline, everybody will be changed over to the new interface within the next two months. If you mostly use the GMail mobile app, you will recognise a lot of these changes, since Google updated the mobile apps a while ago already.  

Why a new Gmail interface?

Change is one of the realities of a technology-infused world; it doesn’t help to fight against it. But to be honest, the Gmail interface has been due an update for quite a while now. I don’t think Gmail has changed its overall look since I started using it in 2004. And it began to look that way. In the past year, we have seen some cosmetic changes to Google Drive and Calendar, so it was only a matter of time until Gmail followed suit. I have been using the new Gmail Interface since the start of 2018, and while the majority of the changes are cosmetic, they have also added a few features that make life a lot easier.

It is quicker to Archive and delete emails. When you hover over an email you will get the option on the right-hand side to delete/archive the email. Right, you can now delete emails without even opening them. It might sound stupid, but I can guarantee that it will shave off several minutes off cleaning out your inbox.

What to expect from the new Gmail?

The first change you will notice is that everything suddenly has round corners. Your life will never be the same (I am only kidding).

Snooze When you hover over an email, you do not just get the option to archive/delete, you also have the option to snooze an email.  When you snooze an email it disappears from your Inbox for a day or two or until a specific date. While I am still getting used to the feature, it is very useful. For example, if you receive a confirmation email for your flight you probably only want to see the email when you check in online a day or two before the flight. So you just snooze it until that time. And voila it appears back in your Inbox at the appropriate time. I do the same with emails about meetings. I would read them and then SNOOZE them until the morning of the meeting. That way I can do a quick overview of all the correspondence before the meeting. This can shave another few minutes of your email time. With Snooze comes nudges. Gmail now takes it upon itself to remind you to follow up. If you have send an email with a direct question, for example, to set up a meeting, and you don’t receive a reply Gmail will remind you about the email after a couple of days and ask if you want to follow up. Don’t worry, if you don’t like your inbox telling you what to do, you can disable this feature under settings. But don’t be too quick to decide. Once I got used to it, it has saved me a lot of time.

Quick view of attachments Let’s be honest, very often attachments contain the important information. The new Gmail Interface let you see the attachments in a single glance, but even better you can open them without having to scroll through the whole email conversation. At first, I found it to be an irritating option and almost turned it off (you have the option to deactivate this feature by clicking on the Settings cog and changing the density of your Inbox) But now I a can’t believe how I ever survived without it.

Quick integration with Google Calendar, Tasks and Keep. It has always surprised me that Google Calendar integrates seamlessly with everything except Gmail. Well, somebody decided to fix that problem, now Calendar does not only integrate well with Gmail, but so does Google Keep and Tasks. On the far right of your screen, you will little icons, when you click on them a panel opens that allows you to add events to your calendar or something to your to-do list in Tasks or a note in Keep. (BTW if you have not discovered the magic that is Tasks and Keep you are missing out) You can also add other Add-ons, for example, I use Trello as a project management tool, so I added the Trello add-on so that tasks to my Trello boards without leaving my Inbox.

Suggested replies Since we all know that Google is reading our emails, why don’t they just respond to them for us as well? Once you have upgraded to the new Gmail interface you will see suggested replies at the bottom of emails when appropriate. While just click on an appropriate reply will definitely shave off some more time when responding to emails, I am not sure I want to receive a bunch of one sentence emails saying “Thank you for letting me know”. Well, I suppose Gmail made it easy to archive those emails without even opening them, so I can’t complain.

New security features This last two upgrades you will not find on your personal email account, as it has only been added to business and educational accounts. The new security features allow you to change the settings on an email so that it can’t be forwarded or printed. While it takes a bit of a mind shift, I can see that when your principal send you a confidential email, they might want to be assured that it does not get forwarded by accident. Just note that nothing prevents you from taking a screenshot and sending that on. So this feature prevents accidental sharing, but will not stop somebody from sharing the information if they are determined to do so.

Self-destructive emails Do you remember Mission Impossible? Tom Cruise’s character would receive his instructions in self-destructing messages. Now you can do that too. You can set a time limit on your emails that means that the person who receives the email only have access to the information for a limited amount of time. This one really requires a mind-shift. We are used to the fact that once you have received an email, it is there somewhere, unless I delete it (and even then there is still the recycle bin) But with this feature it is possible to know you received an email and you did not delete it, but it is no longer there.

How do you get the new Gmail interface?

On your personal account, you just click on the Settings cog, and you will see the option to “Try the new Gmail”. While Google is not very clear on the timeline for personal accounts, it is expected that at some point in August/September all personal accounts will swop over to the new Gmail as its default setting. However, you might still have the ability to swop back for a while. On your school account, you might not see the option to try the new Gmail yet. If this is the case, your Google Administrator has not enabled the upgrade yet. I would suggest that Administrators allows the option for your teachers so that your more tech-savvy teachers can upgrade and get used to the new interface. Rumour has it that at some point in August all school/business accounts will upgrade to the new Gmail interface and by October the old interface will no longer be available.

Bonus features

While I am writing about Gmail, I want to share three features that not everyone has turned on yet, even though they have been available forever. To enable them you just have to click on the setting cog, click on settings and you will find it under general

Undo Send If you have not enabled this feature, you’re either a masochist or perfect. Once you have activated Undo Sent, you will have a 30-second gap to undo it. This is perfect for those times when you send an email without an attachment or change your mind at the last moment.

Send + Archive I only discovered this feature a few months ago and saved me so much time. When you enable this feature a new SEND + ARCHIVE button appear when you compose an email. Therefore once you have replied to an email, you can archive it immediately. If you combine this with a few filters that add labels to emails directly, being on top of your inbox is an actual possibility. 

So don’t waste any more time, get your upgrade now, you will love how much time it saves you.

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