Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Hide morning and night hours in Calendar

Posted by Oleksandr Kyreiev, Software Engineer

How often do you have something scheduled at 3am? What about 10pm? If the answer is almost never, you might want to try out the Hide morning and night lab in Google Calendar.

With a simple drag of a slider you can fold all those empty hours into a single row to set the time range you want to hide. The folded rows still show all your events, just in more compact form.

We're launching this in Calendar Labs (Settings > Labs) to gather feedback on how people end up using this feature. So don’t forget to tell us what you think about this latest addition.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Gmail app for iOS available in the App Store (again)

Posted by Matthew Izatt, Product Manager

Two weeks ago, we introduced our Gmail app for iOS. Unfortunately it contained a bug which broke notifications and displayed an error message, so we removed it from the App Store. We’ve fixed the bug and notifications are now working, and the app is back in the App Store. For an overview of what’s available in the Gmail app for your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, check out this blog post.

In the short time the app was public we received a lot of helpful feedback and feature requests. This included requests for everything from bigger features like multiple account support to customizations like improved notifications and mobile specific signatures.

We’re just getting started with the Gmail app for iOS and will be iterating rapidly to bring you more features, including all the ones listed above plus many more. Based on your comments we have already improved our handling of image HTML messages - they are now sized to fit to the screen and you can pinch to zoom in.

To try out the Gmail app today, install it from App Store on any iOS 4+ device. Those who already have the Gmail app released Nov 2 must uninstall or log out of the old app prior to installing the new app.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Wouldn't it be great if Android's own turn-by-turn navigation had celebrity

Wouldn't it be great if Android's own turn-by-turn navigation had celebrity voices. +1 for Bert and Ernie on +Google Maps


Bert and Ernie TomTom voices tell you how to get, how to get to Sesame Street (video)

How real users helped us develop Gmail’s new look

Posted by David Choi, User Experience Researcher

When building Gmail’s new look, our goal was to make the most engaging, accessible, and most of all, easy to use email experience possible. To accomplish that, we had many real Gmail users try out changes to the look and provide feedback during its development.

One of the most important ways we obtained feedback was through usability studies. In these types of studies we observe people trying out our products in a controlled environment. We invited Gmail users from all walks of life to participate in usability studies and used the results to find problems and identify improvements before we launched.

For Gmail’s new look, we started very early. Long before any Googler began using or even building the new look, our designers created an early prototype. We then had Gmail users participate in a usability study either by coming to one of our offices or remotely connecting from their homes.

An example of one of our usability labs. People in usability studies use our products on the pictured computer while they are being observed through a one way mirror and video cameras from the room next door.

The study participants evaluated the early prototype by doing many of their everyday Gmail tasks, such as reading, sending, and replying to emails. We then looked at how easy or difficult it was to complete those tasks, and made changes based on this feedback. For example, one of the things we found with our prototype was that we had put too much emphasis on conversation level actions at the expense of per-message actions. As a result, our study participants had difficulty finding the reply button on each message. In response, we changed its appearance, size, and location to make the reply button easier to see.

As we continued to develop the new look, we evaluated our progress through additional usability studies with even more people. Much of what we captured from these studies was users’ first reactions to the new look. But Gmail is something people use repeatedly, not just once. So in addition to first impressions, we were also interested in seeing how people adjusted to the new look as they used it repeatedly in their daily lives. To find that out, we conducted a different kind of study called a longitudinal study. Longitudinal studies are used to observe the longer term effects our products have on people’s usage.

The longitudinal study consisted of turning on the new look for a group of Gmail users. We captured their initial reactions after their first experience. Then we let them use the new look in Gmail as they normally would as part of their everyday lives. As the days and weeks passed by, we periodically checked with them to see how they were adjusting to all the changes. Like with anything new, there were some changes that our participants initially needed time to adjust to, but later came to prefer as they used the new look more. On the other hand, problems that were not seen during the first couple times of use later emerged after more prolonged use. For example, many of the changes we made to the new left navigation were the result of people reporting their repeated experiences using labels and the chat area over time.

