Gmail gets a fresh new look with updated UI

All your comms in one place

Chat and Spaces coming to Gmail to create one, unified view.

When can I see it?

It'll be coming to an inbox near you by 8th February, becoming the default by April and then there's no going back come June.

Google has announced that Gmail is getting a bit of a makeover to integrate other communications apps like Chat and Spaces (the feature previously known as Rooms) into a single, unified view.

I’ve been trying this new layout for some time now, having been signed up to the early alpha releases, so here are my thoughts.

With my home office setup I have a couple of extra screens attached to my Chromebook, so I’d developed a practice of having chat on one screen and mail on another, so I was somewhat reluctant to change this and bring everything into the one screen. The good news is you can still launch Chat as a separate app or browser tab (just go to chat.google.com), so I tried carrying on in my old way for a while.

It was only when I needed to travel and was forced to slim down to a single screen on my Chromebook that the penny dropped and the advantage of the new layout fell into place for me. What I found was that I no longer needed  to keep jumping around from app to app, as emails and chat messages ping in. I can easily see the number of unread items against each icon in the left hand panel and I can hover the mouse over them to get a view of which Chat or Space needs my attention.

Notification avatars appear down in the bottom left corner and I can just hover over those to get a quick glance at the last message without having to completely open it. This is something I appreciate as I’ll sometimes open a chat only to realise it’s a call to action that I can’t deal with right now so I wish I hadn’t opened it!

Email works pretty much the same way it always has, but with the added benefit that if I’m in the Chat or Spaces view I can hover over the Mail icon and see a pull-out view of how many unread emails I have in various labels and I can jump straight to them in one click.

Google has tried a variety of ways over the years to change how people think of email. Who remembers Wave and Inbox for example? But the philosophy now is that Email is so embedded in the way people work that it’s better to embrace that and enhance it rather than try and force a change. So it’s pretty clear that Google has put a lot of thought into this and we see more and more functionality making its way to Gmail and being integrated into the one app that pretty much everyone is guaranteed to open first every day.

Just look at the right hand panel; we now have Contacts, Keep, Calendar and Tasks all available, so bringing Chat, Spaces and Meet into the UI just makes sense.

So how do you try this new experience for yourself?

Well, from February 8th you’ll be able to opt-in, and revert back, via the Gmail settings.

Come April, it will be the default layout for everyone, but you’ll still be able to revert back to the old way of working for a while.

Then around the end of June, there will no longer be any option to revert back to the old view. So my advice is to embrace the change as early as you can and start getting used to things. Like me, you may have some initial reluctance, but you’ll soon find your way around and be more productive than ever before.



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