You can now try Smart Compose in the new Gmail

Smart Compose, the experimental autocomplete feature in the new Gmail on the web that Google announced at its I/O conference last week, is now available for testing.

Smart Compose is an AI tool that promises to automatically finish your sentences for you, using what it has learned about how people typically write. Based on my experience so far, it’s not quite as good as Google’s demo made us believe it was, but it’s still quite useful and will likely save you a few keystrokes as you go about your day.

You’ll have to enable “Experimental Access” in the new Gmail settings to be considered for this first test. I did so last week and the new feature is now live in my account.

 

I admit that I always feel a bit empty inside when I use Smart Reply, the somewhat more limited version of this feature in the mobile Gmail app that provides you with a few potential two or three-word replies. And I always wonder if the person on the other end knows I was too lazy to write a real answer. But it also makes me feel more productive because I end up answering more emails. It’s a trade-off that Smart Reply is currently winning. My guess is, the same will happen with Smart Compose.

For now, though, Smart Compose is still quite limited (and only works in English). When it works, it’s almost magical, and the suggestion is almost always spot on. But it only works for rather trite sentences so far. If you go off the script, you could write paragraph after paragraph without ever seeing the prompt.

It’ll happily autocomplete any cliché and write “Hi [name],” at the top of your email, which I guess is something, but that doesn’t feel especially intelligent. We’re still looking at an experimental feature, though, and these tools tend to get better as they learn more about how users behave.

Google’s new ‘smart compose’ will help you write your emails

Following the recent Gmail revamp, Google today announced another new feature for Gmail called “Smart Compose,” which will actually help you write your emails using machine learning technology.

As you type, Smart Compose pops up suggestions about what you might want to write next – similar to Google autocomplete.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai briefly demoed the technology on stage at the Google I/O developer conference this morning, showing how Smart Compose could finish sentences by suggesting text, including common phrases or even addresses.

“As the name suggests, we use machine learning to start suggesting phrases for you,” Pichai explained. “All you have to do is hit tab to keep auto-completing. In this case, it understands the subject is ‘taco Tuesday.’ It takes care of mundane things like addresses so you can focus on what you want to type,” he continued.

“I’ve been sending a lot more emails to the company. Not sure what they think of it, but it’s been great,” Pichai said.

The feature is rolling it out to all users this month.

Gmail for iOS gets Google Pay and snooze features

Happy I/O day! The big show hasn’t actually kicked off, but the Google news continues to trickle in. If you’re among those using Gmail on iOS, check the App Store right now for an update that brings a couple of key new features to the app.

The more interesting of the two is the addition of Google Pay, which makes it possible to “pay anyone with an email address,” according to the developer notes. You can access that by ticking the attachment button and scrolling all the way down.

From there, you’ll find options to send or request money via Pay. Of course, this all give Google a nice little leg up on Apple’s own Pay app, which isn’t baked into Gmail.

The other big update here is Snooze. Once inside an email, click the top bar to find the option in a list of functions. From there, you can choose from a number of presets, including “Later Today,” “Tomorrow,” “Later This Week,” “This Weekend” and “Next Week.”

You can also choose a custom date and time or the far more romantic “Someday,” as you float down the river on your homemade raft, wondering where it all went so terrible wrong.

Say hello to the new Gmail with self-destructing messages, email snoozing and more

Today, Google is launching the biggest revamp of Gmail in years. The company is bringing to the flagship Gmail service many (but not all) of the features it trialed in Inbox for Gmail, and adding a few new ones, too. With those new features, which we first reported earlier this month, the company is also introducing a refreshed design for the service, though if you’ve used Gmail before, you’ll feel right at home.

If you’ve followed along with the leaks in recent weeks, none of the new features will surprise you. It’s also not a huge surprise that Google is bringing some features from Inbox over to Gmail. What did surprise me while trying out the new service ahead of today’s launch, though, is that some features that didn’t get a lot of attention in the leaks, including the new consistent sidebar with its built-in Google Calendar, Tasks and Keep integration, are maybe among the most useful of the additions here.

But let’s start from the beginning. The new Gmail comes with a slew of new features. The first you’ll likely notice is the ability to take actions on emails right from the Inbox itself. Just like in Inbox, when you hover over an email without clicking into it, you’ll now see icons to archive and delete a message, as well as mark it as read (without ever reading it). There’s also a link to the new ‘snooze’ feature here.

