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To the envy of developers everywhere, Google Software Engineers are granted what they call their “20% time.” As a result, Google coders get 20% of their working time to work on projects that the developers select away from management approval. Many well-known Google projects have resulted from 20% time, showing that the effort benefits the company as well.
Gmail, one of WWD’s favorite web based utilities, has been put into the spotlight as Google opened the door on Gmail Labs. This section of Gmail’s website will house new “beta” add-ins and features in an effort to gather feedback from users. To get to Gmail Labs, inside your Gmail settings pane, click on the Labs tab. Note: GMail is still rolling Labs out to users. If your Gmail doesn’t have it yet, check back a little later. It appears that this is only available to @gmail.com email addresses and not Google Apps addresses.
Anything web worker useful here? Let’s take a look.
To break down the features, I’ll divide them up into useful and fun categories:
Quick Links: This can be a shortcut to any page in Gmail. When I first saw this feature, I didn’t see at as being any different from a Label. However, do you have a custom search you do on a regular basis? Save it as a Quick Link. For example, if you want to see all the message from May 2008 with the keyword “Invoice” – you can now save it as a Quick Link for quick future access.
Custom Date Format: Outside of the United States, a date of 1/31/2008 might look odd. Save your dates to show the date first or alternatively, turn Gmail’s clock into a 24-hour clock if you’re used to this formatting.
Superstars: Have you ever want to star an item, but have it be a different from all the other messages you already starred? With Superstars, you can have additional star icons to display content with. Use one icon for work contacts, one for family, one for action items and so on.
Email Addict: if you spend way too much time on your email and in chat, use Email Addict to have the system force you to take a walk, make a phone call or otherwise reach some work/life balance.
Hide Unread Counts: if you are depressed by the unread count of email being a constant reminder of how much work you have lying ahead, hide the counter with this Labs add on.
Mouse Gestures: some computer users love using mouse gestures to navigate around their software applications. For instance, you can hold the right click button and move the mouse to the left to go to a prior conversation, or move the mouse up to go to the inbox. While not for everyone, mouse gestures might be a key way you like to move around within Gmail.
What are your impressions – are there some new features in Gmail labs that you feel now you couldn’t do with out?