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Gmail Labs Lets Users Experiment With 13 New Features 142

Posted by timothy
from the tidying-up-the-chat-window-is-nice dept.
D Ninja writes "Yesterday, Google released Gmail Labs, which allows Gmail developers to decide what to include in the next feature releases of Gmail based on user feedback. As ZDNet has pointed out, essentially users are guinea pigs for these new features. Participants will vote on their favorite new features, and the ones that are voted the highest will stick around and the ones that are least popular will disappear." Reader physman_wiu points out an article at the BBC about the experiments on offer, writing: "Some of the features are really nice — like the option to use additional star icons, mouse gestures, and custom keyboard shortcuts. Others ... well, let's just say Old Snakey made it in."
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Gmail Labs Lets Users Experiment With 13 New Features

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  • HTML signatures (Score:5, Interesting)

    by an.echte.trilingue (1063180) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @07:01AM (#23699605) Homepage
    All I want for Christmas is rich text (links, images) in my gmail signature... third party extensions do this but they are are a PITA
    • Re:HTML signatures (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Slorv (841945) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @07:54AM (#23699769) Homepage
      >All I want for Christmas is rich text (links,
      >images) in my gmail signature...

      Fine, as long as they also enable me to filter out images and "rich" formatting.
    • Re:HTML signatures (Score:5, Interesting)

      by smallfries (601545) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @07:58AM (#23699783) Homepage
      You should try asking them. All I wanted for Christmas was group chat and now I seem to be in some sort of group chat beta. While most of my friends can't initiate group chats I've got some extra icons in my user interface that lets me set them up. It's pretty cool, and I'm not sure how I got into it other than I sent some feedback using the form buried in the gmail help and it magically appeared.

      So who know, if you ask for it you might just get it.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by jwpeterson (1299277)
        I thought group chat has been available to everyone for a while now... From an internal chat window I just go to Options -> Group Chat. My friends can all do this to.
        • Yeah maybe it's become common now. I seemed to have it for a long time while nobody else did. Of course it may not be the feedback, they may just roll things out to groups of randomly chosen beta testers so it's just pot luck.

          It's good that other people have it now as it is a really useful feature and once it is standard gtalk will be a lot more useful for people in an office environment.
      • by sznupi (719324)
        So...I take it that they are listening to "suggest feature" pages after all? ;P

        Because IMHO it would be really great to see video support in Google Talk (yes, standalone one), though you might like more if it would implement groupchat, I guess ;)

        It would become perfect IM app...no nonsense, best in VoIP quality (very noticeable on poor connections) and I have hope that Google would implement video properly, with high fps and good synchronisation taking priority over high resolution or even colours. And all
      • All I wanted for Christmas was Google Analytics by Week and Month totals. I asked and Google delivered.


        You have not because you ask not.

        I find this is true with many developers. There's few things better in the world than responsive developers, open source or otherwise.

      • It might have something to do with Google parsing all your emails to serve you ads. If you wrote emails from your Gmail account to anyone complaining about the lack of group-chat, is it unrealistic to assume Google read them?
    • Re:HTML signatures (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Yvanhoe (564877) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @08:51AM (#23699993) Journal
      Noooo! Just no...
    • Re:HTML signatures (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 08, 2008 @09:44AM (#23700191)

      All I want for Christmas is rich text (links, images) in my gmail signature.
      Most of the people you communicate with will be grateful as long as gmail does not offer that feature.
    • Re:HTML signatures (Score:4, Insightful)

      by hansamurai (907719) <hansamurai@gmail.com> on Sunday June 08, 2008 @10:33AM (#23700445) Homepage Journal
      Are you the guy at work using Outlook's Spring Green background with bright red font color and a 10 line signature? Yeah, just to let you know, I filter your email to plain text.
    • Re:HTML signatures (Score:5, Informative)

      by R2.0 (532027) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @10:44AM (#23700501)
      You remind me of the secretary's at a previous employer. When they discovered Powerpoint in about 2000, we would get emails with a Powerpoint attachment whose content included things like "The staff meeting has been postponed" or "The traffic on I83 is really bad", replete with colors, animations, and 20 different fonts. The problem was that about 1/2 of the staff worked remotely over dial-up, and attempting to open one of these missives would crash Outlook, Windows, and lock up the processor, requiring a reboot. And there was no escape -0 as soon as you opened Outlook it would attempt to download, and lock up before one was able to go offline and delete the bastard.

