Posted:


We get a lot of great feedback about how Gmail helps you be more efficient, keep in touch with family and friends, and get work done. We’ve saved you from forgetting attachments and made sure that you got the right Bob. Over the years, adding countless features to Gmail has made it an increasingly powerful communication hub, but along the way the interface has also become more cluttered and complex.

That’s one of the reasons we’re embarking on a series of interface updates to help strip out unnecessary clutter and make Gmail as beautiful as it is powerful. This is part of a Google-wide effort to bring you an experience that’s more focused, elastic, and effortless across all of our products. The changes are not going to happen all at once. We know that you love and care about Gmail as much as we do, and we’ll be working on these upgrades gradually over the next few months to allow plenty of time to understand and incorporate your feedback into the evolving design.

We’re kicking things off with two new themes for you to try out as a sort of sneak peek at what we’re up to. Starting today, you’ll see the “Preview” and “Preview (Dense)” themes in the Themes tab in Gmail Settings. Why two themes? Our new interface will eventually expand dynamically to accommodate different screen sizes and user preferences, but until then you can pick the information density that you prefer.

Here’s what one of the new themes currently looks like:



And in conversation view:


Click the images above to see larger versions.

If you poke around you’ll hopefully find a lot to like and a much cleaner, modern look but also few rough edges. In particular, some Labs features may look a little strange in the new themes. We plan to fix these issues as we roll out changes in the coming months. You can also expect some updated themes that embody the same design principles but are better suited to working in a dark environment, use a different color palette, or include the illustrations that we know many of you love to see around your inbox.

Look out for these and other new features over the next few months. In the meantime, try out the new themes as a preview of the future of Gmail and let us know what you think.

P.S. Like Gmail, Google Calendar is also getting a new look. You’ll see it automatically within the next few days so there’s no need to turn it on, and we’ll also continue to make improvements there in the coming months. Details about the current changes to Calendar can be found in the Calendar help center.

Posted:


I recently received an email from what looked like my bank saying I should update my account, but it looked a little weird. I clicked on the “show details” link and quickly learned it wasn’t from my bank after all; instead of being sent from First National Bank’s real email address, this message originated from a random South African domain. If I hadn’t viewed these details, I could have been tricked — it wasn’t entirely obvious that this email was a fake.



Phishing messages are a form of spam that attempt to deceive recipients in order to gain access to their personal information. Starting today, Gmail will automatically display more information about the origin of certain messages you receive so you can be better informed and protect yourself from getting tricked. If someone fakes a message from a sender that you trust, like your bank, you can more easily see that the message is not really from where it says it’s from.

Whenever you receive a message from someone who isn’t already in your Gmail contacts, the header will now show the sender’s email address like this:



Websites sometimes send emails on behalf of someone, like when your friend Mike sends you an article from abc.com using one of the site’s “Share this story” links. Gmail will now show this information more prominently:



Gmail will also automatically detect suspicious messages and display a warning when it looks like someone may have spoofed a Gmail address (we do this by evaluating the message’s authentication data).



If you determine that an email is a phishing attempt, please let us know by reporting it (you can always do this by clicking the down arrow next to “Reply” at the top-right of the message and selecting “Report phishing”).

To learn more about how to avoid phishing scams, check out these previous posts:
How to steer clear of money scams
How to avoid getting hooked
Ensuring your information is safe online
Fighting phishing with eBay and PayPal
New in Labs: The super-trustworthy, anti-phishing key

Update (6/29/11): We received the following message from FNB, the real bank that was spoofed in the sample phishing message above: "FNB, or any South African bank for that matter, will never ask you to update your banking details via email. All such emails should be treated as spam. Please log any such scams with our FNB Fraud Team at 087 575 0011 or risk.online@fnb.co.za."

Posted:


There is a powerful but little known Gmail feature that lives in Labs called “Add any gadget by URL.” Once you turn it on, you can add iGoogle gadgets (or any gadget specified by an .xml file) to the side of your Gmail account. While most of these gadgets are built by third-parties and not owned or maintained by Google, they can be super handy.

To install any of these gadgets, follow those steps:
1) From your Gmail account, go to the Labs tab of Gmail Settings.
2) Look for the Lab “Add any gadget by URL.” Enable it, then click “Save changes.”
3) Go to the new “Gadgets” tab under “Settings” and add the relevant .xml address.