These studies have been absolutely critical in helping us build Gmail’s new look. Much of how it looks and behaves is a result of people participating in these studies and giving us their feedback. If you are interested in becoming a participant in a research study about Gmail or any of Google’s products, you can sign up at google.com/usability.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Improving themes in Gmail’s new look

Posted by Jason Cornwell, User Experience Designer

One of the most visible improvements in last week’s Gmail update is the entirely new theme system and the new high definition themes that it supports. This refresh to themes both simplifies them and makes them more immersive. You can browse what some of the new themes look like below:

Themes are now implemented as semitransparent layers on top of a large background image. Each theme uses either a dark or light variant of most UI elements to balance legibility and visibility of the background image, allowing the background image to peek through and provide color and personality. Background imagery can also change based on date, time, or weather. Bringing all these changes together really makes the new themes shine:


In addition, these changes also reduce the technical complexity of the theme system, which will enable us to create more beautiful and unique themes in the future.

Like the new themes? You can switch to the new look today by clicking on Switch to the new look in the bottom-right of Gmail.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

A new way to connect with Gmail and friends

Posted by Sarah Price, Community Manager

Today, the Google+ team launched Pages, a new way for you to build relationships with the things you love. We’re looking forward to connecting with you on our new Gmail page on Google+.

When you add the Gmail page to your Google+ Circles, you'll see updates from our team, including launches, tips and tricks, and more. You'll be able to discuss those updates with other Gmail users in the comments on the posts. Mention +Gmail when you share your own tips -- if we see a really stellar tip, we might reshare it. We’re also planning to hold regular Hangouts, so you can shoot the breeze with Google community managers, engineers, product managers and designers.

In addition to Gmail news, we’ll feature some of your other favorite Google products, including Google Calendar, Google Voice, Google Chat and Google Tasks. Be sure to add the Gmail page to your Circles and let us know what you think.

Changing information density in Gmail’s new look

Posted by Jason Cornwell, User Experience Designer

When our design team looked at tackling a redesign across Google properties, responsive design was high on our list of priorities. Responsive design implies that a page or application should dynamically re-adjust itself based on the your environment. The specifics of the device that a user is using, and in particular the size of their browser window, should have an impact on the way the application presents itself. To put it simply, Gmail needs to look and feel great on a tiny netbook screen, on a high resolution 30” monitor, or anything in between.

You can try this out yourself if you are using Gmail’s new look. Open up Gmail and make your browser window much smaller. Everything should crunch down as you adjust to give you a better experience in a smaller window. No matter what size your browser window is, Gmail should look and feel great out of the box.

We also thought quite a bit about the density of the information on the screen in the new design. Gmail’s old design packs a huge amount of information into a small space. While this is perfect for some, many people appreciate a more airy design with more whitespace between lines and elements on the page. This is especially true on larger monitors.

We wanted Gmail to be more attractive and easier to read by default, so if you’re on a larger monitor you will see that the items in your inbox are spaced farther apart than they were in the old design. We believe that this results in a better overall experience, but it does take some getting used to. In our internal testing we found that most of us adjusted to the new spacing after about a week and found the old spacing cramped and uncomfortable when they looked back at the old design.

Others, however, found the original spacing to be ideal and wanted to see as much information as possible without scrolling, even on a large monitor. We added a density setting to the gear menu in the toolbar to make sure that everybody can find a setting that works for them: Comfortable, Cozy, or Compact.

Comfortable is the spacing that we recommend for most people. With your density set to Comfortable, the display adjusts fluidly based on screen size.

Compact is the densest setting and matches the line spacing that existing Gmail users are used to. With your density set to Compact the display will stay dense no matter what size your window is.

Cozy is somewhere in the middle. With your density set to Cozy the display will get a little denser when you make your window small but the changes aren’t as dramatic.

Mathletes among you may recognize that the density setting is really a ceiling function.

We think Gmail should be smart enough to always make itself look good on your screen, so we incorporated responsive design. We also think you should be able to see what happens when you change your settings, so we put the density settings in the gear menu right next to your inbox. When you make a change, you can immediately see what it looks like. Our density settings reflect our design philosophy that Gmail’s new look should be more responsive, personal, and beautiful.

You can switch to the new look today by clicking on Switch to the new look in the bottom-right of Gmail.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Suggested times in Google Calendar

Posted by: Lode Vandevenne, Software Engineer

Creating an event is easy, but finding a time that works for everyone is sometimes tricky and time consuming. To make this easier and save you time, we’ve added a new 'Suggested times' feature to Google Calendar.