      In summary, KNOCK IT OFF - no one likes those dumbass signatures; your regular correspondents are simply to polite to tell you.
    • by Have Blue (616)
      All I want for christmas is for Google to strip all HTML from mails that pass through its servers. And through all other servers.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 08, 2008 @07:05AM (#23699621)

    Others ... well, let's just say Old Snakey made it in.
    That's what she said.
  • Its a great way to waste time while you're "working"
  • Well, let's just say that I have no idea what "old snakey" is supposed to imply so why don't you just use plain english to tell me!
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by SpcCowboy (1303133)
      It is in plain English in the full article. Its the old school snake game.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        So now you expect /.ers to RTFA? When did this start? Next, you'll want us to spell out our acronyms FTW.

        I, for one, do not welcome our new mandatory "RTFA before posting" overlords. :b
  • Non-English? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 08, 2008 @07:20AM (#23699665)
    1) Doesn't work unless you use GMail in English.
    2) Doesn't work unless you use Firefox 2 or IE 7.

    Sorry, folks... work on it a bit more!
  • by definate (876684) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @07:24AM (#23699675)
    I have Google Apps for your domain, which I liked so much I wanted to pay for it. However, now that I have it seems I am "protected" from the bleeding edge settings.

    I want to test these features, and see the bleeding edge technology.

    I have selected the "Turn on new features" and "Automatically add new Google services", however it seems as though Google Apps is treated a bit like a secondary service.

    Is the ad revenue generated more than me paying for the service? Are the services too different that they must use completely different infrastructure and so changes in one takes time to bring across to the other? Or, are the Google Apps aimed at people who really don't want new features and services?

    • > it seems as though Google Apps is treated a
      > bit like a secondary service.

        On the contrary - it is a primary service which people are paying for, and as such not a place to release playground software. If you provide people a service they pay for, your prime objective is to deliver a stable service. Goofing around may cause some fun, but imagine the outcry if something in Gmail Labs broke the service that people are paying for.

      > Is the ad revenue generated more than me
      > paying for the service?

        Probably, but that's not the reason for labs not being available to you.

      > Are the services too different that they
      > must use completely different infrastructure

      No.

      > Or, are the Google Apps aimed at people who
      > really don't want new features and services?

        No - and eventually, when a feature has proven stable and functional, it will propagate.
      • by definate (876684)
        Are you saying Gmail isn't stable? Because I pay am I completely restricted from new things?

        I imagine the outcry from regular Gmail users would be on par.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          It's stable, but sometimes the changes take awhile to propagate. I've noticed changes appear first on my @gmail.com address then later (days or weeks) will become available on my Google Apps for Domain accounts.

          If you want to play with bleeding edge new features on Gmail, get a free @gmail.com address.

          If you want to complain, /. isn't the place unless you like talking to an empty void that can't do anything about it. Google is who you need to send your complaints to.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by definate (876684)
            I've noticed Google fills my "talking to an empty void" needs quite nicely. Every time I have sent a help desk email, or tried to get help, I usually get nowhere.

            (The exceptions have been problems setting up Postini and trouble with the Calendar losing whole calendars)
    • by drcagn (715012) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @07:52AM (#23699759) Homepage
      From the article: Labs is now out to all English users (US and UK), and administrators using Google Apps can choose to enable Labs by checking the "Turn on new features" box in Domain Settings.
      • by definate (876684)
        Yeah that is done. I also have had that option turned on since it has been around, which is quite some time.

        I double checked it just before, just in case though.

