Two Gmail Features I’m Liking

I use Gmail as my email service to mange all things social.  So, if I email subscribe to a blog, follow a mailing list, subscribe to a service, it goes there.  I really wanted the dougpete@gmail.com address but I was slow off the marks and someone else has it.  Oh well.  Them’s the breaks.

For the longest time, managing this account was brutal.  No matter what I’d do, it seems, the number of unread messages continued to pile up.  It’s like the banner on Jenny Luca‘s blog: “Getting Information off the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant”.  I just couldn’t seem to totally manage it.  The best tool that cam along was Mailbox for iPad but I’m not always doing my reading there.  Reading on computer just gives one big queue of messages.  Sure, Google had created the option for a priority mailbox, and that helped with the filtering, but never quite got me to the mythical inbox zero.

Then recently came a makeover to the mailbox.  Somehow, Google is able to make decisions and filter my incoming for me.

Somehow by classifying messages, I now have gained control over my mailbox.  I actually had knocked things down to nothing unread when I started writing.  A screen capture later and you can see that it’s growing…

and growing…

There must be something psychological happening here.  I can open my mail on the computer and actually tackle it all.  I start with Primary where personal email comes and then just work my way across the tabs.  I’ll never go back.  Should you want, you can go into your settings and go back to your Priority Inbox.  I tried it once just to experience nostalgia from last week and it seems so archaic now!

When I step back and really think about the “why” this works, I think it speaks volumes about the modern browsing experience.  Whether I’m using Chrome, Firefox, or Opera Next, I have numerous tabs open.  Rather than a single browsing space, I have a bunch of them.  Each tab, in effect, filters my browsing experience.  The leftmost tab is always open to Hootsuite.  Within Hootsuite, I have a number of columns (tabs, if you will) open at any point in time.  These columns allow me to focus my attention based upon the theme of the column.  Whether it’s News Feed, Mentions, Ontario Educators, Ontario Educators 2, Inbox, Outbox, Keynote Speakers, etc., they’re all devoted to a particular theme.  I don’t know if it’s safe to say that I’m wired now to think in columns or tabs, but whatever it is, it just seems to work.

So, the second feature.

I’m a real fan when a developer does her/his best to focus you on the task when there are so many other distractions.  The “New Compose” window does a terrific job of that.

There’s a couple of really nice features.

First, everything but your new message is darkened so that your message stands out on top.  When I’m writing an email, I don’t need anything else on the screen to distract me.  Unlike the previous Compose which sort of took over the bottom right corner of the screen, I like the clean and functional way the new version gets you right on task.  To make things even better, although it freaked me out the first time I experienced it, once you address your email, it gets hidden to give you even more real estate on the screen for your message.  It’s just another wonderful usability feature.

Gmail certainly has been an outstanding success in the Google set of products.  It’s good to see that it’s still not “finished” and that new ways to make us more productive around the seemingly simple task of managing email.

3 Comments

  1. Pingback: OTR Links 07/28/2013 | doug --- off the record

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