Gmail, by far the world’s most popular email service, with 1.4 billion accounts, is getting a major overhaul today. And the service isn’t just getting a makeover; there’s some actually useful stuff in there that formerly was only available to most users through Chrome extensions or paid services.
The aesthetic stuff is a more even and flatter look, bringing Gmail more in line with Google’s Material Design schema. It’s still a much-needed new coat of paint — Gmail hadn’t seen a significant redesign since 2012.
The most helpful addition is the ability to “snooze” emails. Get an important work email at 10:30 p.m. that you don’t want to deal with, but also want to make sure to handle in the morning? Hover over the email and a host of options appear, including the ability to snooze it for nine hours and deal with it in the morning once you’ve got some coffee in you. On the flip side, the new Gmail has a “nudge” feature, which surfaces emails it deems time-sensitive and that you may not have responded to (if you find these more annoying than helpful, you can turn them off).
Also helpful is having a side panel where you can stick things like your Google Calendar or Google Keep. Gmail has gotten wildly better about integrating email and your calendar, but it’s still a hassle to switch back and forth between two tabs when trying to determine when to schedule a coffee or meeting.
Gmail is also importing one of the more useful features from its mobile app, bringing over Smart Replies, which offers up three short prewritten replies based on how you respond to email and the context of the email itself. It’s a feature I personally use a ton — you’d be surprised how many emails you can clear out of your in-box with a quick “Monday sounds good!” or “Sorry, can’t make it!” — and it’s nice to see it make its way over to Gmail’s desktop version.
The mobile app is getting a few updates as well. The app will now only notify you about high-priority emails (i.e., mainly emails from people you actually correspond with on a regular basis), which Google says results in 90 percent fewer notifications on your phone. The app will also automatically help you unsubscribe from newsletters you haven’t opened or read in a while.
There are also a number of security updates. Google says its phishing and scam warnings have gotten more sophisticated thanks to machine learning, and warnings are now a huge red banner instead of a relatively more subtle yellow warning at the top of the page.
More interesting is the ability to have emails and attachments automatically expire after a set amount of time, helpful if you’re sending sensitive information. You can also set permissions on emails, disabling the ability of the receiver to forward, copy, print, or download any email you send. In addition, you can turn on two-factor authentication for particularly sensitive emails, which will require the recipient to enter a code sent via SMS before they can read your email.
For anyone who’s used corporate emails clients like Outlook, a lot of this may sound familiar. There’s a reason for all this; Google’s G Suite has been making an attempt to peel a few enterprise customers away from Microsoft’s Office 365 for years, and the ability to lock down emails makes Google’s pitch to IT managers much stronger.
So how do you get at all this? You may have to wait. While the changes are live today, Google is rolling them out slowly across the Gmail user base. To see if your account has gotten the changes, click the Settings button in your desktop client (it looks like a cog), and if your account is ready to be upgraded, select “Try the new Gmail.” If you don’t see it (it hasn’t hit my personal Gmail account yet), wait a few days while Google continues to roll out changes.