        I also refreshed and cleared my cache and tryed to force it on using ?labs=1 (for the answers guide), but that didn't work.

        Perhaps they are still rolling it out, and by tomorrow I'll get it or something.
    • GMail provides a simple way for you to forward your paid e-mail to a free GMail account, and be able to respond to those e-mails using "Send mail as:" (look at the Accounts tab in your GMail settings).

      This allows you to have your special account/address, and be able to test the new features.

      YMMV, just my $0.02, etc...
    • by dangitman (862676)

      I have Google Apps for your domain

      What the hell? That's my domain! How did you get access to my domain through Google Apps?

    • I have Google Apps for your domain, which I liked so much I wanted to pay for it. However, now that I have it seems I am "protected" from the bleeding edge settings.

      But aren't you getting exactly what you paid for?

      If I was running a business that was based on Google Apps, I'd want them to stay as stable and predictible as possible. If things started breaking or becoming less efficient than I'd planned on because Google decided to throw a random test feature into the code base every 3 or 4 weeks, I'd get

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 08, 2008 @07:41AM (#23699727)
    The new features are all very nice, but I would like to see Google to fix all the bugs* in their IMAP-Implementation first.

    *)
    http://weblog.timaltman.com/archive/2008/02/24/gmails-buggy-imap-implementation
    • by swb (14022)
      So they haven't fixed the IMAP bug with Windows Mobile yet?

      I was more or less set to give up my dated FreeBSD home email server in favor of a Google Apps hosted email setup, but the IMAP incompatibilities killed it for me and I went through the time-consuming exercise of rebuilding a new FreeBSD system, this time using postfix, SASL and IMAPS.

      I was fairly staggered by the Windows Mobile incompatibility, it was like WTF, why aren't they fixing this and why didn't they test it?
  • Why the vote? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Why do they want to base which features to keep on voting? Isn't the usage a much better measure to go by?

    Offtopic:
    The same applies to social networking sites, where the frontpages seems to be always based only on votes, while I think it should be based on votes, clicktrough-rate and number of comments; i.e. there are some great frontpage-worthy articles on reddit's controversial-tab with 0 points (500 upvotes, 500 downvotes) and 200+ comments.
  • by bogaboga (793279) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @07:52AM (#23699763)
    The ability to display a few days of my calendar at the bottom of the message text box (while typing) is what I really miss. This feature is available with Yahoo mail by default. If there are important events coming up, you see these as they scroll...sweet! I hope they will implement it.
  • A small but practical improvement: automatically placing the signature before the included message in a reply.
    • Re:Signature tweaks! (Score:4, Informative)

      by Doctor Crumb (737936) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @01:19PM (#23701329) Homepage
      A. Because it breaks the logical order of conversation. Q. Why is top posting bad?

      Seriously, reply *after* the relevant bits of what you are replying to, and remove the rest. Your emails will be far shorter, they will make sense when you read through them much later, and you will no longer be fighting the email program.

      "Most people" prefer top posting because that's what Outlook does, not because it's practical, readable, or efficient.
      • So? Use a threaded mail display. The one in Thunderbird works quite nicely.

        I hate having to scroll down through old text to find the latest bit. I always top-post in my email, unless I'm replying to a complicated message, where it might make more sense to intersperse bits of my reply in with the message I'm replying to.
  • I wish they'd add a direct way of importing into Gmail from some of the most used desktop clients (Eudora, Outlook, mbox). There are some utilities that claim to do this, but I don't trust them enough to give them access to my account and data. Gmail has most everything I need at this point, if they don't remove any features or don't screw up the current service, I don't see myself moving away from them.
    • by afidel (530433)
      Wouldn't adding google IMAP as a second account + drag and drop do what you need?
      • by aclarke (307017)
        That's what I do. I just successfully moved about 10,000 email into two different accounts last week. You can move your inbox, other folders, sent email, etc. just fine.

