Google Listens Again

Google is actually a big reader of the Zappable blog, as evidenced by all the Googlebot visits to my site.~ This helps Google figure out what features to develop for their products.   In the past, Gmail only took one week to implement my suggestions, but this time they took a bit longer. Seven months ago, I posted some Suggestions for Improving Google Products, and Google finally got around to implementing an important one. In June they announced offline Google Docs editing, and they now announced an update to Gmail: A new compose box.  Google’s explanation of the new feature even sounds similar to Zappable’s suggestion:

There are many different tasks people switch between while using email, i.e reading, writing and searching. For example I might be writing an email to someone, and realize I need to do an email search to check a previous email I sent. Gmail should allow people to do these different tasks within one Gmail tab so they do not need to  perform these 3 steps each time: create a new tab, go to Gmail.com, and then go to the task they want. [Zappable]

 

How many times have you been writing an email and had to reference something in another message? Saving a draft, opening the old email, and then reopening your draft wastes valuable minutes. The new compose pops up in a window, just like chats (only larger). This makes it easy to reference any other emails without ever having to close your draft. You can even do a search or keep an eye on new mail as it comes in. [Gmail Blog]

Suggestions for Improving Google Products

Since Gmail “listened” to my suggestions last time, I figured I would write some more ideas for improving popular Google products:

Gmail –  Email is not just another open tab in someone’s browser, but a basic function of the internet. There are many different tasks people switch between while using email, i.e reading, writing and searching. For example I might be writing an email to someone, and realize I need to do an email search to check a previous email I sent. Gmail should allow people to do these different tasks within one Gmail tab so they do not need to  perform these 3 steps each time: create a new tab, go to Gmail.com, and then go to the task they want. At the very least, they should  allow people to perform a search or compose a new email in a new tab, so they don’t need to wait for Gmail.com to load before doing what they want.

In the meantime, in Chrome, I can search my Gmail from Chrome’s address bar, and I created a bookmark of  the “compose email” page, so I don’t need to wait for Gmail.com to load.

Calendar – Similarly, in Google Calendar, it would be nice if you could do everything from the main page. While one can create an event and set the time without going to a new page, it requires an additional click and page load to edit the event details. It would be nice if that could also be done in the same step as adding en event.

Also, the calendar view is restricted to the various styles of traditional dead-tree calendars. However, at the end of a month, most people probably want to see the beginning of the next month rather than the previous 3 weeks. The calendar should allow other weeks to be shown at the top besides the first week in the month. It should also allow one to specify how many weeks they want displayed.

Docs – Speaking of dead-trees, Docs should also let one switch off “page-view” mode. If Desktop Word has a “web layout”, shouldn’t online Google Docs?  While they let one get rid of the large space between pages, it would be convenient to be able to resize the view to any size, not just the width of a page.

To compete well with Word, I think they will need to provide full offline access, not just view-only mode. Most people don’t use the various complexities in Word, so that feature should be enough. (They already offer arguably better sharing and collaboration features.)

Chrome – One thing I miss from Chrome that used to exist on Firefox is ironically the Google Toolbar. One of the main features I liked was the ability to click on Google search keywords to find them in a web result. Chrome has a different option here, but it doesn’t let you choose when to view it, so it often fails to show up or just gets in the way. To find a keyword, there’s always ctrl-F, but then you have to retype (or paste) the word you’re looking for.

Another thing I missed from Firefox was the Smart Bar, which was able to suggest the most-visited websites right when I start typing them. A reader pointed out that this can be enabled in Chrome by making sure your Google account is connected to Chrome in settings. (I hadn’t noticed that it had become disconnected when I changed my password a few months ago.)

Although these are mostly minor points, it would be nice if Google implemented some of these features. Maybe I’ll mention it to them…

Tip of The Day

You know how annoying it is when you paste something into Gmail and it keeps the weird formatting? I finally pulled out the Google and discovered that in Chrome you can just press Ctrl-Shift-V to paste something just as text.

http://chrome.blogspot.com/2010/09/tip-just-text-please.html

Update:
If you already pasted the text into Gmail and you want to remove formatting, click the “remove formatting” button on the top right (though it won’t change the font). (Hat-tip:Lifehacker)

Things Gmail has Fixed

OK, I’m impressed. About a week ago, I suggested a couple of things Gmail should fix. The next day they came out with an appscript that did something similar to one suggestion. And now they’ve come out with my main request – a “Preview Pane“:

When I check my email, I often rely on the message snippets to figure out which messages to open first. Sometimes, though, I want to see more than snippets, which is why I’m happy to announce that you can now preview messages in your inbox using a new feature in Gmail Labs called Preview Pane.

That means people can now just click on their important emails without having to constantly return to their inbox. Based on they’re record so far, I predict they’ll soon come out with faster Gmail and better multi-send features.

Things Gmail should Fix

Microsoft Hotmail and Outlook allow the user to view both his inbox and specific emails at the same time. This is very useful if you don't want to view every email in your inbox, but just click on the important ones. On Gmail, you either have to click through every email or go back to the inbox each time, which takes too long. 
Which brings up second issue – Speed. Gmail often takes too long to do things. Maybe its because of all the labs and stuff I have enabled, but Google is supposed to be faster than this. 
There are other basic abilities Gmail should add, such as better multi-send features,  better formatting options and more. There are also random features that could be useful, such as "Deal-with-this-email-later" option, but that could be for another post.