To get started, create a calendar event, add guests and click Suggested times. The resulting list will include upcoming times where all participants are available. For example if you want to create an hour long meeting with Kara, and she already has an hour long meeting at 3pm, then times like 2pm and 4pm will be suggested.

As part of our ongoing commitment to accessibility, the list can also be navigated using the arrow keys and is accessible with a screen reader.

For more information, please visit the help center.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Introducing the Gmail app for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch

Posted by Matthew Izatt, Product Manager

Update: 11/2/11: Earlier today we launched a new Gmail app for iOS. Unfortunately, it contained a bug which broke notifications and caused users to see an error message when first opening the app. We’ve removed the app while we correct the problem, and we’re working to bring you a new version soon. Everyone who’s already installed the app can continue to use it.

Waiting. Walking. Watching TV. Working out. Winding down. Waking up. We check email pretty much everywhere these days. And when we do, we want easy access to our important messages so we can respond quickly and get back to life -- or slinging birds at thieving green pigs.

With that in mind, we’ve created a new Gmail app for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. We’ve combined your favorite features from the Gmail mobile web app and iOS into one app so you can be more productive on the go. It’s designed to be fast, efficient and take full advantage of the touchscreen and notification capabilities of your device. And it’s one more reason to switch to Gmail.

We want to give you the information you need quickly, with minimal effort and distraction. So we’ve included some time-saving features:
  • Get alerted to new messages with push notifications and sounds
  • Find an email in seconds with search across your entire inbox
  • Autocomplete email addresses from your Gmail contacts or select from your device’s address book
  • Upload photos with a click using the new attachment button in compose view
  • On iPad, navigate your inbox and read your mail simultaneously with split view
Upload photos
Reply, move, label and more

Our inboxes overflow with dozens and even hundreds of messages a dayâ€"and this can be even more challenging on a smaller screen. The new Gmail app helps organize your mail so you don’t have to go wading through your inbox to find that key message from your boss or loved one:
  • Focus on your important messages first with Priority Inbox
  • Quickly scan countless emails on the same subject with threaded conversations
  • Organize your mail by archiving, labelling, starring, deleting and reporting spam
Threaded conversations on the iPad

We’ve also optimized the interface so you can perform common actions in Gmail with the lightest touch:
  • Pull down your inbox to rapidly refresh if you’re eager for new mail
  • Swipe right to view your labels without ever leaving your inbox
  • Swiftly scroll through dozens of emails just by sliding your finger
Pull down to refresh
Swipe right to view labels
We hope the Gmail app makes checking email on the go a little easier. It is available in the App Store today and works on all devices running iOS 4+. For more information, check out our help center.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Gmail’s new look

Posted by Jason Cornwell, User Experience Designer

Back in July we showed you a preview of Gmail's new look, and we’ve been working this summer to make even more updates and improvements. Today, we’re giving you an in-depth look at the new design. If you like what you see, over the next few days you’ll be able to switch to the new look by clicking on Switch to the new look in the bottom-right of Gmail.

Streamlined conversations
Conversation view has been completely redesigned to help you read through your email threads. You’ll now see profiles pictures for your contacts, so it’s easier to keep track of who said what. We also stripped out as much as possible so you can focus on communicating with your friends and colleagues.

Elastic density
We know that you use Gmail from a variety of screen sizes and devices, so now the spacing between elements on the screen will automatically change based on the kind of display you’re using. If you prefer a denser view all the time, you can change your density manually in the Settings menu.

New HD themes
Themes have been completely rebuilt to enable us to bring you a new set of beautiful high resolution themes with imagery provided by iStockphoto. We've updated most of the old favorites as well and your theme will be automatically carried over to the new look. Go to the Settings menu to take another look at themes and choose the one that fits you best.

Smarter navigation
The navigation panel on the left keeps your labels and chat contacts in view at all times. It's also more customizable: you can resize the labels and chat areas if you want to see more, or hide the chat area entirely via the chat icon in the lower left. You can also use the arrow keys to navigate around the interface.

Better search
Click the dropdown in the search box to see a new advanced search panel, which makes it easier and faster to find exactly what you're looking for. You can use the same panel to create a filter from any search in just a few clicks.