        I used Apple Mail but I'm sure Thunderbird would work just as well.
  • by ladybugfi (110420) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @08:45AM (#23699965)
    I'm disappointed that there is no option to disable conversations either globally or per conversation. This really sucks and shows that the Google people assume way too much on how people handle their e-mail.

    For example, I regularly get a bunch of e-mails from an automated bot over which I have no control. For some reason the e-mail bot gives all sent mail the same subject line although the message contents varies. So GMail automatically decides to group these e-mails into few conversations (not one conversation but one per day or something like that). This in turn prevents me from handling these messages by tags, because tag scope is the whole conversation, not a single message.

    The only solution for this is to handle these e-mails in Thunderbird via IMAP, where conversations don't exist and I can just take the messages and tag them one by one.

    • Data on usage habits (Score:4, Interesting)

      by sjbe (173966) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @09:50AM (#23700225)

      I'm disappointed that there is no option to disable conversations either globally or per conversation. This really sucks and shows that the Google people assume way too much on how people handle their e-mail.
      I agree personally on the feature request but it's interesting you say Google "assumes". Since it is a web mail service they probably have extensive data on exactly how everyone uses the Gmail. Plus they get feedback from their own use as well as from users. Perhaps it is just not a feature in high demand? Or perhaps it is a designed in "feature" kind of like Apple's one button mouse that they are disinclined to change? Who knows for sure...

      That said, I would like tagging to not ALWAYS work on a per conversation basis. I don't mind if that is the defaults but I'd like to be able to make other choices when it makes sense. I agree there are times when it's not the most appropriate basis for sorting mail and I would like to be able to choose.
      • by RobBebop (947356)

        I would like tagging to not ALWAYS work on a per conversation basis.

        Well, Gmail has a "per message" tag built in that looks like an image of a star. I highly doubt that the star-icon would help you much, since you seem to want to apply different tags to specific messages in the same conversation. However, it highlights the fact that "per message" functionality is already currently available and a well-worded e-mail to Gmail Customer Service might trigger them to add a requirement that blurs the line between stars and tags.

        In fact, I think it would be cool if I could "

        • by Mjec (666932)

          In fact, I think it would be cool if I could "tag" with icons. [...] Adding little "icons" would (I think) greatly increase my ability to visually parse a page of many different types of tagged messages.

          This is one of the new GMail Labs features you can enable.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by physman_wiu (933339)
      Go to this page and suggest turning off conversations as a new feature. A lot of people have been saying the same thing. Right now there is no way to disable it, but if enough people suggest that they add the option to disable it, it might make it in the next upgrade. https://services.google.com/inquiry/gmail_suggest/ [google.com]
    • Maybe I'm mistaken, but you can create a filter to automatically delete every mail you get (or still have) by its subject.

      As you get spam by the same subject that should be no problem at all.

    • As a guess, most people don't use automated emails. I solved the problem by doing an email->rss for things that weren't urgent.

      Urgent things get dealt with right away, so they don't wind up bunching up in a conversation (I delete them rather than archiving them).

      obDisclosure: I'm a Google employee, but not in the gmail group.
    • If memory serves me back to a few years ago when I signed up for Gmail (back when it was invite only! haha. the good ol' days), the sign-up page had in big font something like "We do email differently!". So I'm not sure its fair to say they assume things too much and do what they want; from the beginning, they advertised the conversational email as a major feature that they were experimenting with (along with tagging and archiving instead of simply creating folders). Thus, you could fairly safely say that a
    • by Repton (60818)

      Why don't you set up a filter? You could give them a label, mark as read, and archive them. You would no longer see the emails, but be able to find them easily should you need to.

