Category: Gmail | Mar 29, 2011
Posted by Kathleen Chen, Consumer Operations
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
Category: Gmail | Mar 21, 2011
Posted by Jason Toff, Product Marketing Manager
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:
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!
Category: Gmail | Mar 16, 2011
Posted by Kenneth Kwan, Software Engineer
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.”
Category: Gmail | Mar 10, 2011
Posted by Robin Schriebman, Software Engineer
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.
Category: Gmail | Mar 9, 2011
Posted by Stanley Chen, Software Engineer
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!
Category: Gmail | Feb 28, 2011
Posted by Ben Treynor, VP Engineering and Site Reliability Czar (24×7)
Imagine the sinking feeling of logging in to your Gmail account and finding it empty. That’s what happened to 0.02% of Gmail users yesterday, and we’re very sorry. The good news is that email was never lost and we’ve restored access for many of those affected. Though it may take longer than we originally expected, we’re making good progress and things should be back to normal for everyone soon.
I know what some of you are thinking: how could this happen if we have multiple copies of your data, in multiple data centers? Well, in some rare instances software bugs can affect several copies of the data. That’s what happened here. Some copies of mail were deleted, and we’ve been hard at work over the last 30 hours getting it back for the people affected by this issue.
To protect your information from these unusual bugs, we also back it up to tape. Since the tapes are offline, they’re protected from such software bugs. But restoring data from them also takes longer than transferring your requests to another data center, which is why it’s taken us hours to get the email back instead of milliseconds.
So what caused this problem? We released a storage software update that introduced the unexpected bug, which caused 0.02% of Gmail users to temporarily lose access to their email. When we discovered the problem, we immediately stopped the deployment of the new software and reverted to the old version.
As always, we’ll post a detailed incident report outlining what happened to the Apps Status Dashboard, as well as the corrective actions we’re taking to help prevent it from occurring again. If you were affected by this issue, it’s important to note that email sent to you between 6:00 PM PST on February 27 and 2:00 PM PST on February 28 was likely not delivered to your mailbox, and the senders would have received a notification that their messages weren’t delivered.
Thanks for bearing with us as we fix this, and sorry again for the scare.
Update (3/1 12:20 PM PST): Data for the remaining 0.012% of affected users has been successfully restored from tapes and is now being processed. We plan to begin moving data into mailboxes in 2 hours, and in the hours that follow users will regain access to their data. Accounts with more mail will take more time. Thanks for bearing with us.
Category: Gmail | Feb 25, 2011
Posted by Stanley Chen, Software Engineer
Many Gmail power users have elaborate label systems to help organize their mail — some help file and retrieve mail, others help manage their attention.
We created the “Hide read labels” and “Hide Labels from Subjects” labs to help people manage their ever-growing lists of labels. Given the popularity and usefulness of these labs, we’ve decided to graduate them into fully-fledged features. We’ve also made a few improvements to how they work. First, instead of simply hiding all labels from subject lines, you can now choose which labels to show or hide. We also spiffed up and organized the Labels tab in Settings as well as the dropdown menus for each label in the label list.
If you had enabled either Labs feature, your settings should automatically be carried over. If there was a glitch in the matrix, or if you want to change the visibility for a bunch of labels quickly, you can adjust them en masse by going to the Labels tab in Settings.
Category: Gmail | Feb 18, 2011
Posted by: Anil Sabharwal, Product Manager
Cross posted from the Google Docs blog
The Google Docs Viewer is used by millions of people every day to quickly view PDFs, Microsoft Word documents and PowerPoint presentations online. Not only is viewing files in your browser far more secure than downloading and opening them locally, but it also saves time and doesn’t clutter up your hard-drive with unwanted files.
