Google gives Gmail an updated look

Cleaner message strings, customizable navigation and advanced search added to Gmail

Just a week after Google teased users with a sneak peak at a Gmail redesign, the official updates were released today.

Message strings have been cleaned up and redesigned, navigation has become customizable and Gmail search has been updated, wrote Jason Cornwell, a Google user experience designer, in a blog post . Over the next few days, users will be able to see the redesign by clicking on "Switch to the New Look," which will be in the bottom-right of their Gmail.

"Back in July we showed you a preview of Gmail's new look, and we've been working this summer to make even more updates and improvements," Cornwell wrote. "Today, we're giving you an in-depth look at the new design ... We're excited to finally share Gmail's new look with you. We'll be bringing these changes to everyone soon."

Cornwell made a video announcement about the redesign, which was briefly posted on YouTube early last week before Google pulled it down. A company spokeswoman said the video had been posted accidentally.

As part of the Gmail redesign, users now are able to customize several aspects of their email experience. For instance, users can adjust the size of their chat area and how densely message strings are stacked. Google also added high-resolution imagery and profile pictures for chat sessions.

Google also added Advanced Search to Gmail.

"Click the dropdown in the search box to see a new advanced search panel, which makes it easier and faster to find exactly what you're looking for," Cornwell wrote. "You can use the same panel to create a filter from any search in just a few clicks."

Google will also display a link labeled "Why these ads" in Gmail and search pages that will explain the reasons that certain ads were chosen for display.

Last week, industry analysts said they expect Google to be getting Gmail ready to be integrated with Google+, the company's new social networking service.

Last week, Google announced that it had integrated Google+ with Google Apps, a suite of cloud-based office applications. Gmail is a critical component of Google Apps and it's possible that more social-related updates will be coming to the email service.

"I think email usage has peaked, and people will use social media more -- Twitter, Facebook messages, Google+," said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at ZK Research, in a previous interview. "So for Google, if they can customize [Gmail] and make it more modular, it makes taking portions of Gmail and moving [them] to Google+ easier."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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