    • I regularly get a bunch of e-mails from an automated bot over which I have no control. For some reason the e-mail bot gives all sent mail the same subject line although the message contents varies. So GMail automatically decides to group these e-mails into few conversations

      What's particularly interesting (and infuriating) about this behavior is that RFC 822 proscribes specific headers that indicate that an Internet email message is related to another email message, yet Gmail ignores these and gloms conversa
  • Like here [slashdot.org] ...
  • IMAP import (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rui Lopes (599077) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @09:14AM (#23700085) Homepage
    What I want is the support for external IMAP-based accounts. Currently one can only do that for POP-based. Only then I'll be able to ditch completely desktop mail apps (which suck a lot, btw).
  • by clang_jangle (975789) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @10:50AM (#23700537) Journal
    Am I the only one surprised at how many /.ers are using the web interface for email? After all, that's what MUAs and IMAP are for! I wouldn't dream of using my browser for that beyond the initial setup. I've put a lot of people on Gmail IMAP with mutt, TBird, Evolution, and Kmail. Aside from the winCE victims, why wouldn't everyone do it like this? Thumb drives are cheaper than ever, why risk your email account like that? Laziness?
    • by altek (119814)
      Yes, you are the only one surprised at this.

      In any given day I probably touch about 5-10 different PCs that I end up checking my email at (and multiple email addresses at that). I suspect that my scenario is very common among slashdotters. It is not even close to realistic to use a thick client. And don't bring up the "app on a thumb drive" because that's a whole other layer of maintenance and complexity that I don't have time for.

      Most web mail products have become very "thin client" nowadays and work qu
      • In any given day I probably touch about 5-10 different PCs that I end up checking my email at (and multiple email addresses at that). I suspect that my scenario is very common among slashdotters.

        Right, so add multiple servers and it's just like me. Multiple boxen, multiple accounts, multiple IMAPs.

        And don't bring up the "app on a thumb drive" because that's a whole other layer of maintenance and complexity that I don't have time for.

        I already did bring that up. I guess maybe we have different th

    • by sznupi (719324)
      I won't really get into "why", but...I really started to use e-mail as a viable communication tool after getting Gmail account, so Google certainly done something right.
    • by EnglishTim (9662)
      why risk your email account like that? Laziness?

      Why risk our email accounts like what?

      You mean having google administer them? It's a risk I'm prepared to take for the convenience of not having to administer my own server.

      I guess you could call it laziness but I prefer to call it 'making better use of my time'.
      • Why risk our email accounts like what? You mean having google administer them?


        It is trivial for a third party to see your password when you login from your browser, more so if you're a dunce who stores them in the browser.

        Please turn in your geek card on your way out.
        • by EnglishTim (9662)
          It is trivial for a third party to see your password when you login from your browser, more so if you're a dunce who stores them in the browser.

          Er... gmail logins are always done via SSL. You can't just sniff the login.

          Please turn in your geek card on your way out.

          After you.
          • Er... gmail logins are always done via SSL. You can't just sniff the login.


            Passwords stored in the browser do not require an attacker to break SSL, and SSL can certainly be broken, especially if you're on wifi.

            After you.


            Nope, not this time. :D
            • by EnglishTim (9662)
              Passwords stored in the browser do not require an attacker to break SSL

              You face exactly the same problem if you store your password in a standalone email client. It's not something specific to webmail. I don't store my password in either my browser or mail client.

              and SSL can certainly be broken, especially if you're on wifi.

              In which case how are you safer with a standalone email client?
              • I didn't say IMAP was risk-free, but it doesn't get half the focus browsers do from the script kiddies and crackers. Nearly three years ago I did have 2 webmail accounts compromised -- and I had an excellent password, it wasn't stored in the browser, and I certainly never tolerated anyone looking over my shoulder (and if you somehow did, good luck -- it's nothing for me to memorize a 30 character password:). But it's never happened using IMAP, not once. Of course, I don't go to Starbuck's to check my email
            • by kchrist (938224)

              SSL can certainly be broken, especially if you're on wifi.
              [citation needed]

              Anyway, how is the "risk" of using HTTP/SSL any different than using IMAP/SSL?
        • by Joe Decker (3806)

          It is trivial for a third party to see your password when you login from your browser, more so if you're a dunce who stores them in the browser.