We’re excited to finally share Gmail’s new look with you. We’ll be bringing these changes to everyone soon, but if you’d like to make the switch right away, we’re rolling out a Switch to the new look link in the bottom-right of Gmail over the next few days.

Faces of Gmail: Forum Top Contributors

Posted by Sarah Price, Gmail Community Manager

Usually for Faces of Gmail, we talk to a Googler who works on Gmail. But this month, we’re talking to our forum Top Contributors. Top Contributors (TCs) are volunteers who post in the Gmail Help Forum. When we’re impressed with the amount they are posting and the quality of their answers, we give them the TC title. We have dozens of Gmail TCs around the world posting in all different languages.

About a month ago, we got to meet some of these wonderful volunteers at the Global Top Contributor Summit. Now you can meet a few of them, too! Below we’ve included excerpts from a group interview with five of our TCs.

Gmail Forum Top Contributors at the Global Top Contributor Summit in September

Name: Brett (bkc56)
Location: N. California, US
Favorite Gmail Lab: Message Sneak Peek. It's so useful for quickly dealing with short messages.

Name: John (Deman_Nu)
Location: Woodstock, NY, US
Favorite Gmail Lab: Undo Send. It’s amazing how many times I notice something wrong in the seconds after I hit “Send.”
Name: LMckin51
Location: South Carolina, US
Favorite Gmail Lab: Undo Send

Name: Tito Dutta
Location: Kolkata, India
Favorite Gmail Labs: Inserting Image, Add any gadget by URL, Extra Emoji
Name: wdurham
Location: Hampshire, UK
Favorite Gmail Labs: Sneak Peek, and after years of using Outlook, the Move Icon Column which puts the attachment paperclip in a more obvious place.

What is your Gmail expertise?

Brett: To be in the Gmail help forum is to be always learning. I wouldn't say I'm an expert, but I tend to focus on topics like account recovery, account security, missing messages, labels versus folders, and account backup.

LMckin51: I like teaching users how to keep their accounts safe, and how to avoid scams. I also like to help them learn about all the Gmail settings.

What do you like about participating in the forum?

wdurham: It's great to feel you are helping people get more comfortable with Gmail, or solve particular problems they're having. What's even greater is the amount I learn myself each time I help someone solve a problem. Best of all is that "Eureka!" moment, when you spend ages explaining one of Gmail's unique concepts, like labels, and the light suddenly dawns for the user.

Tito: It’s a great place to learn new things. The forum has taught me to think deeply. When an asker replies to my post in the forum, it helps me to assess my own answers.

What's your most memorable forum experience?

wdurham: When people give out the wrong email address, the real owners of that address find themselves receiving mail meant for someone else -- like a “wrong number” phone call. Sometimes they don’t understand what happened and incorrectly think it’s a Gmail problem. I answered one such query a few months back only to have the "someone else" join the thread and ask for her missing mail to be sent on to her because she gave out the wrong address - thus conclusively proving my point!

John: I was helping one woman who had accidentally deleted a number of emails that were important to her. Using search queries, I was able to help her find some of messages she thought she deleted. She emailed to thank me and I was overwhelmed by what she said: "I honestly am warmed to be reminded that there are selfless people helping others that they don't even know. It means a lot! So even if I never find the rest of the emails you've still helped me to feel better."

What are you doing when you're not posting in the forum?

Brett: I have a full-time job as a software engineer plus a wife and four kids. I also play guitar, collect Legos, and watch movies (often sci-fi).

LMckin51: In my spare time I create and maintain websites. I also take photographs at events at my church.

What words of advice do you have for Gmail users?

Tito: Explore Gmail settings pages and Gmail Labs. Use and play with web browser extensions, plugins and and reliable userscripts. And the old rule: if you have any question on Gmail (or anything), don't forget to search in Google first.

Brett: Gmail’s servers are very reliable, but it’s always a good idea to do regular backups in case you accidentally delete mail you need, or in case your account is compromised by someone getting your password (for example, if you reused your Gmail password on another website and it was stolen from there). Personally, I like Got Your Back as a backup/restore utility. Another resource for exporting and saving your data is Google’s Data Liberation Front.

