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Seemingly small improvements can make a surprisingly big difference to people who use our products every day. Take Google Calendar, where over the past few months we've made a bunch of little improvements in direct response to feedback from our most active users.

Emailing guests


We've long offered the ability to email meeting attendees, which can be extremely useful for sharing last-minute details or distributing meeting minutes afterward. But it was an all-or-nothing affair -- if you wanted to email only those people who hadn't responded, for example, you needed to manually fiddle with a list of email addresses.


In response, we made several improvements to the email guests dialog. You can now select guests based on their response status or pick-and-choose them individually with checkboxes.

Adding a friend's calendar

Displaying another person's calendar used to be a many-stepped process. It wasn't such a big deal if you only did it occasionally, but many of you do this numerous times a day, especially if you manage co-workers' calendars. It's much easier now: you simply start typing a name in the "Add a friend's calendar" box and we'll match against your address book. Click the name, and the calendar will be added.

Dragging to create new events

Making a new event from the Day or Week view is really easy -- you simply click on the time, drag the duration and enter a name. But if you have a busy calendar (and who doesn't?) you probably bumped into some problems. If an event is already scheduled for that time, there was no way to click and drag without messing up the other events on your calendar. You told us you often worked around this by creating the meeting in an open slot and dragging it to the desired time. Lots of extra work.

Here's proof that little things really do matter -- in this case, just a few pixels. We added a "gutter" to the edge where you can click-and-drag no matter how many events you already have at that time. Here's a before and after:


Flexible reminder times

We got lots of feedback about our event reminders, and particularly the limited number of time choices. One Googler actually asked for the ability to set eight minute reminders. Why eight minutes? He found that 5 minutes wasn't enough time to get to his meetings and 10 minutes was so early he tended to ignore them. Not everyone needs such precision, of course, but everyone deserves more flexibility. As of today, you can now set a reminder for any time between 4 weeks and 5 minutes before your event.
Perhaps big launches and shiny new features get most of the attention, but little things matter too. Even just a few pixels can turn "arrghh!" into "ahhhh!"

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Today we announced that both the Obama and McCain campaigns as well as political contributors from Newsweek to POLITICO are sharing news with Google Reader this election season. You can see their most recently shared items at google.com/powerreaders, or add the feeds from your favorite campaign or journalist to Reader to keep up with newly posted items and comments.



P.S. If you want to follow these political shared news feeds right from within Gmail, check out our post from a couple weeks ago about getting your favorite feeds in Gmail web clips.

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One of our goals at Google is to give everyone the information they want in the language they speak. We've been hard at work making Google products available in as many languages as possible. Recently we launched Google Calendar in eight more languages, bringing our total number of supported languages to 38 (and closing in on Gmail's 50). The new languages are Latvian, Romanian, Filipino/Tagalog, Serbian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Hindi and Indonesian.

To use Google Calendar in your preferred language, just sign in, click Settings in the upper right hand corner and look for Language.

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Many of you had trouble accessing Gmail for a couple of hours this afternoon, and we're really sorry. The issue was caused by a temporary outage in our contacts system that was preventing Gmail from loading properly. Everything should be back to normal by the time you read this.

We heard loud and clear today how much people care about their Gmail accounts. We followed all the emails to our support team and user group, we fielded phone calls from Google Apps customers and friends, and we saw the many Twitter posts. (We also heard from plenty of Googlers, who use Gmail for company email.) We never take for granted the commitment we've made to running an email service that you can count on.

We've identified the source of this issue and fixed it. In addition, as with all issues that affect Gmail and our other services, we're conducting a full review of what went wrong and moving quickly to update our internal systems and procedures accordingly. We don't usually post about problems like this on our blog, but we wanted to make an exception in this case since so many people were impacted. In general, though, if you spot a problem with your Gmail account, please visit the Gmail Help Center and user group, where the Gmail Guides are your fastest source of updates.

Again, we're sorry.

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Gmail web clips display feeds (news headlines, blog posts, or pretty much anything in RSS/Atom format), ads and other information at the top of your inbox. They look like this:


There are some feeds in there by default, so you might be used to seeing headlines from the New York Times or recipes or a word of the day. But if you're not into cooking or already have a sweet vocabulary, you can customize your web clips under the Settings menu.


Just click on the 'Web Clips' tab to see a list of your current subscriptions, browse popular feeds by topic, and select the ones that interest you. You can also add your own URLs to get your favorite blogs and other news right above your inbox.