Google has been busy lately updating its GMail product with some new features that could make it easier to use. User reaction to these changes, however, has already been mixed and, for some, very unwelcome. Google has likely been pushing these updates out in reaction to Microsoft’s recent release of its Outlook.com email site. Outlook.com is Microsoft’s latest and best interation of its on-line email client and this new version seems to have caught fire. I have an Outlook.com account and my own experience with it has been very positive, though not enough so (IMO) to warrant switching away from my beloved GMail.
- “Customizable” Tabs – When enabled, GMail automatically sorts your messages into 5 “buckets” or tabs… Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates and Forums. By selecting one of these tabs, you are able to view messages that GMail has sorted into that particular bucket. By “customizable”, Google simply means that you can choose to enable which of these 5 tabs seem useful to you. You do not have the ability to create your own message tabs and you are not able to select which messages are actually sorted into the tabs that Google has provided… not the most friendly approach for sure. While I am sure that some will find this new feature useful, based on the limitations that Google has built into it, I do not see myself enabling this feature. Google has said that it will take a month (or more) for it to roll this new feature out to all of its GMail users… and I have not actually had an opportunity to get my hands on this feature yet. If it turns out to be as limited as some have already reported, I would hope that Google would bow to user feedback and make changes to address the identified weaknesses in the future.
- New “Compose” Window – This has to be one of the most controversial new features that Google has ever introduced to its flagship email product. I can tell you from my own experience with it, that it does take some getting used to and I have actually enabled and disabled this feature several times over the last several months. There are a number of things that I simply do not like about this feature that, I feel, make it more difficult to use than the old method of creating messages. The inability to expand the compose window to something more than that 3 or 4 inches that it allows is very frustrating to me. The small narrow window greatly limits the amount of your message that can be seen at any one time. That along with my continued frustration with the inability to insert tab stops into messages give me an occasional “headache” when I am working a lot in email. As Google rolls out their latest rendition of GMail, the use of this new compose feature will become mandatory/default and the ability to revert back to the “old” compose is being phased out.
- Calendar Entries From EMail Messages – The is a very welcome addition to GMail and one that I will certainly plan to use. As a Google Calendar user, I have missed the long-available feature present in the Exchange/Outlook world that allows an email message to be converted into a calendar entry/appointment.