John: Forum posters, please remember that we are volunteers who are here to help you. We recognize that you are often angry or upset when you come to us with serious problems, but it is much easier to help when your posts focus on providing the information we need rather than on your emotions. Feel free to ask questions if you don’t understand us and let us know if we misunderstood something about your situation. We also greatly appreciate it when you let us know when your questions have been answered!

Learn more about ads in Gmail

Posted by Alex Gawley, Product Manager

We don’t want ads to be a mystery, so with our new “Why these ads” link, you can find out why an ad is being shown to you. By clicking the link - now next to ads in your Google search results and coming very soon to Gmail - you’ll be able to see information about why a specific ad appeared. In addition, we’re giving you greater control through our improved Ads Preferences Manager, where you’ll be able to block advertisers or turn off personalized ads.

To learn more, check out this video from our lead software engineer, Diane Tang, or read our post on The Official Google Blog.

Google+ is now available with Google Apps

Posted by Ronald Ho, Product Manager

Google Apps fans, today we’re ready to add you to our circles. Google+ makes sharing on the web more like sharing in the real world, and now Google+ is available to people who use Google Apps at college, at work or at home.

Starting now you can manually turn on Google+ for your organization. Once Google+ is turned on, your users will just need to sign up at google.com/+ to get started. For customers who use Google Apps for Business or the free version of Google Apps and who have chosen to automatically enable new services, Google+ will automatically become available to all of your users over the next several days.*

Google Apps users will have access to the same set of features that are available to every Google+ user, and more. In addition to sharing publicly or with your circles, you’ll also have the option to share with everyone in your organization, even if you haven’t added all of those people to a circle.

Google+ at home, at work and at college
You use Google Apps in lots of different ways, and we expect the same for Google+. Apps users from artists to doctors to parents to students to teachers have told us that they are ready to join the 40 million people already sharing on Google+.

Circles is a great way to share relevant content with the right people. With Circles, your photography crew doesn’t have to get an update about your morning workout, your triathlon team doesn’t have to see all your thoughts on the latest camera gear, and your project teams can be kept separate from all of this.

Hangouts with extras, which combines multi-person video chat with screen sharing and collaboration in Google Docs, lets you work together on projects even when your team can't be in the same room. Whether you’re out of town, working on a project with a distributed group, or just don’t feel like walking to the next building for your meeting, Hangouts with extras can give your team the productivity boost it needs.

Google+ coming to a campus near you
Many students and teachers have sent us their ideas about how they can use Google+ to teach, learn, work, and play. These are a few Google Apps for Education universities from around the world that are bringing Google+ to their campuses today:

  • Abilene Christian University
  • American University in Cairo (Egypt)
  • Arizona State University
  • AT Still University
  • Boise State University
  • Central Piedmont Community College
  • Dublin City University (Ireland)
  • ESSEC Business School (France)
  • Leeds Metropolitan University (United Kingdom)
  • Loughborough University (United Kingdom)
  • Saint Louis University
  • Strathmore University (Kenya)
  • Universidad Panamericana (Mexico)
  • University of Ferrara (Italy)
  • University of Maryland Baltimore County
  • University of Minnesota
  • University of Notre Dame
  • University of Pavia (Italy)
  • University of Portsmouth (United Kingdom)
  • University of Washington
  • Vanderbilt University
  • Wake Forest University

Just the beginning
For those of you who’ve already started using Google+ with a personal Google Account and would prefer to use your Google Apps account, we’re building a migration tool to help you move over. With this tool, you won’t have to rebuild your circles, and people who’ve already added you to their circles will automatically be connected to your new profile. We expect this migration option to be ready in a few weeks, so if you’d like, you can go ahead and get started with your Apps account today and merge your connections once the tool is available.

It took more technical work than we expected to bring Google+ to Google Apps, and we thank you for your patience. This integration is just the beginning. We’ll continue to add features and improve the way that Google+ works with Google Apps, and we encourage you to share your ideas.

* Google+ requires Picasa Web Albums for photo sharing and Google Talk for chat, so if these services are not enabled then Google+ will not automatically become available, even if your domain has chosen to automatically enable new services. The option to automatically enable new services is controlled in the Domain settings tab of the administrator control panel. More information about using Google+ with Google Apps is available in the Help Center.

Update: For Google Apps for Education customers, we're starting with higher ed institutions and are looking into making Google+ available to K-12s at some point in the future.