Google Wave died yesterday. It’s all pretty sad. Remember, it’s the product we didn’t know what was? Well since no-one ever found out, Google is retiring the product to web-app elysium, picking it for spare parts.
Here’s the spare parts I want them to migrate from Wave to Google Docs, Gmail and wherever else appropriate:
- The silky smooth drag and drop to upload images into docs and emails
- The live typing in shared docs
- The super easy sharing of waves to docs
- The embeddability of docs and spreadsheets and whatnot
Wave kan take its scrollbars with it to the grave, however.
This morning. Or perhaps yesterday. Well this week. Maybe. Google updated the buttons in Gmail. Where they used to be CSS and images, they are now pure CSS3 using
linear-gradient. Here’s what they look like now, and here’s what they used to look like.
This is interesting for two reasons. On the one hand, this leaves Internet Explorer users with a “gracefully degrading” less aesthetic solution, since IE support for CSS3 is a joke. On the other hand, it’s interesting because WebKit (Google Chrome and Safari) has a different CSS gradient syntax than that of Firefox, which incidentally also means that the buttons look different in Firefox. Fortunately, WebKit is soon to adopt Firefox’ superior CSS gradient syntax. Fast times at Google campus.
Google just revamped their label system for Gmail, probably because only power users understood how to leverage their potential. The new system is more like Google Docs, which means labels now behave more like folders. Only, you can still file one email in two labels, which you wouldn’t be able to if they really were folders. The result is, as usual, interesting, so here are a few quick thoughts.
- Labels (and tags, as they’re sometimes called) really do trump folders, but they’re also harder to understand (as I’ve written about in the distant past). It makes sense that Google wants to democratize them and make them apparent to everybody.
- Because the labels now reside right next to your usual email folders — Inbox, Sent mail and so on — their use becomes more readily apparent to people who didn’t use labels in the past. It also becomes clear how married Gmail are to labels; inbox and sent mail are also simply labels that get their content from the all-containing “All Mail”.
- There’s now a little handle to the left of your emails consisting of spaced dots in a grid. Which further solidifies that spaced dots in a grid are the international symbol for “draggable”.
- Drag and drop seems to work as well as it should. Meaning, you can drag and drop an email on to your junk folder if you want. Or, you can drag and drop the junk mail folder on to the “more tags” folder, should you want to hide that section altogether.
- By default, Google will hide your not-recently-used-tags. Or, if you haven’t really used tags at all, create four new tags for you: Personal, Reciepts, Travel and Work.
- Normally, hiding stuff is the UI design equivalent of throwing in the towel. However, I feel this is one of the few situations where Googles solution is rather good. After all, labels do have more in common with folders than they do with main navigation and so they deserve to be tuck-away-able just like subfolders are.
- Gmail now distinguishes “System Labels” (Inbox, Sent mail, Drafts etc.) from normal labels (or normies as I’ll call them from now on). Both are show-and-hidable.
- The whole revamp of the labels system feels like a love affair with folders gone right. Except, there’s still no equivalent to the sub-folder. What if I want to group a chunk of tags? Or do I want that at all? Do we need to group tags? I currently have a total of 36 tags and sometimes I think grouping may be helpful. In the words of Radiohead, I could be wrong.
- The fact that I can hide System labels has a few nice side-effects. While I love the fact that all my Google Talk chats are stored in my searchable Gmail, I’ve never actually used the menu link very much. So “Chats” goes in to the “More” box, along with Spam, whose perma-bold font annoys my eye.
- Which reminds me again why hiding stuff in interface design is mostly a bad idea. It would be interesting to see into the deeply inner workings of the Gmail interface to get an idea when a tag is classified as not-recent, and specifically, when System labels are hidden. We all remember when Microsoft added application link hiding to their Windows XP start menu to clean up the clutter. It really didn’t work very well.
- For users of the Gmail Labs feature called Go To Label which gives you a Quicksilver/Enso search box for going to a specific label, you’ll be happy to know that this features still works and also allows you to go to the Inbox, and other System labels. Maybe it always did?
Overall, the revamp is most welcome. We’ll see with a few weeks of use, if the hiding system really was a good idea. My prediction is: yes.
Users of the Mac have been given an interesting amalgam of old and new, a combination of a traditional application and a webapp: Mailplane. It looks to be a wrapper for Gmail which mildly extends its functionality and desktop integrations, specifically in the areas of attachments and account management.
Webapps are great because they are on the web. The web also limits how much these webapps can be integrated with the desktop. Perhaps concocting a quick wrapper hybrid like this is the way forward? Perhaps not in the case of Gmail, where accessing your mail via a thirdparty email application using IMAP would be a smoother experience. Even so, I’d like to speculate that Google will be extending the base-functionality of Chrome, so that application shortcuts could mimic this behavior.
Drag this link to your bookmarks toolbar:
Works with the new Gmail 2 UI.
Google has started rolling out colored labels in Gmail. It’s smart, I like it a lot, especially how removing a label is now no longer an option in a pulldown menu, but actually related to the label you’re removing. I am, however, ready for a label manager redesign. The whole “search don’t sort” thing, at times, seems a bit too smart compared to good ol’ folders.
Big news for fans of Gmail and standalone email clients: IMAP support. What’s that you ask? Well according to Wikipedia:
[IMAP] is an application layer Internet protocol [...] that allows a local client to access e-mail on a remote server.
Having never used IMAP myself before, this sounds to me like you can now use your Gmail account without ever logging into the online web interface. Using the IMAP commands, you can send, delete, archive and spam your Gmail directly from compatible clients such as Thunderbird. Now even though I’ve fully switched from Thunderbird, I can still see the smartness in this. Your Gmail account just became a funnel for all your other mail accounts. One account to rule them out. You pick your interface. Neat.