When you try to snooze an email, Gmail gives you the option to resurface it later in the day, tomorrow, later this week, on the weekend or next week. If you’re a fan of a clean inbox, that’s a good way to keep your inbox empty and still rest assured that an important email that you want to take care of later will pop back up into your queue. Oddly enough, the snooze feature is only available from the inbox. There’s no way to get to it when you’re actually reading an email.

If you are more like me and don’t really care about how messy your inbox is, then the new “nudging” feature will come in handy. Here, Google uses its AI smarts to figure out that a message is probably important to you and resurfaces it to remind you to follow up or reply.

Google is now also using these same AI smarts to bring to the web its smart replies feature, which you are probably familiar with from the Gmail mobile apps.

The other major new feature in this update is “confidential mode.” The idea here is simple: When you write an email, you can select for how long the recipient will be able to read the email. Recipients will not be able to forward, copy and paste, download or print the content. You can’t stop anybody from taking a picture of the screen of course, but what’s maybe more important here is that if anybody ever hacked the recipient’s account, that email with your confidential information will be long gone. For added security, you can also add a second-factor authentication here, where the recipient will have to receive an SMS message with a Google-generated passcode to read the email.

Other new features in Gmail include high-priority notifications, which will only notify you of a new email if Google deems it to be really, really important, and unsubscribe suggestions, which nudges you to unsubscribe when it looks like you stopped reading messages from a given newsletter (low open rates are the bane of newsletter publishers, after all, so they’ll be okay if you leave).

But wait, there’s more (did I mention this is a major update?). Gmail is also getting a new built-in offline mode since it’s now a fully fledged progressive web app. You can store up to 90 days of emails and search through them, for example. This new capability will launch in the coming weeks.

Maybe my favorite new feature — and something that isn’t available in Inbox — is the new right sidebar, which comes pre-populated with a clever Google Calendar widget that gives you a view of a single day’s events and lets you add new events right from your inbox.

The sidebar also features Google Keep for note taking (though sadly, it doesn’t look like you can attach notes to emails or even drop them into a note) and Google Tasks. Tasks actually has a bit of a connection to your emails since you can drag and drop emails into the sidebar to create new tasks. Personally, I use the Trello add-on for this (and all regular Gmail add-ons will still work with the new Gmail), but I’m sure people will find plenty of uses for this.

All of those new features are supported by the new design, which itself feels more like a refresh than a revolution. Like before, you can choose between three density settings: default, comfortable and compact. The default setting is the most interesting option because it comes with a new feature, too: attachment clips. Instead of simply showing you the standard paperclip in your inbox to signify that an email chain includes an attachment, the new Gmail now highlights the attachments right underneath the message preview in the inbox view.

Unlike in Inbox by Gmail, you won’t get a full preview of an image here, but you will be able to click right into the attachment without opening up the email.

It’s worth pointing out that many standard Gmail features aren’t going anywhere. You can still use the Priority Inbox and star messages, for example. You can still sort and filter emails into different folders/categories. If you like Google’s automatic filters for promotional emails, social media updates, newsletters, etc., then you can still use those, too. And even though nobody actually understands what Google’s plans for Hangouts really is, it’s still right there in your inbox.

Sadly, one of my favorite Inbox features, the automatic grouping of travel emails (think flight confirmations, car and hotel reservations etc.) into a single bundle, has not made the move to Gmail (yet). Maybe that’ll come later.

The new design is now rolling out to regular Gmail users. As usual, you’ll be able to switch back and forth at first. Then, at some point in the future, Google will switch all users to the new design. For business users, the G Suite admin will have to enable these new features by enrolling in the G Suite Early Adopter Program.

Google is testing self-destructing emails in new Gmail

Google is working on a brand new design for the web version of Gmail. Yesterday, I published screenshots of the new design. TechCrunch’s tipster Chaim also discovered an interesting new feature in the new Gmail. You’ll soon be able to send expiring emails.

Working on an email service is hard as you have to be compatible with all sorts of email providers and email clients. But it doesn’t seem to be stopping Google as the company is now evolving beyond the simple POP3/IMAP/SMTP protocols.

Based on those screenshots, expiring emails work pretty much like expiring emails in ProtonMail. After some time, the email becomes unreadable.

In the compose screen, there’s a tiny lock icon called “confidential mode”. It says that the recipient won’t be able to forward email content, copy and paste, download or print the email.

You can configure the expiration date so that your email disappears after 1 week, 1 month, multiple years, etc. You can also ask your recipient to confirm their identity with a passcode sent via text message. This sounds like a great way to associate email addresses with phone numbers and improve Google’s ads.

