Why Does Gmail Look Different? The New Update Includes Alerts, More Security, And A Brand New Look
Did you wake up this morning and boot up your computer to check your email, only to find yourself thinking, “Uh… why does Gmail look different now?” as soon as you opened up your browser? If so, you are not alone — but the good news is that there is an exceedingly reasonable explanation for the sudden change: On April 25, Gmail received the first major update it’s had in almost 10 years. And although Gmail has been the go-to email client for the technology-savvy for many a year now, the redesign is a big step forward in terms of its usability.
To be fair, the overhaul didn’t come totally out of the blue; Google did confirm to The Verge on April 11 that a redesign for Gmail was on its way. The company was closed-lipped about what exactly the redesign would include — but we didn’t have to wait long to find out: Two weeks later, the overhaul is here.
A lot of the updates are small little details that are just geared towards making your life easier: You can archive, delete, and mark emails as read in one click right from the subject line in your inbox (read: No more ticking that little box next to the email, then clicking on the action you want to perform on it); you can color-code tags now; and so on and so forth. There are, however, a lot of brand new features aimed at dramatically improving functionality — and it’s largely these features that have changed the look of the email client.
So, even if you, like myself, are sometimes resistant to change, the good news is that in this case, the new look should be pretty intuitive to navigate. Here’s a taste of what all those new doodads in your inbox can do:
We’ve all been there: You get an email… you don’t quite have time to think through a thorough reply for it right then and there… so you leave it in your inbox for now… and then three weeks later, you still haven’t replied to it because ultimately you ended up kind of, uh, forgetting about it. Nudging will help mitigate this problem: When you’ve let a few days go by without replying to an email, a short, colorful message telling you that you haven’t responded in however many days it’s been and asking you if you’d like to reply now will pop up next to the subject line.
Beyond nudging, you can actually snooze an email now, too. What this features does is basically remove an email from your inbox temporarily, allowing it to pop back in at a time designated by the user — that is, it effectively resends it so that it dings in your inbox at a time that’s more convenient for you. To snooze an email, just mouse over the subject line and click the little clock icon on the far right; then select what time you’d like the email to snooze until. There’s also a “Snoozed” tab over on the left hand side so you can check out anything you’ve marked “snoozed.”
3. Visible Attachments
By which I mean, if there’s an attachment in an email, you can now see the file name and the attachment icon right in your inbox; it’s in the subject line. Handy!
4. Smart Reply
Previously only available in Gmail on mobile, the Smart Reply feature has finally come to Gmail on the web. It’s kind of a predictive text feature; it uses AI to predict the kind of responses you tend to send as replies to emails that only need answers of a few words or so. Of course, predictive text can sometimes be sort of... unpredictable, but at least there's plenty of room for hilarity there.
5. Confidential Mode
If you’ve wished you could set an email to self-destruct, that’s pretty much what confidential mode accomplishes. At the bottom of your email draft, look for the little icon that looks like a padlock with a clock. Click it to activate confidential mode, where you can set an email to expire after a set period of time and/or turn on two-factor authentication for the recipient. If you’re sending sensitive information via email, this option helps keep it all locked down tight.
6. Easy Access To Other Google Tools
True story: I currently have three different Chrome windows pulled up on my computer, one of which has a somewhat horrifying 23 tabs open in it. (I am a monster.) While it’s true that a lot of those tabs are, say, articles I’m planning to read later or videos I paused so I can pick up with them at a more convenient time, some of them belong to other Google productivity tools: Calendar, Google Sheets, those kinds of things. But hey, guess what? The Gmail redesign means I can close those other Google productivity tabs — a side panel keeps them simultaneously easily accessible and out of the way. To get at, say, you Calendar, just mouse over the icon in the sidebar and click it. Bam.
7. High-Priority Notifications In Mobile
If you use the Gmail app, the program will learn from your email habits which kinds of emails you tend to reply to the most and which contacts you regularly get in touch with to send you specialized notifications when you’ve got something to which you actually need to reply — as opposed to, y’know, when you’ve got yet another newsletter from that store you bought something from online once five years ago and haven’t shopped at since.
8. Unsubscribe Suggestions In Mobile
The Gmail app will also now let you know when it thinks it’s found a newsletter or other regular source of mail from which you can probably unsubscribe — meaning that when you do get an email from that newsletter from that store you bought something from online once five years ago and haven’t shopped at since, the app will suggest you unsubscribe from it. Think of it as your very own email-based Marie Kondo.
9. Unmistakable Phishing Warnings
A number of sophisticated phishing scams have specifically targeted Gmail users in recent years, so this update is definitely a welcome one: When an email looks like it might be a phishing message designed to trick you into sharing sensitive information, it will display on Gmail with a huge, very literal red flag: A big, red box will appear when you open the email, noting, “This message seems dangerous.” It will also tell you that the email might be trying to extract information from you and caution you against clicking on anything in the message, as well as providing a big ol’ “Delete now” button so you can trash the suspicious message ASAP.
10. Offline Mode
A Chrome extension has actually allowed Gmail users to access their email offline for some time now; however, it’s nice to know that the feature is built directly into Gmail now. On plane and not willing to pay a proverbial arm and a leg for internet access? Not a problem: You can now view anything you’ve already received via offline mode.
I know, I know; change is hard. These changes, however, will go a long way towards making your inbox a lot more manageable — and that is a very good thing, indeed. May as well embrace it right?