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I’m a big theater buff, and I always wonder about all the unseen people hard at work backstage, grabbing props, making sure the microphones work, and moving set pieces. Whether you’re into theater or not, we figured you might be interested in hearing about what goes on “behind the scenes” of Gmail. With this in mind, we’re excited to bring you a new series over the coming months called “Faces of Gmail,” which will spotlight the engineers, designers, and other folks who help make Gmail what it is. So here’s our first interviewee: Manu Cornet, the Parisian engineer behind many of your favorite Gmail themes.


What do you do on the Gmail team and what did you do before joining Google?
I’ve worked on the Gmail frontend team for most of my four years at Google. I mostly work on things I can’t really talk about just yet :-). But on the side I do many small user interface-related things such as labs (e.g. I worked on Nested Labels, Message Sneak Peek, and the Unread Message Icon), themes, and various interface improvements. Before Google, I got a master’s in physics (plus some biology) and one in computer science. Then I started a Ph.D. in bioinformatics, but after a year I felt I needed to work on things that would be useful to more people in a shorter time range.

How did themes get started and how did you help develop them?
The idea of making Gmail theme-able had been around for nearly as long as Gmail existed. When I joined the Gmail team, they asked me if I wanted to be part of the first themes team. I said “yes” immediately! Working at Google is already a thrill, but talk about a dream job within a dream job! Making themes may sound easy, but it proved pretty challenging: Gmail has a huge amount of code, this was long before recent evolutions like CSS3, and we obviously had to support all major browsers. Especially for the crazy themes that involved custom borders, drop shadows, and customizations everywhere, like Ninjas, Desk, Shiny, etc. To this day I don’t believe any email client (web-based or not) provides that level of styling and customization. Anyway, people obviously like themes, so I’ve continued to work on more like Marker, High Score, and the ability to choose your own colors. On my personal Gmail account I use Zoozimps — it’s my baby, I drew all these big-nosed characters (they’re kind of self-caricatures).


What are the three Gmail features you wouldn’t be able to live without?
I’m an “inbox zero” kind of guy, so I would say archive (to move things out of my inbox), filters (everything that isn’t addressed to me directly or cc’d to me doesn’t make it to my inbox, but I do take a glance at all unread emails once every day), and conversation view (gathering all messages in a conversation in one place). With so many emails a day I’d go crazy without those.

What do you do when you’re not working on Gmail?
I like to write (I published a few books in France), draw (illustrations and comic strips), and play music (mostly jazz — I published an album back in 2004 but I don’t have as much time as I’d like for that these days).

What would your last meal be?
I think it would be a meal with only desserts: crème brûlée, molten chocolate cake, red fruit tiramisu, floating island, ice cream, etc. Alright I’m hungry now...

Photos by Cody Bratt, Google Talk team

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Switching email accounts can be painful. The idea of losing years of accumulated contacts and messages can sound daunting, to say the least. Luckily, switching to Gmail doesn’t mean you have to start totally fresh.

Back in 2009 we announced tools that let you import mail and contacts from other providers, such as AOL or Hotmail. Today we’re announcing the addition of fourteen more international domains to our list of supported email providers:
  • aol.com.br
  • hotmail.es
  • hotmail.it
  • hotmail.co.jp
  • Kimo.com
  • live.jp
  • yahoo.es
  • yahoo.cn
  • yahoo.com.cn
  • yahoo.com.hk
  • yahoo.com.sg
  • yahoo.com.tw
  • yahoo.co.jp
  • yahoo.it
We’ve also created a site, gmail.com/switch, with basic information and how and why you might want to switch to Gmail. If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’re already a Gmail user, but perhaps this link will be handy for friends and family.


We’re always looking for ways to make Gmail more useful -- both for existing users and new ones -- so, as always, we’d love to hear what you think!

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Using Gmail in Safari on your iPhone gives you access to fast search, conversation view, stars, labels, and more. But it’s sometimes frustrating not knowing whether your email has been sent or whether your phone has a functioning internet connection at all. To address this, we recently introduced the “connection bar.” The connection bar appears at the bottom of the screen when needed to give you the info you want— and then gets out of the way.

The connection bar appears when the app launches and is checking for new mail:


It also appears when your phone is offline, back online and sending, and then again when it finishes sending all messages:


You can see this improvement by visiting gmail.com from your iPhone or iPod Touch’s browser (iOS4 only). Don’t see the new changes yet? Try clearing your cache and refreshing the page. And if you like using Gmail in mobile Safari, get to it faster by tapping the “+” at the bottom of the screen and then “Add to Home Screen.”

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With the ability to call phones built right into Gmail, you no longer have to get out your phone and retype a number anytime someone sends you one in an email or chat message. Starting today, you’ll see that phone numbers appear as links, like this:


Just click the number, and Gmail’s dialpad will pop up, already populated with the number you’re trying to call.


Click “Call” and voilà! Of course, if you don’t already have the voice and video plugin installed, you’ll be prompted to do that first.

You’ll also see a little green phone icon next to numbers in your contacts which you can use to do the same thing.

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People get a lot of email these days. On top of personal messages, there are group mailing lists, social network notifications, credit card statements, newsletters you might have signed up for, and promotional email from a shopping site you used once months ago. Gmail’s filters and labels were invented to help manage the deluge, but while I have about 100 filters that triage and label my incoming mail, most of my friends and family have all their messages in a giant unfiltered inbox.

Last year, we launched Priority Inbox to automatically sort incoming email and help you focus on the messages that matter most. Today, we're launching a complementary feature in Gmail Labs called Smart Labels, which helps you classify and organize your email. Once you turn it on from the Labs tab in Settings, Smart Labels automatically categorizes incoming Bulk, Notification and Forum messages, and labels them as such. “Bulk” mail includes any kind of mass mailing (such as newsletters and promotional email) and gets filtered out of your inbox by default (where you can easily read it later), “Notifications” are messages sent to you directly (like account statements and receipts), and email from group mailing lists gets labeled as “Forums.”


If you already use filters and labels to organize your mail, you may find that you can replace your existing filters with Smart Labels. If you're picky like me and still want to hold on to your current organization system, Smart Labels play nice with other labels and filters too. On the Filters tab under Settings, you'll find that these filters can be edited just like any others. From there, you can also edit your existing filters to avoid having them Smart Labeled or change whether mail in a Smart Label skips your inbox (which you can also do by just clicking on the label, then selecting or unselecting the checkbox in the top right corner).

Labs in Gmail are a great testing ground for experimental features, and we hope Smart Labels help you more effortlessly get through your inbox. If you notice a message that was automatically labeled incorrectly and want to help us troubleshoot, you can report miscategorizations from the drop down menu on each message (in doing so, you’ll donate the full message to our engineers so that we can improve the feature). Give it a try and send us feedback on how we can make it work better for you!