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As a Google engineer, I get a 24-inch widescreen monitor and a huge amount of email. I built a Labs feature to use the former to mitigate the latter.

In my work email, I have painfully long lists in both Labels and Chat, so I used to scroll constantly in order to see my Labels. Now, with Right-side Labels enabled, I can see both my Labels and my Chat buddies at the same time, with one on the left and one on the right. (This is where that widescreen comes in handy.) Some of my coworkers preferred to move Chat instead of Labels, so I made that an option as well.

FYI: these Labs aren't currently compatible with the "Navbar drag and drop" Lab that allows you to drag and rearrange Chat and Labels on the left side.

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I spent this last summer as many of the Gmail engineers do, armed with a cup of coffee or a can of soda, poring through lines of code, winding my way through the code base, and every once in a while taking a glance at the big whiteboard of feature ideas that the team maintains. When I had some spare time on my hands, I picked up a few of the ideas from that list and got started turning them into Labs features.

The first one I worked on was something we had been experimenting with a few years ago here inside Google but had never launched -- a Forgotten Attachment Detector. Many of us have experienced the embarrassment of having sent a message without attaching the file we said we were going to attach. Turn on the Forgotten Attachment Detector in Labs, and you'll get an alert if you mention attaching a file but forget to do so.

My fellow intern Mark (the same guy who brought you Custom Label Colors) wrote this next one: the Mark as Read button. If you're tired of digging into the "More actions" menu every time you want to mark unread messages as read, just turn on this Labs feature to add a "Mark as read" button to the top of your inbox.

My summer on the Gmail team is over, and I'm back in school at Berkeley. That means I'm also back to being an avid Gmail user rather than one of its developers, but I remain ever excited about all of the new Gmail features -- both Labs and non-Labs -- that were in development while I was interning, and that we'll soon all be able to use.

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We Gmail developers are arguably among the most demanding of Gmail's users. So in addition to the feedback we get from all of you, a lot of the ideas for new features come from our own frustrations and experiences. We send and receive a lot of mail, and we've already started using these Labs features to make replying that much better.

Quote selected text, by Ryan A
Gmail makes it easy to manage long conversations or threads by hiding the text you've seen before. Unfortunately, this means that the people you're communicating with that aren't using Gmail sometimes get annoyed with you for leaving 25 pages of irrelevant conversation in the email. Also, sometimes you just want to reply to one small part of a conversation. Deleting lots of irrelevant text is rather annoying, so this Labs feature should make your life easier. Just highlight the text you want to include in your reply, hit the keyboard shortcut "r" to reply, and the compose template will be just what you selected! Note: This doesn't quite work in Chrome or Safari yet, but it will in a few weeks.

Default 'Reply to all,' by Mark K
When we're working on features for Gmail, the email etiquette on the team is to reply all so everyone involved is kept in the loop. Mark was an intern here this past summer who got frustrated when he'd reply to an email only to realize that he forgot to reply all and had to resend the message. Thus, this Labs feature, which makes reply all your default selection.

Vacation time, by Darick T
While planning my own vacation, I didn't want to worry about composing, starting and stopping my vacation auto-response while I was on vacation. Call me a purist, but that defeats the whole point of being on vacation! So, to make my vacation that much sweeter, I used a bit of my 20% time and whipped up Vacation Time, which lets you compose and schedule your vacation autoresponse while you're planning your vacation, rather than while you're on vacation. And scheduling is as easy as it is in Google Calendar.

So go on, try it, and have a great vacation.

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Since launching our first batch of 13 Gmail Labs features, we've received a lot of suggestions for more experimental features you'd like to see -- plus, we've had some of our own ideas. Today, there's a new batch of labs features to play with. If you like using Labels, we hope you like these.

Custom label colors, by Mark K



If the 24 standard color choices aren't your thing, enable this feature to create your own custom color combinations. Instead of choosing one of the standard colors from the label drop-down menu, click "Add custom colors," pick your palette, hit "Apply," and enjoy.









Go to label keyboard shortcut, by Bruce D

Never have to click on a label again. Instead, enable keyboard shortcuts and press "g" then "l" to display the "Go to label" pop-up. Start typing, and your labels will be filtered as you go. You can use the arrow keys to select a label and hit "Enter" to select one.


