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Google’s Gmail Grows Up-What You Are Missing Out On?

by Miles Austin

Google’s Gmail Grows Up-What You Are Missing Out On?

I wrote a post over a year ago titled “Gmail-Most Powerful Web Tool in the World” in which I laid out my argument that a Gmail account provides not only a functional, cross-platform email solution, but more importantly a key to the rest of the Google toolset.  Since that post, Google has continued their experimentation, innovation and acquisitions, increasing the capabilities and value of Gmail exponentially.

Gmail new features graphic

Here is a brief rundown of 26 new features now available to those with a Gmail account:

  1. Gmail is getting a cleaner, more modern look over the next few months:  For a sneak peek at some of these changes, check out the “Preview” and “Preview (Dense)” themes on the Themes tab under Settings.
  2. New languages for Gmail on iPhone and Android:  Now you can point your phone’s browser to gmail.com and get Gmail in 44 languages, complete with label support, an outbox for messages composed while offline, the ability to mute messages, and more. Watch the video.
  3. Get through your email faster with Priority Inbox:  Email is great, except when there’s too much of it. Priority Inbox automatically identifies your important messages and separates them out from everything else, so you can focus on what really matters.
  4. Make phone calls from Gmail:  Call any phone in the US and Canada for free and at insanely low rates internationally — right from inside Gmail. Make sure you have the voice and video chat plugin, then click “Call phone” at the top of your chat roster. This feature is only available in the US at this time.
  5.  A new look for Gmail and updates to Contacts:  We’ve pruned our pixels and made it easier to get to Contacts and Tasks. Once in Contacts, you can now sort by last name and add custom labels for phone numbers and other fields — two top requested features.
  6. Google Buzz in Gmail:  Share updates, photos, videos and more right inside of Gmail. Start conversations about the things you find interesting. Learn more at buzz.google.com
  7. Gmail now even more secure: HTTPS by default:  HTTPS encryption keeps your mail secure as it travels between your web browser and Gmail servers, so someone sharing your favorite coffee shop’s public wifi can’t maliciously read it. Banks and credit card companies use this same protocol to keep your online accounts safe. To protect your Gmail account, we’ve turned on the option to “always use HTTPS” for everyone. This added layer of security can make Gmail slower, so if you don’t use unencrypted wireless connections, you can choose to disable this option in your account Settings.
  8. More storage for less money:  If you need more space for your email and photos, you can now buy 20 gigabytes of storage for only $5 a year. Extra storage is shared between Gmail and Picasa Web Albums and acts as an overflow if you use up your free storage.
  9. New in Labs: “Got the wrong Bob?” and “Don’t forget Bob”:  Ever included Bob (your boss) instead of Bob (your friend) on an email by accident? Oops! Turn on “Got the wrong Bob?” and Gmail will check if you meant to include Bob Smith rather than Bob Jones based on the groups of people you email most often. With “Don’t forget Bob,” you can start composing an email to a group of people, and Gmail will suggest other contacts you might want to include. Check out these experimental features and more on the Labs tab under Settings.
  10. Four more themes:  Make Gmail look like a calm patch of grass or an old school video game. Can’t decide? Choose “Random” and cycle through a different theme each day. Check out all available themes from the Themes tab under Settings.
  11. Message translation:  Turn on “Message translation” from the Labs tab under Settings, and whenever you receive an email in a language other than your own, Gmail will automatically translate it into a language you can understand with just one click.
  12. Tasks: the first graduate of Gmail Labs:  Available in Gmail, Google Calendar, iGoogle and on your mobile phone, Tasks is the simple to-do list that’s with you everywhere you go. Click “Tasks” above your chat list to get started (no need to turn it on from the Labs tab anymore).
  13.  Drag and drop labels:  You can now drag labels onto messages and messages into labels, just like folders. The labels you use most often are easier to access right above your chat list. The rest are hidden but still accessible under “more.” Customize which labels you see from the Labels tab under Settings.
  14. YouTube, Picasa, Flickr, and Yelp previews:  Instead of just links, see previews of photos, videos, and reviews right in your email. Turn on these and other experimental features from the Labs tab under Settings.
  15.  Undo send:  Oops, hit “Send” too soon? Give yourself a grace period of a few seconds to cancel sending, then edit your message before sending again. Turn it on from the Labs tab under Settings.
  16. Tasks mobile:  Take your to-do list everywhere you go. Just go to gmail.com/tasks from your mobile browser.
  17. Offline:  Make Gmail work even when you’re not connected to the internet. Turn on offline access from the Labs tab under Settings.
  18.  Labels: auto-complete and “move to”:  The buttons and menus at the top of your inbox look a bit different: there’s a new “Labels” button that makes labeling messages even easier. Turn on keyboard shortcuts and hit “L” to bring up your labels, and auto-complete will take it from there. Use the “Move to” button to label and archive in just one step — just like you would with a folder.
  19. Fast PDF previews:  Now you can preview PDFs right in your browser without waiting for them to download and open in another application. Just click the “View” link next to any .pdf attachments you receive.
  20. Tasks:  Keep track of what you need to do with a lightweight task list right inside of Gmail. Just click and type to add new tasks, convert emails into tasks, and (most satisfyingly) check them off as you’re done. Once you turn on this Labs feature, look for the Tasks link to the left of your inbox under Contacts. Turn on tasks and more from the Labs tab under Settings.
  21. Text Messaging in Chat:  Send SMS text messages right from Gmail. You chat from your comfy computer and reach your friends on the go; they get your messages as texts and can peck out replies on their little keyboards. Turn on SMS text messaging and more from the Labs tab under Settings.
  22. Talk face to face with Gmail voice and video chat:  See and hear teammates, vendors and customers right from within Gmail. All you need is a webcam and a small download that takes seconds to install.
  23. Gmail on Android:  Gmail is now available on the world’s first Android-powered phone, the T-Mobile G1. All of the features you love about Gmail on your computer, plus real time push email so you never need to refresh your inbox.
  24. Gmail for mobile 2.0:  Save multiple mobile drafts, compose and read recent email offline, use new shortcut keys and more. Download Gmail for mobile 2.0 for your BlackBerry by going to m.google.com/mail in your mobile browser.
  25. Group Chat:  Chat with multiple people without multiple windows open. To start a group chat, click ‘Group Chat’ from the ‘Options’ menu when chatting.
  26. Free IMAP:  Sync your inbox across devised instantly and automatically.  Whether you read or write your email on your phone of on your desktop, changes you make to Gmail will be seen from anywhere you access your inbox.
You can continue to avoid getting yourself a Gmail account for one of many reasons that people come up with.  My only question is why?
Thanks to Google for doing a commendable job of communicating these updates, new features and capabilities.  My best source of these new capabilities is always Google Labs.
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