Gmail decided to update its look again this afternoon. I was greeted with an alert that announced the fact to me but I had already noticed the change before the alert popped up because there are noticeable interface changes.
You can find the full list of changes on the Overview of what’s new in Gmail help page. It was also announced earlier today on the Gmail blog.
So, what’s changed?
The New Look
We’ve pruned our pixels and made it easier to get to Contacts and Tasks.
- Mail, Contacts, and Tasks links have moved to the top left of Gmail.
- Compose mail is now a button rather than a link.
- A smaller header area puts the first message in your inbox about 16 pixels higher on the screen.
I am not a fan of this new look, no matter how minor. It moves the button for Compose mail over to the left column and it changes the ‘Select’ links to a nondescript checkbox drop-down. This seems like a bad UI change to me. Links belong on the left column and this ‘Compose mail’ button sticks out like a sore thumb. The checkbox button doesn’t tell me anything about what I should expect under the drop-down, I was actually surprised when I saw that it was the selection criteria. Now I have to do two clicks to select batches of messages all to save 16 whole pixels! Golly!
Update to Contacts
- Contacts work a lot more like Mail. Keyboard shortcuts now work in Contacts too, and we’ve made selecting and grouping contacts more like selecting and labeling email.
- Sort contacts by last name. Look under More actions for this option.
- Use custom labels for phone numbers and other fields. For example, you can label a phone number as “Vacation home.” Please be aware, ActiveSync for iPhone and Blackberry Sync don’t yet support custom labels so custom labeled numbers/emails/etc. may not appear on your phone.
- Undo. Now, when you make changes to your contacts, you can undo your recent changes.
- Automatic saving. You no longer need to worry about “edit” mode or “view” mode — just edit away and Gmail will save your changes.
- Structured name fields. You can now set name components (i.e. Title, First, Middle, Last and Suffix) explicitly or continue to use the name field as a free form area if you prefer a less structured approach.
- Manual and bulk contact merge. You can now merge contacts from the More actions menu. Just select the contacts you’d like to merge and select Merge contacts from under the More actions menu. Or, to get a list of suggestions for contacts to merge, select Find and merge duplicates.
- The Select All, None, Read, Unread, and Starred links that used to be above your messages are now options in a drop-down menu, next to the Archive button.
You can now sort, merge, or find and merge duplicate contacts from the Contacts page. You select a couple contacts and then you’re able to choose merge or delete from the More Actions drop-down. You can also sort by first or last name from that same menu.
Email addresses can be labelled and saves are changed inline while you edit. You can also undo those changes. This seems pretty nice except ActiveSync and Blackberry Sync don’t support the labels.
The problem with the cloud and Software as a Service remains that the program is changed on their terms and you just have to ride along with the changes or find a new service. This change is minor and my complaints are minor and it’s not that I’m resistant to change, it just seems like these changes were not improvements. Actually, it seems like a move in the opposite direction for the UI. The contacts improvement is good though. Your opinion of the change?