I love Gmail. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: I think Gmail is absolutely the best email client out there, bar none. I’ve tried most of them, frankly more than I’m proud of, but I I always came back to Gmail. Especially once Gmail started to get serious about gadgets and Labs features, it blew all other clients out of the water.
As Gmail’s getting bigger and bigger, there are more and more gadgets popping up – little applications that live in the sidebar of Gmail, and add tons of functionality to Gmail and the rest of your Web life. Some are made by Google, and an increasingly large number are not; more and more people are realizing how useful these gadgets can be, and third-parties are starting to build them for Gmail.
Social networks, where many of us spend a good deal of time, are no exception. There has recently cropped up a number of social networking-based Gmail gadgets, letting you manage everything from Facebook to Twitter to MySpace right from within Gmail. Here are the best three I’ve seen:
Social Bookmark Gadgets
Okay, I lied. This one’s two gadgets, both doing essentially the same thing. One, from Digg, lets you quickly see what’s popular on Digg, either by category or in total. You can also use your username to find out what your friends are Digging – awesome for being ahead of the Digg curve.
The other social bookmarking gadget is from Delicious, the popular social bookmarking service. The gadget lets you either manage your own bookmarks, or see the popular bookmarks on Delicious from around the Web. Delicious’ popular bookmarks acts as its own version of Digg, and is a great spot to find cool new things to check out – not to mention it’s in Gmail!
Seriously, these application names are awful. But, as with the TwitterGadget, the Facebook Gadget is pretty great. The gadget lets you receive Facebook notifications (friend requests, wall posts, etc.), as well as see your friends’ latest updates and photos. You can even search from within the gadget, and Facebook opens on a new page for you.
As with most Facebook applications other than Facebook, it’s not terribly full-featured (it’s tough – Facebook does a LOT), but it does a great job of keeping you on top of Facebook without having to constantly have the page open.
There’s no website to speak of for this one, only the gadget URL. We’ll get to instructions on how to add it in a second.
Friendfeed, as some have said, is “the coolest application no one uses.” Numbers say otherwise, and given how cool FriendFeed is, it may be headed for great things. With the Friendfeed Gadget for Gmail, you’ll be able to see updates from all your friends on FriendFeed, all in one place. The neat thing about FriendFeed is that it aggregates information from a bunch of other sites, so it’s almost like having an RSS reader, a Twitter Stream, and an IM network all in one.
You can’t, sadly, update FriendFeed from within Gmail. You can, however, read all your friends’ updates, follow links, and stay constantly updated right from within Gmail.
To install any of these gadgets, click the Labs icon in Gmail (the green beaker at the top right). Make sure the radio button “Enable” is selected next to “Add Any Gadget By URL.” Then, at the top of the Labs page, click “Gadgets.” Then, add one or all of these URLS to enable the various gadgets:
Delicious Gadget: http://www.labpixies.com/campaigns/delicious/delicious.xml
FriendFeed Gadget: http://friendfeed.com/embed/googlegadget/spec
Click “Add,” then go back to your Inbox. In your Gmail sidebar, you’ll see the gadgets! Log in as needed, and get to socializing!
Many people leave their email open all day – I know I do. With these gadgets, Gmail’s getting one step closer to being the only page I need open all day.
What’s your favorite Gmail gadget?