When our tipster clicked on “Learn more”, it opened Google’s help articles but the page was not found. The feature isn’t ready for prime time just yet.

On the recipient’s side, the person was using the existing version of Gmail and received a link to view the confidential email. The recipient had to log into their Google account once again to view the content. When viewing the confidential message, copy and paste as well as the print feature were disabled — it didn’t stop our tipster from taking a screenshot of the email though.

It’s unclear if this feature is going to be compatible with non-Gmail users as the company asks you to confirm your Google account to view the confidential message. It’s also unclear if the integration is going to work better in the future when everybody is using the new Gmail.

For instance, when a ProtonMail user sends an expiring message to another ProtonMail user, it looks like a regular email in the inbox. After the message expires, it is automatically deleted from the inbox and the sender’s outbox.

In Gmail’s current implementation, it sounds like Google simply generates an email with a link. The message behind the link disappears after a while, but not necessarily the intermediate email.

It’s also worth noting that Google doesn’t mention end-to-end encryption anywhere. A “confidential” message doesn’t have to be encrypted. It’s likely that Google could still see the content of that message and comply with warrants. Once again, Google said that the new Gmail is going to come out in a few weeks. Confidential emails could be released at the same time or at a later date.

Here’s what the new Gmail looks like

Yesterday, Google pressed the Send button too quickly and informed G Suite customers that a new Gmail was coming soon. TechCrunch obtained a few screenshots of the new interface from a tipster called Chaim. I confirmed the authenticity of those screenshots with another person who saw the new design. So here’s what you can expect.

As you can see, the new Gmail looks like a hybrid between the current Gmail interface and inbox.google.com. It isn’t a huge departure from the current interface metaphor. So existing Gmail users will still feel right at home.

The new Gmail also looks more like modern Google products with Material design. Android users know these buttons, colors and popups quite well already. All the text buttons have been replaced by icons and it looks much cleaner than before.

On those screenshots, you can see some of the new features that Google mentioned yesterday. You can snooze emails so that they reappear in your inbox hours or days later. On the screenshot, you can see “later today”, “tomorrow”, “this weekend”, “next week” and “someday”. There could be settings to configure those shortcuts.

As you can see, Gmail will suggest smart replies in each email thread. It seems to be working like in the mobile app with a handful of suggestions below the last email.

But the most interesting part is the column on the right-side of the screen. This expandable area lets you load widgets of other apps. By default, Gmail lets you open Google Calendar, Keep and Tasks so that you can add an event while replying to a thread.

Streak co-founder Aleem Mawani also told me that Gmail extensions, such as Clearbit, Streak and Dropbox, will be compatible with the new design. Many of those apps rely on the InboxSDK library, and it looks like you’ll be able to integrate apps in Gmail using the same SDK. According to Google, The new Gmail design is going to come out in a few weeks.

Google is about to launch a Gmail web redesign

Google sent an email to G Suite customers to tell them that the company has been working on a brand new version of Gmail for the web. In addition to a fresh design, the company also listed some of the new features.

You can expect to be able to access Google Calendar from the Gmail interface directly. Outlook customers are probably going to love this.

You’ll be able to snooze emails so that they reappear in your inbox hours or days later. This is a good way to clean your inbox if you can’t reply to a specific email just yet.

If you use Gmail on your iPhone or Android phone, you may already be using smart replies. These algorithmically-generated replies will also be available on Gmail.com.

Finally, Google is working on a new way to store your emails on your computer for offline access. As the company is slowly phasing out Chrome Apps, Google will now be using standard web technologies to let your browser store your data.

Google has yet to share screenshots of the new design. Gmail’s web interface hasn’t changed in years — you can probably expect a new interface that follows Google’s Material design language.

Update: Sahil Bhutani contacted me after reading this article because he saw a Google employee playing with the new design on public transport. “It was a hybrid of Gmail and Inbox,” he told me. “The left-side column was more like inbox.google.com and the right side was an enlarged version of Gmail. The color in the background had a blue-ish gradient. Every folder on the left had an icon just like Inbox and dividers to split the categories.” Here’s a sketch of what he saw:

Google also notes that the update might break some popular browser add-ons for Gmail, such as Clearbit, Streak, etc.

According to the G Suite email, G Suite customers and regular Gmail users will have to opt in into a new Early Adopter Program to access the new Gmail. It’ll be available in the coming weeks.

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