Powertip: The pop-up searches each word in your labels for a match, so if you have multiple labels with the same prefix, simply add a space, dash or slash after the prefix and search for the second word. For example, typing "labs" will display labels named "gmail labs," "gmail-labs," or "gmail/labs" but won't display "gmaillabs."


Navbar drag and drop, by Anatol P


If Labels are more important to you than your Contacts, you can switch them around with this Labs feature, which allows you to reorder the items in Gmail's lefthand navigation bar using drag and drop.



To turn on these Labs features and more, just go to the Labs tab under Settings. Keep posting feedback on the forums because we're reading what you have to say!

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Last October, we launched a rewritten code base for the Gmail user interface to Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox 2 users. Since then, we've added support for Safari 3 and Firefox 3 and improved performance in other browsers. This new code base included major performance improvements and provided us with a solid foundation for launching new features such as colored labels, group chat and rich emoticons, invisible mode, AIM integration, Gmail Labs, an updated contact manager, and remote sign out.

The newest version of Gmail pushes modern browser technology to the limit, so initially we weren't able to make it available to those of you who use IE6. Because it was released way back in 2001, IE6 wasn't able to handle the complexity of the new code in a way that met our performance and stability goals. Over the last few months, we've been working with the IE engineers at Microsoft to address these issues: they released a critical update to their JavaScript implementation that fixed a performance problem with how the script engine allocates and frees memory. We also made small simplifications to the UI when it runs in IE6 to improve stability. For example, we removed the drop shadow from contact pop-ups and the rounded corners from chat moles, both of which tended to cause problems in IE6.

This week, we've started to roll out Gmail's new code base to IE6 users. If you use IE6 and have the latest IE6 updates from Microsoft installed (or the specific patch that's required), you'll start seeing the features listed above.

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Yesterday, we launched Google Chrome, a new approach to the web browser that comes with a few features that can give you a better Gmail experience:
  • A browser built for speed: Google Chrome features a new JavaScript engine, V8, that has been designed for performance from the ground up, so web applications like Gmail that use the browser to its fullest run lightning fast.

  • More room for your stuff, less browser window: We've removed all the unnecessary clutter from the browser window to give you more room for your favorite applications and websites. If you use an application shortcut (below), you can launch Gmail in its own streamlined window that gives you as much working room as possible, without the URL box or browser toolbar.


  • Application shortcuts: You can create an application shortcut to access Gmail straight from your desktop. Simply go to Gmail while you're using Google Chrome, click the page menu and select 'create application shortcuts.' When you double-click a shortcut icon, it opens in a streamlined window.

  • Crash control: Every tab you use is run independently in Google Chrome, so if one tab crashes, it won't take the tab with your inbox down with it.

Ready to try it out? Download Google Chrome and let us know what you think. (Chrome is currently available for Windows XP with Service Pack 2 or later and Windows Vista. Mac and Linux versions are being developed, so stay tuned.)

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Aside from email, one of the most frequent things I do on my computer is manage my ever-growing digital photo collection. I'm no Annie Leibowitz, but I still enjoy taking and sharing my pictures with others. And this process just got a lot better, especially for people who already use Gmail.

Today, Picasa Web Albums introduced a new "name tags" feature to help you automatically organize your photos based on who's in each picture. Gmail's contact list plays a key role in making name tags work: not only does it help you quickly auto-complete names as you tag the people in your photos, but any new contacts you create in Picasa Web Albums automatically become accessible in Gmail.


Speaking of email and photos: alongside name tags and a shiny new UI, email upload is another new Picasa Web Albums feature. Sending a picture to a web album is now as easy as specifying the album name in the subject, giving you an ideal way to upload photos from your mobile phone. (It's also great for forwarding pictures sent to your Gmail account directly into a web album.)

It's worth noting that the next generation of Picasa software for your PC is available today as a beta, so you can organize, edit, and share all the photos on your home PC. Like earlier versions of Picasa, Picasa 3 integrates directly with Gmail, and allows you to email photos or entire albums with just a click. Of course, Picasa 3 introduces a number of other goodies, too, ranging from a powerful photo retouching tool to fun stuff like improved photo collages and simple video editing.

Check out the Google Photos blog for more information and head to picasaweb.google.com to get started.