Gmail Gets a (not so exciting) Lab
TechCrunch has been teasing us all afternoon with the announcement of a ‘Labs’ tab in Gmail that was supposed to go live around 6pm PST, but seemed to be running a bit late. By now, it seems most Gmail users should have access to it (Settings –> Labs).
As Mathew Ingram writes, this is a nice way for Google to shorten the feedback loop, as engineers can throw a new feature at users (supposedly programmed during their 20% time) and see if it sticks.
With Gmail large user-base, this is a very unusual move for Google – a company that likes to keep things under wraps almost as much as Apple (or maybe some engineers were getting unhappy that so few of their 20% designs ever made it into the public light?).
Overall, the new functions the Lab adds aren’t too interesting (I think Superstars and Quick Links will probably find the most users). In many ways, the Better Gmail Firefox Extension adds a number of functions that are more useful than anything that’s cooking in the Gmail Labs right now.
Here is a rundown with some commentary of the new features you can look forward to once Google enables the Labs functions in your Settings menu:
Superstars: Gives you the ability to choose between different stars and icons instead of just the basic star. Quite useful to distinguish between messages.
Quick Links: Basically gives you the ability to create persistent searches. Do a search, click ‘Add Quick Link’ and the search will be performed.
Pictures in chat
Fixed width font: Not sure who this is useful for. Maybe programmers.
Email Addict: Lets you take a break from email and chat by blocking the screen for fifteen minutes and making you invisible in chat.
Custom Keyboard shortcuts
Mouse gestures: Forward, Backward, and Back to Inbox. It works, but I was never a big fan of mouse gestures.
Signature Tweaks and Random Signatures: Gives you some more options to play with your email signatures.
Custom date formats: You can now see you messages formatted in military or European format.
Muzzle: Hide status messages in GTalk.
Old Snakey: Yes – you can now play Snake in Gmail…
Hide Unread Counts: Makes you feel a bit less guilty about all those unread messages.