This has happened to you: you’re reading your email, then you realize you should write someone else about something you just read. You hit “Compose”, only to find that the information you wanted to reference is now off-screen.
You could save the draft and re-search for the email. You could open a new tab, re-open your email and then find it. Or you could remember to copy relevant information before composing the new message.
None of those strategies are necessary, however, because of Gmail’s new compose mode. It’s simple, it’s clean, and it’s a great sign that Google isn’t done improving Gmail yet.
Back in July Google acquired Sparrow, a brilliant email client for Mac and iOS users. Their team joined the Gmail team, and if this is a sign of things to come from that I have to say: everyone wins.
No More Multiple Tabs
Previously, when you hit the “Compose” button, whatever you were looking at was replaced with your new message. The new compose mode, which you can enable now in Gmail, pops up at bottom-right:
Whatever you had open in Gmail before pressing “Compose” remains open – you can browse without closing anything. You can even minimize a conversation you’re composing if you want to get back to it later, or pop it out to another window.
If you use Gmail’s chat function this is all familiar. What’s not is the email-specific functions: at top you can enter who the message is for; the To, CC and BCC fields pop up when you’re using them and go away when you’re not. So does the “From” field, if you’re one of those people who manages multiple email addresses from within Gmail.
At the bottom you’ll find buttons for formatting and other options.
Saving vertical space is an obvious priority here, and you can’t deny: the result looks good. If you’re like me, though, you’re wondering where the features you love disappeared to.
They’re in submenus, as it turns out. An arrow at the bottom-left of the compose window allows you to use canned responses” or switch back to the old compose interface.
Formatting isn’t as big a deal in email as it was in the early, wild-west days of the medium. Some people still like it, however, so Gmail offers a mostly-hidden panel of formatting options at bottom-left:
Attaching is simple: just drag any file to the compose window from your file browser, or click the paperclip icon. The hyperlink function can be found by hovering over the “Plus”.
Of course, when you’re replying to a message you probably want to see it in the context of an ongoing conversation. For this reason Gmail doesn’t pop-out replies. They have simplified the reply look, however:
Traces of Sparrow live here, I think: if your response is quick you only ever see the tools you absolutely need. If you want to add more people to the message, however, you can also do that and all of the above advanced options are also offered.
What Do You Think?
You might react – as I did – with utter horror as you realize your favorite third party extensions no longer work. Don’t worry: they’ll come around. They always do.
Beyond that, however, I want to know what you think of this new way of writing emails. Is Google going mad with power, or did they just make email easier? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, or randomly comment on the economics of Spanish agriculture. Whatever.
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