Here’s a list of a ten I’ve found worth trying out:

Wikipedia
Look for a specific query right from Gmail.
http://www.google.com/ig/modules/wikipedia.xml


Google Calculator
Make some quick calculations while typing an email.
http://calebegg.com/calc.xml


Note
Add a sticky note to the corner of your Gmail account.
http://www.google.com/ig/modules/sticky.xml


Remember the Milk
If you’re a fan of this task management system, accessing all your “Remember the milk” notes from right within Gmail can be super handy.
http://www.rememberthemilk.com/services/modules/gmail/rtm.xml


PolyClock
Gives you the time of day for any place in the world.
http://gad.getpla.net/poly/clock.xml


Currency Converter
A real time currency converter.
http://helloworld123---.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/currency-converter.xml


bit.ly URL shortener
Lets you shorten URLs in a single click.
http://hosting.gmodules.com/ig/gadgets/file/107368512201818821991/bitly-shortener.xml


Chuck Norris fact generator
Displays a different “Chuck Norris fact” every day of the year. http://marsupialmusic.net/stu/scripts/chucknorris.xml


Finally, you might be familiar with the last two gadgets, since they are also available as individual Gmail Labs:

Google Calendar
Displays your Google Calendar agenda right from Gmail.
http://www.google.com/ig/modules/calendar.xml


Google Docs
Gives you quick access to your most recent documents.
www.google.com/ig/modules/docs.xml


You can find lots of other gadgets optimized for iGoogle on this page, and many of them work well in Gmail, too.

Posted:


Today is Father’s Day in many countries around the world, so whether your dad lives across the street, across the country or across the ocean, it’s a good day to let him know you’re thinking about him. Of course, email is a simple, quick way to check in with your old man, but it’s just as easy — and maybe even more meaningful — to call him right from Gmail.

If you’re in the U.S., you can use Gmail to make free domestic calls and calls to Canada. If your dad lives abroad, we have some of the best rates around, like two cents per minute to Australia, Argentina, France and many other parts of the world. (Unfortunately, those of you outside the U.S. will still have to phone Dad the old-fashioned way.)

And in case you don’t read this post in time, we've added a small note in the Gmail chat roster, right under the “Call phone” link, to remind you to give him a ring.



Happy Father’s Day from Gmail!

Posted:


They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and people certainly like to spice up their emails with images. A while back, Gmail started making this easier by letting you drop images from your desktop right into the compose window.

Now, when you’re running the latest version of Google Chrome, you can paste images right from your clipboard too. So if you copy an image from the web or another email, you can paste it right into your message. This is especially handy for passing around screenshots — you don’t have to save the files any more (I’ve been using Command-Control-Shift-4 on my Mac to save screenshots directly to the clipboard). While this currently only works in Chrome, we hope to enable it on other browsers soon.

Posted:


In this edition of “Faces of Gmail,” we’ll introduce you to Hareesh Nagarajan who balances managing datacenters with improving his golf game.



What’s your role on the Gmail team?
I am the tech lead for part of Gmail’s backend infrastructure. Gmail has lots of datacenters to support hundreds of millions of users. We try to balance out these users in a way that will ensure that a good experience and run our datacenters at maximum efficiency. You could say that we like having our cake and eating it too: the software we’ve written tries to come up with a fine balance between keeping both our users and our datacenters happy.

What did you do before joining Google?
Google is my first full-time gig. Before Google, I went to graduate school at the University of Illinois at Chicago where I lived above a piano bar. Before Chicago, I went to college in Bangalore. I wrote a bunch of software that no one uses (including me!). I did give my creations memorable names though: I built a text editor called “Save Trees,” an instant chat messenger called ionicChat (after the ionic bond in chemistry), and an assembler called “miASMa.” I was also active in the local quizzing circuit. I think I raked up about 40,000 INR in prize money in those four years.