          So what? The risk of having a password hacked (by looking over the shoulder or by hacked browsers) is a relatively small additional risk to the risks already present in email. Nearly every piece of email I have, sent or received, and perhaps yours as well, has traversed systems I don't control sans encryption. There's nothing in my email that isn't something I'm aware of the possible publicness of.

          You don't need my email account password to spoof email from me pretty well, either, this happens to me al

          • So what? So .. I'm back to... aren't you exaggerating the risk and danger here?

            I don't think so. But then the way I work requires me to have reliable accounts that don't get pwned. It's a simple matter of consistency == trust. I guess not everyone feels that way. But I'll bet you will, when the day comes that you're negotiating something important and you get locked out of your own account. Also, when you answer valid security concerns with "so what?", it certainly triggers a red flag for me. I sure wo

            • by Joe Decker (3806)
              Indeed it's true that our needs may be different.

              But, I am curious ... what do you do about the other risks I identify? (E.g., non-local mail passes through other uncontrolled servers? I presume you're concerned about those as well, and I'd like the benefit of the solutions you've worked out.)

              If you're saying, and perhaps you are, that you never access your mail from a machine you don't control, then perhaps I can see your point. But I don't see that grabbing a password (presuming one has a little cautio
              • But, I am curious ... what do you do about the other risks I identify? (E.g., non-local mail passes through other uncontrolled servers? I presume you're concerned about those as well, and I'd like the benefit of the solutions you've worked out.)

                Heh, I wish. But now you're talking about privacy, which is a bit different from security. I don't really believe that we have privacy here in the states -- maybe with PGP, but good luck getting most of your clients to use it. :) My concern is accounts being com

    • by Joe Decker (3806)
      I was pretty surprised by how much I liked the GMail web interface, but it only took a couple days to discover that I preferred it. The combination of the "all on one server" thing (which, yes, by itself you could do with IMAP) in addition to not having to muss with IMAP setup on my phone, my girlfriend's Mac, the PC in the cafe near Mt. Whitney or the Mac in the back of the store east of Glacier National Park, plus a decent search engine? (Dude, I love regexps as much as the next guy, but Google search is
    • by D Ninja (825055)
      Personally, I'm a huge fan of Gmail's web interface. It is extremely well done. Plus, I use multiple machines, most of which I can't just put my own software on.

      I have yet to find a thick e-mail client that works as well and as cleanly as Gmail's interface.
  • by EnsilZah (575600) <EnsilZah.Gmail@com> on Sunday June 08, 2008 @10:55AM (#23700571)
    How about a friggin' upload progress bar?
    I've seen it done on other sites so I know it shouldn't be too hard for them to implement.
    Why can't Google have upload progress bars on it sites, Gmail and Googlepages especially?
  • by altek (119814) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @10:58AM (#23700597) Homepage
    I still can't believe their contacts list doesn't let you choose multiple contacts and compose an email to that list. I'm also shocked that you still can't go to Compose Email and then bring up your contact list from the To: field and start selecting contacts.

    If anyone knows this is possible and I'm just totally missing the boat here, please clue me in!
    • by altek (119814)
      Thanks for the suggestions guys, but those features don't accomplish what I'm trying to do. I do love the autocomplete and use it every time I use gmail, but sometimes I want to send an email where I need to browse through my contact list and pick users off it, instead of trying to think of which individuals I need to send it to, I always end up missing some people.

      As for the groups, I do use groups to some extent, but there's a lot of times I send an email to a lot of people but it's a very specific group
  • Like when you get an email with a VCARD attachment? How about allowing me to save it in my contacts instead of just deleting it? Or a VCalendar attachment? A small button saying "Copy to calender"? Pretty pretty please please please?
  • All I really wanted was to be able to disable that f**king antivirus of theirs. I receive lots of mails with lots of por^H^H^Himages, and waiting for the antivirus to finish its work before being able to click "view all images" is a PITA.

    They could at least allow administrators (gmail for your domain) to turn it off.

It was kinda like stuffing the wrong card in a computer, when you're stickin' those artificial stimulants in your arm. -- Dion, noted computer scientist

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