Gmail Update: Hey, It Doesn’t Suck!

November 15th, 2011 by Search Influence Alumni

I send and receive a lot of emails every day on my two constantly active Gmail accounts.

And if you include the number of individual chats I have going at any given minute, that “a lot” expands exponentially.

That’s why I was hesitant about switching to Google’s new Gmail layout when I first noticed the little blue box in the lower right hand corner of my inbox last week.

Maybe I’ve been burned one time too many by Mark Zuckerberg’s ongoing ADD-tinged quest to change every last pixel of Facebook in a kaleidoscopic onslaught of updates, but I really, really didn’t want to change my Gmail.

But I’m so glad I did.

Gmail, or Gcrack?

Before I came to Search Influence around six months ago, I was a light to occasional Gmail user. It was fun, free, relatively easy to use, and all my friends were already doing it, so why shouldn’t I? I was a recreational Gmailer.

Now my usage has taken me to a whole new level. I communicate daily with the 40 freelance writers and 13 Production Team members I oversee, as well as the rest of the ever-expanding Search Influence team.

I literally couldn’t do my job without my Search Influence Gmail account, the five or six Google Documents I have open at all times, and my endlessly active Gchat. I’m hooked, big time. The only thing I don’t do so far is Google+, and I know it’s just a matter of time before I decide to add another Gaddiction to this list.

Google is the Force, and I am subject to its will. So I really didn’t want this new layout to suck.

Keyboard Shortcuts Rock!

Imagine my relief when I switched my personal Gmail to the new layout and slowly started to realize the amazing level of control the update was suddenly affording me. My work inbox followed this morning in what has proven to be one of the highlights of my day.

First of all, being able to switch screen size is a major plus. I have my work MacBook hooked up to a 21-inch external display, so being able to adjust the layout as I switch between the laptop’s compact screen and the much larger external monitor is a big advantage. I can be “comfortable” and “cozy” at the same time, which is really great.

The new conversation layout incorporates a more streamlined and minimalist approach to organizing email threads, which was a hugely welcome addition as far as I am concerned. Anything that helps me clearly navigate an email that may have been originally sent to 40 people and now includes direct replies from 17 of the original recipients is welcomed with open arms.

But what’s really changing the way I interact with all things Google is the new set of keyboard shortcuts that came with the update.Gmail Keyboard Shortcuts


Want to compose an email? All you have to do is hit “c.” Want to go back to your inbox? Hit “g” then “i.” Drafts? Try “g” then “d.” You can hit “j” or “k” to move up and down between emails, “x” to select one, and then “shift” and “i” to mark your selection as read. “Enter” or “o” opens a selected email thread, “r” starts a reply, “a” replies to all, and hitting “tab” then “enter” sends your completed email.

Want to like something on Google +? Hit “shift” then “1,” or “<Shift> + 1” as Google so craftily puts it in the helpful keyboard shortcuts menu that appears when you hit “shift” then “?”

All of this adds to up a newfound level of control that will change the way you go about your daily Google life, especially if you’re a hardcore Gmail and Gchat user, like I am. And as a little bonus, the HD themes are pretty amazing.

All in all, this is one update that actually does what the name implies and updates the user experience with a slew of new controls and options. Coming hot on the heels of a slew of updates to some of Google’s most iconic services, from a wildly unpopular redesign of the Reader to the newly minimalistic local search, this functional and stylish new Gmail is a breath of fresh air. And without the obligatory Someecard mocking the Internet’s latest update-fueled uproar.