I Just Tried All the New Gmail Features: Here Are the Best and Worst

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Google just gave Gmail a big overhaul that changes the layout and brings lots of new features to your inbox. The change is probably one of Gmail’s biggest in the past 18 years. If you chose not to revert to the original design, chances are you’re looking at the new Gmail interface while browsing through your emails.

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

In a Blog (opens in a new tab)Neena Kamath, Gmail’s product manager, says the redesign is a push towards a “unified Gmail” so it’s easier to switch and navigate between Google’s many apps.

Google made many of these changes recently, and while some of them lurk under the hood and have become hard to follow, I recently tried out all of the new features the tech giant brought to Gmail.

As an avid user of Gmail and Google’s suite of apps — both for personal use and for work — I switched to the new Gmail interface as soon as it rolled out. Some of the changes feel integral and are a definite improvement while others were just plain boring. Here are the ones worth trying that will boost your productivity.

Screenshot of Gmail's new interface design

The new redesign of Gmail (Image credit: Google)

Gmail: New Features I Love

New presentation

Gmail’s new redesign takes some getting used to. Much like its logo, the edges are much softer, and Google tries to let you switch between apps seamlessly (something they’ve struggled with in the past).

Gmail’s new UI pushes the Mail, Meet, Spaces, and Chat buttons to a left panel. You can switch between apps and won’t be disturbed by the appearance of chat bubbles. It’s something I preferred earlier because now my notifications are slightly lost, but overall it could be a good thing to keep distractions at bay. There is also an option to “quickly reply” to chat messages now.

You can also hover over the app icon on the left panel which will display a quick list of chats or emails.

Gif of the new side panel in the Gmail interface

(Image credit: Google)

The best part about the redesign is that you can customize everything. So using “Quick Settings” I could just have Gmail, or on some days when I had a lot more meetings I could put Gmail and Meet on my tabs. Labels (like Starred, Snoozed, Important) can also be customized, which is really handy since Google’s default labels are a bit confusing to me, not to mention their AI.

You can also check out our quick guide to how to customize your gmail side panels.

Gif of new ways to personalize in Gmail

(Image credit: Google)

There’s a clean new look that Google Material Design 3 (opens in a new tab) brought. It looks pretty slick even in dark mode. The classic red and white have given way to softer blues on the interface. The colors are much nicer in the redesign.

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

Better search options

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

This accompanies an improved machine learning search that Google recently rolled out for Gmail. In a blog post (opens in a new tab)Google claims that Gmail offers “more precise and detailed search suggestions with better personalization thanks to our new machine learning models”.

Search suggestions were previously sorted by the sender’s last name. Now, Google will match contact name and email more seamlessly and claim that “suggestions are reordered to more likely match contact queries with first names or email addresses.” This should be useful if you’re used to searching for contacts by first name, as those results will now appear at the top.

New search gif in Gmail

(Image credit: Google)

I tried the new search with complicated details, and when I searched for the person’s first name, their email came up in a more contextual and chronological order than what Gmail did before. There are also personalized suggestions for contacts in Gmail and it’s likely that Google knows who your manager is or which colleague you interact with the most. My auto-suggestions definitely reminded me of this, and the search is now much more intuitive.

Gmail will almost guarantee you’re emailing the right person, and the AI-powered improvements are similar to Gmail’s Smart Compose or Smart Reply features that Google introduced a few years ago. (On that note, you can also learn how to disable Gmail’s smart features to prevent tracking).

Gmail: the new features I don’t like

There’s a lot more to like than dislike with Gmail now. But not everything is as fresh as the new look of Gmail’s interface. Google’s effort to bring all of its apps together seems like a long-standing goal – one that could still take a while to get right. The push makes Gmail look a lot more like Microsoft’s Outlook, and while that might not be a bad thing, I wish we had more flexibility in which apps can be integrated into Gmail.

From now on, mini apps of Gmail – Meet or Chat can be added or removed in the interface. Google could have extended this to some of its other Workspace apps like Calendar for easier access. Some apps from Google are slightly similar and also tend to overlap. I think Chat could do most of the functions of Spaces, without needing an extra tab.

In addition, Google has created a complete list of conversations from Spaces, Meet or Chat open on a single screen. I wish Gmail took a page out of iPadOS 16 and had more multitasking features or even split-screen views of apps.

Search in Gmail was much less efficient – so I’m glad Google focused on vastly improving this.

Gmail for tablets

Most of the new changes to Gmail are aimed at improving the Gmail web experience. But Google said it would roll out an improved experience for tablet users, which would include better emojis and new accessibility features.

Gmail also introduced new tablet-focused features for Drive, Keep, Docs, Slide and Sheets in July. The updates are very convenient and include dragging and dropping images and files into apps, as well as a multi-window experience for Drive. We hope these will also be coming to Gmail soon.

Navigating the new Gmail redesign can be a bit daunting. If you’re not a fan, Google explains how to return to the old appearance (opens in a new tab).

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