Technology

I just tried out all the new Gmail features – the best and the worst.

Google has just given a big update to Gmail with a redesigned layout and a lot of new features added to your inbox. This change is probably one of the biggest changes to Gmail in 18 years. If you’ve chosen not to go back to the original design, it’s likely that you’re looking at the new Gmail interface when viewing your email.

The most notable changes include new color themes, an updated search feature, updated menus and navigation tools, and a new way to interact with Google Meet, Chat, and other apps in the Gmail interface.

Blog (will open in a new tab)Nina Kamat, product manager for Gmail, says the redesign is a push for a “unified Gmail” to make it easier to switch and navigate between Google’s many apps.

Google has been making many of these changes lately, and while some of them are hidden under the hood and hard to keep track of, I’ve tried all the new features the tech giant has recently brought to Gmail.

As an avid user of Gmail and the Google suite of apps—both for personal and work use—I switched to the new Gmail interface as soon as it came out. Some of the changes seem integral and are a definite improvement, while others are just annoying. Here are the ones worth trying and they will boost your productivity.

Screenshot of the new Gmail interface design

New redesign of Gmail (Image credit: Google)

Gmail: new features I like

New layout

The new redesign of Gmail takes some getting used to. Like its logo, the edges are much softer, and Google is trying to let you seamlessly switch between apps (something they’ve struggled with in the past).

In the new Gmail user interface, the Mail, Appointments, Spaces, and Chat buttons have been moved to the left pane. You can switch between apps and you won’t be bothered by pop-up chat bubbles. This is what I used to prefer because now my notifications get a little lost, but overall it can be a good move to avoid distractions. There is also now a “Quick Reply” option to chat messages.

You can also hover your mouse over the app icon in the left pane, which will display a quick list of chats or emails.

Gif of the new sidebar in the Gmail interface

(Image credit: Google)

The best part of the redesign is that you can customize everything. So using the “Quick Settings” I could just have Gmail, or on some days when I had a lot more appointments, I could put Gmail and Meet in my tabs. Labels (such as Flagged, Postponed, Important) are also customizable – which is very handy, because Google’s default labels are just a little confusing for me, not to mention their artificial intelligence.

You can also check out our quick guide to setting up sidebars in Gmail.

GIF of new ways to customize in Gmail

(Image credit: Google)

Google Material Design 3 has a clean, new look. (will open in a new tab) brings. It looks pretty slick, even in dark mode. The classic red and white colors have given way to a softer blue interface color. The colors in the redesign are much nicer.

I have set different profile colors for my google workspace for my personal and work account. This makes it easy for me to tell which one I’m on, and I love that Google has made it easy to switch between profiles in the right corner.

Improved search options

Google’s search features are now in Gmail, which means there are several different filters to choose from to get to the mail you’re looking for.

This accompanies the improved machine learning search that Google recently rolled out for Gmail. In a blog post (will open in a new tab)Google says Gmail offers “more accurate, richer and more customizable search suggestions thanks to our new machine learning models.”

Search suggestions were previously sorted by the sender’s last name – Google will now more accurately match first and contact email addresses and state that “suggestions have been reordered to be more likely to match contact queries with names or email addresses.” This should come in handy if you’re used to searching for contacts by their name, as those results will now appear at the top.

Gmail new search gif

(Image credit: Google)

I tried the new search with some complex details, and when I searched for a person’s name, their email showed up in a more contextual and chronological order than what Gmail did before. Gmail now also has personalized contact suggestions, and chances are that Google knows who your manager or colleague is that you communicate with the most. My auto-suggestions definitely made me think that way, and now the search is a lot more intuitive.

Gmail almost guarantees that you’re sending an email to the right person, and the AI-powered enhancements are similar to Gmail’s Smart Compose or Smart Reply features that Google came up with a few years ago. (In this note, you can also learn how to turn off Gmail’s smart features to prevent tracking.)

Gmail: New Features I Don’t Like

Now, Gmail has a lot more to like than not to like. But not everything is as smooth as the fresh look of the Gmail interface. Google’s effort to bring all of its apps together seems like a long-term goal that may take some time to reach. This push makes Gmail a lot more like Microsoft Outlook, and while that might be nice, I wish we had more flexibility in the applications that Gmail could support.

Currently, Gmail widgets – Meet or Chat – can be added or removed from the interface. Google could extend this to some other Workspace apps, like Calendar, to make them easier to access. Some Google apps are a bit similar and also tend to overlap with each other. I feel like chat can do most of the things that Spaces has without the need for an extra tab.

In addition, Google has made a complete list of conversations from Spaces, Meet or Chat open on one screen. I wish Gmail would take the page from iPadOS 16 and have more multitasking features or even split screen apps.

Previously, Gmail search was a lot less efficient, so I’m glad Google is focusing on improving it a lot.

Gmail for tablets

Most of the new Gmail changes are aimed at improving the Gmail web interface. But Google has said it will roll out an improved experience for tablet users, which includes improved emoji and new accessibility features.

In July, Gmail also introduced new Drive, Keep, Docs, Slide, and Sheets features for tablets. The updates are very convenient and include drag and drop of images and files between applications, as well as a multi-window mode for Drive. We hope that they will soon appear in Gmail.

Navigating the new Gmail redesign can be a little tricky. If you’re not a fan, Google explains how to revert to the old look (will open in a new tab).

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