Friday, November 9, 2007

Gmail Updates

I was busy adding a comment to Tim's post on the latest Gmail updates, however, it started getting lengthy so I decided to swipe it as a dedicated post and add more ramble while I'm at it.

If you haven't heard about it, Gmail has recently gone some updates which may at first be unnoticeable to the average user, but when you delve deeper are actually pretty major. Definitely the most visually noticeable update is the completely redesigned contacts manager (screenshot below). Tim was one of the first to receive the updates (Google love doing gradually pushing out their Gmail updates).

It seems there was a big push on Wednesday as most people I know got the updates. Unfortunately my Google Apps account has not been updated, so I'm not fully experiencing it yet although I have fiddled with it on my old Gmail account. I haven't heard any news about what's happening with Google Apps as we usually get updates at randomly different times.

If you pay close attention you can see (even without viewing the source) that this is a major overhaul of the core of Gmail. Notice how the URL is dependant on the page you are viewing, unlike the old version where every page was "". This allows for the back/forward buttons to work as well as bookmarking of pages, which I can only imagine was quite a feat considering the use of AJAX. Also, notice how the list of emails is displayed as the page loads as opposed to the old version where you had to wait for the full page to load. The pre-fetching of mail is also a dream, especially for us in South Africa with terrible latencies. All we need now is the faster rendering in Firefox 3 and Gmail will become superb.

One thing I'm confused by is why they chose to redesign the "More actions..." drop-down list. It almost looks out of place now. The same is evident in the contacts manager (see above) where the form elements are all of a design unique to Gmail. What about the latest push in Firefox 3 to use native form elements? The new style mixed amongst the native style could look rather odd using certain native styles.

To finish up, let me just add something that I've known for quite some time, but that a friend asked me to mention due to him only recently discovering this. When you register a username with Gmail a typical choice is ., e.g. joe.bloggs. So you tell everyone your email address is However, if someone sends to (without the .) you will also receive the email. This holds true for any number of .'s added or removed as Gmail strips all .'s before sending it off. So I could send an email to and Joe Bloggs will still receive it. Additionally, anything after a + is also ignored, including the the + itself. This is useful for automatic filtering -- you sign-up to the ABC mailing list with the address and you can easily create a filter based on the to: address.

In closing, a question. Are these updates the new version Garett Rogers was referring to in this post? Or was this a dupe by Google to kill the rumours? I certainly find it odd that the translation phase that started the rumour was "Newer Version" and that they chose to add the option to switch between the new and old version. Although they are thorough changes and they may have offered this in the event of the new version being buggy, although I would have thought they would rather offer this for more visual changes that some people might not prefer.


  1. There are some things that I do like about the update (like the hovering gmail profile if you point your cursor to the email address), but I haven't found it to be a major change and in fact, I am not sure I like most of the new changes.

  2. Assuming you have an uber Internet connection being in Europe you wouldn't notice the speed improvements as much as we do here. Believe me, they are pretty major!