Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Useful features in gmail labs

Today, I noticed a new feature on Gmail that made me really happy. I completed a work-related mail and hit the 'send' button when a Gmail notification popped up, telling me that my mail included the body text "I am attaching a file" but there was no attachment detected in the mail. Here is a screenshot of the message from the Google Labs blog



I realised that I had actually forgotten to attach the file and promptly rectified the error. I am grateful that Gmail saved me time and trouble, and therefore helped me increase my productivity.

The Forgotten Attachment detector was part of Gmail Labs till March 2010 and has now graduated as an integrated feature in gmail. Gmail Labs, launched in 2008, is described by Google as a 'testing ground for experimental features'. As a user of gmail, you can test these features and give feedback to Google. Since its experimental, these features are disabled by default in your Gmail account but you can enable them yourself.

I have enabled several interesting features on gmail labs on my email. Here's how you can enable these features:

1) Log into gmail and click on settings in the right hand side corner of the screen

2) ..and navigate to the tab labelled 'labs'


The useful features on Gmail labs, which I am using right now are

1) Undo Send
This useful feature delays sending of a mail by around 15 seconds, giving time to give a 'cancel sending' command.  I do sometimes get feelings that I have not written all that I need to, or worse, that I have made a gaffe, and this feature gives me time to correct the mistake.

2) Wrong Bob
This is another fantastic lab feature, which works like this. I have a client and an accountant who share the same first name and once, to my embarrassment, I accidentally sent a mail to the client, which was meant for the accountant. Definitely not good to send personal financial information to a client. Wrong Bob offers suggestions to check if you mean Bob X instead of Bob Y. 

3) Create document
You can create a google document from an email conversation. That is useful when people write mails with a lot of information that needs to get captured/formatted.

4) Previews in mail
You can see previews of Google Docs, Picasa or Flickr links in mails. YouTube previews has already graduated from Gmail labs to become a full feature of gmail.

5) Multiple Inboxes
This feature lets you view extra threads/ labels/ list of emails as seperate inboxes. Pretty neat, I can separate my official and personal mails through this

6) Customisable interface
Features like Move Icon Column, Navbar drag and drop and Right Side Chat help you to move items around on your screen making it customisable to suit you.

With features like this, I'm much less likely to go back to Thunderbird or Outlook as a mail client. Especially now that Gmail also has enabled offline mail and caches your messages on your hard drive allowing you to compose and even attach files in offline mode. I'm extremely satisfied with gmail, the only catch is that I cannot access these features on my Nokia E61 using the push mail client. Well, maybe it's time to contemplate a shift to an Android-powered phone...