What do you do when you’re not working on Gmail?
I’ve been playing golf for nearly two years now. I’m not very good, but I’ve been seeing improvements in my game. Since I like data and statistics, I try and collect everything that I can when I’m playing. The data I’ve collected so far says that I’ve pared or bogey one in three holes in 2010, but so far in 2011 I’ve improved to one in two holes. Hopefully there are more big improvements to come. Golf is a hard game: errors propagate. I’ve tried to analyze why tennis has fewer unique winners than golf on my blog. Apart from golf and occasional blogging, I also like writing software (in a few hours) that empowers people. For example, I built pravaas.org to provide high quality mentorship and advice to any student for free, and I built tweetandbeat.com to track real time updates for the keyword cancer. You can follow my updates and my photos from my phone on twitter.com/hnag.



How do you get your workday started?
I come in at about 10:00 in the morning. I check system dashboards to make sure that Gmail users are happy, that our datacenters are running cool, and that I haven’t broken anything from the previous day. I usually do all this while eating cereal. I buy cereal boxes (Kashi Autumn Wheat) by the dozen from Amazon. Folks who enter my cubicle at the start of my cereal cycle are shocked to find 12 boxes of cereal right next to my desk and ask, “Are you going to eat all that cereal?” to which I say, “Well yes, would you like some?”.

Photos by Cody Bratt, Google Talk team

Posted:


Google Calendar has become indispensable for organizing my own time and sharing my schedule with friends and coworkers. But what about letting others know about my preferred availability? Likewise, when I look at my hairdresser's online calendar, I wonder why I can't just book the open slot instead of remembering to call during regular business hours. Now, with appointment slots in Google Calendar, any individual or business can manage appointment availability online 24/7.

Creating appointment slots

To get started, set up blocks of time you’d like to offer as appointment slots. Simply click anywhere on your calendar and then on "Appointment slots.” From there, create a single block of time or automatically split a larger block of time into smaller appointment slots.


Every Google Calendar has its own personal appointments sign up page; you can embed it on your website or give the URL directly to friends and clients. You can find the URL for your appointment page at the top of the set-up page, which you can access via the Edit details link.


Signing up for an appointment slot

When someone visits your sign up page, their calendar is overlaid for convenience and they can sign up directly for any available appointment slot. When they sign up, Google Calendar conveniently creates a new shared event on both of your calendars.


At Google, many people are already using appointment slots to manage their office hours or even schedule appointments with on-site fitness instructors. We’re starting to roll it out widely today, and appointment slots should be available for everyone within the next few days. I'm pretty excited to tell my hairdresser about it, and I can't wait to see all of you start to use it too.

Posted:


(Cross-posted on the Google Enterprise Blog and the Google Docs Blog.)

For web applications to spring even farther ahead of traditional software, our teams need to make use of new capabilities available in modern browsers. For example, desktop notifications for Gmail and drag-and-drop file upload in Google Docs require advanced browsers that support HTML5. Older browsers just don’t have the chops to provide you with the same high-quality experience.

For this reason, soon Google Apps will only support modern browsers. Beginning August 1st, we’ll support the current and prior major release of Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari on a rolling basis. Each time a new version is released, we’ll begin supporting the update and stop supporting the third-oldest version.

As of August 1st, we will discontinue support for the following browsers and their predecessors: Firefox 3.5, Internet Explorer 7, and Safari 3. In these older browsers you may have trouble using certain features in Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Talk, Google Docs and Google Sites, and eventually these apps may stop working entirely.

So if it’s been a a while since your last update, we encourage you to get the latest version of your favorite browser. There are many to choose from:
As the world moves more to the web, these new browsers are more than just a modern convenience, they are a necessity for what the future holds.

Posted:


Today we’re adding two features that make it easier to customize Google Calendar. First, you can now change your default event length from the standard 30 minute slot. If you frequently create 15 minute meetings, for example, you can now make 15 minutes the default length for all your events. This way, you don’t need to click into the event page to change the duration every time.



You can change the default length of your events from the Calendar settings page. Next to the “Default meeting length” option, choose the length you’d like from the drop-down menu on the right. From there, you can also enable “Speedy meetings,” which automatically shortens events that are 30 minutes or longer to allow you to prep for your next meeting or get to your next appointment if you have a packed schedule.



Second, for those of you who still prefer paper and print your calendar, you can now select a specific date range in the print dialog box. Google Calendar will automatically format your printout for the date range you choose.



We hope you find these new customization options useful. Let us know what you think on Twitter (@googlecalendar) or in the Google Calendar Help Forum.