Today we’re excited to launch support for 12 new file types:
- Microsoft Excel (.XLS and .XLSX)
- Microsoft PowerPoint 2007 / 2010 (.PPTX)
- Apple Pages (.PAGES)
- Adobe Illustrator (.AI)
- Adobe Photoshop (.PSD)
- Autodesk AutoCad (.DXF)
- Scalable Vector Graphics (.SVG)
- PostScript (.EPS, .PS)
- TrueType (.TTF)
- XML Paper Specification (.XPS)
Not only does this round out support for the major Microsoft Office file types (we now support DOC, DOCX, PPT, PPTX, XLS and XLSX), but it also adds quick viewing capabilities for many of the most popular and highly-requested document and image types.
In Gmail, these types of attachments will now show a “View” link, and clicking on this link will bring up the Google Docs Viewer.
You can also upload and share these files in Google Docs, so that anyone can view the content using their browser.
And as always, the Google Docs Viewer is available for use on any website, with both a full Chrome and embedded option. More information can be found here.
Category: Gmail | Feb 10, 2011
Posted by Nishit Shah, Product Manager, Google Security
(Cross-posted from the Google Blog)
Has anyone you know ever lost control of an email account and inadvertently sent spam—or worse—to their friends and family? There are plenty of examples (like the classic “Mugged in London” scam) that demonstrate why it’s important to take steps to help secure your activities online. Your Gmail account, your photos, your private documents—if you reuse the same password on multiple sites and one of those sites gets hacked, or your password is conned out of you directly through a phishing scam, it can be used to access some of your most closely-held information.
Most of us are used to entrusting our information to a password, but we know that some of you are looking for something stronger. As we announced to our Google Apps customers a few months ago, we’ve developed an advanced opt-in security feature called 2-step verification that makes your Google Account significantly more secure by helping to verify that you’re the real owner of your account. Now it’s time to offer the same advanced protection to all of our users.
2-step verification requires two independent factors for authentication, much like you might see on your banking website: your password, plus a code obtained using your phone. Over the next few days, you’ll see a new link on your Account Settings page that looks like this:
Take your time to carefully set up 2-step verification—we expect it may take up to 15 minutes to enroll. A user-friendly set-up wizard will guide you through the process, including setting up a backup phone and creating backup codes in case you lose access to your primary phone. Once you enable 2-step verification, you’ll see an extra page that prompts you for a code when you sign in to your account. After entering your password, Google will call you with the code, send you an SMS message or give you the choice to generate the code for yourself using a mobile application on your Android, BlackBerry or iPhone device. The choice is up to you. When you enter this code after correctly submitting your password we’ll have a pretty good idea that the person signing in is actually you.
It’s an extra step, but it’s one that significantly improves the security of your Google Account because it requires the powerful combination of both something you know—your username and password—and something that only you should have—your phone. A hacker would need access to both of these factors to gain access to your account. If you like, you can always choose a “Remember verification for this computer for 30 days” option, and you won’t need to re-enter a code for another 30 days. You can also set up one-time application-specific passwords to sign in to your account from non-browser based applications that are designed to only ask for a password, and cannot prompt for the code.
To learn more about 2-step verification and get started, visit our Help Center. And for more about staying safe online, see our ongoing security blog series or visit http://www.staysafeonline.org/. Be safe!
Category: Gmail | Feb 7, 2011
Posted by Nathan Bullock, Software Engineer
(Cross-posted from the Mobile blog)
If you’ve ever cursed a phone’s tiny screen as utterly inadequate for sifting through an overflowing inbox you’ll be pleased to hear that the Gmail mobile web app now supports Priority Inbox. Priority Inbox helps combat information overload by automatically identifying your important messages so you can focus on those first. Until today it was only available on the desktop and Android devices.
Now, once you set up Priority Inbox in the desktop version of Gmail, you’ll see Priority Inbox sections when you visit gmail.com from your phone’s browser and click on the ‘Menu’ screen. You’ll also see importance markers in your inbox, so you can quickly identify which messages are important.
This feature is available for most mobile browsers that support HTML5, such as devices running Android 1.5+ and iOS 3+. If you have suggestions or want to learn more, visit our Help Center and forum.