And if you don't want to update, there are still a host of ways to improve your current Gmail setup. Read our suggestions below for how to make your Google email experience better.
Try out the new Gmail
If your account has been blessed by Google with the “Try the new Gmail” button, than the obvious thing to do is make the switch. You can check out the spruced up, but still familiar, user interface, and also some of the additional functions. Obvious ones are placed onto the messages themselves, such as snoozing an email until a later time, or viewing attachments without going into the email itself, which accompany your standard choices for deleting and marking as unread.
The side panel now contains your Calendar, Keep and Tasks pages, so you don’t have to navigate away from the inbox to use these features, but instead slide over a separate part of the screen when you require it. Likewise, the other sidebar containing the various folders of your email account is usually minimised to just icons, a far smarter use of the screen space.
Google Labs and Extensions
Returning to Gmail, there are some additional features to be unlocked in either the classic or refreshed version. Under the Settings menu, there will either be an option for Google Labs, or Advanced Options. Selecting this will give access to some more unique options.
Canned Responses: One of the options you'll want to activate for your DIY new Gmail is the ability to quickly reply to messages with stock replies. Type out a message you may frequently have to send and then come back to it when you quickly want to send the same message multiple times.
Preview Pane: New Gmail still takes you to a separate screen to read messages, unlike Inbox. To redress this, turn on this Lab option to add a reading area, much like the one in Outlook Mail, which some users will find a far more sensible and convenient way of going through your incoming mail.
Gmail offline: There are always going to be some times where you don't have any connectivity. The offline Gmail tool does exactly what you would expect: read, write and send messages when you're out of touch. When you log back in, all your activity will be pushed through Google's system.
Unread messages: If you use Gmail on the web, you probably have it open amongst a ton of other tabs. This extensions simply changes the favicon in your tabs. Instead of showing just the Gmail logo, the extension displays how many new emails you have.
Gmail snooze: This extension was first created in 2015 and allows you to snooze messages using Google's labels. It's an inelegant but practical solution. The extensions makes labels – such as snooze for one hour – that bring messages back to the top of your inbox.
MeisterTask: A small selection of add-ons are available for Gmail, which behave a little like Chrome extensions. The one we are interested in is MeisterTask, which turns your emails into the same task-style interface offered by new Gmail and Inbox.
There is another Google email option all together. Google’s experimental alternative to Gmail, Inbox, can be activated with your existing account in just a few clicks, and allows you to use some of the same features that the switch button allows, and also some you can’t access otherwise.
One of the most noticeable is reading emails in a pop-out that’s in line with your messages, allowing faster navigation between them. You also get an extra feature in the form of ‘Mark as Done’. There isn’t Google Task integration, but you can still set its own reminders to yourself, or the whole inbox can act as a to-do list, between setting emails as ‘Done’ or snoozing them, you can easily figure out what needs attending to in your schedule (once you have created the perfect email client of course).
Inbox also groups similar messages together based on automatic and user specified options. For example, it collects promotional messages from online shops, and also messages from social networks, much as the current Gmail client does. Inbox improves on this by giving automatic bundles for trips, receipts and financial related messages. You can make your own bundles too with some simple filtering settings.
Inbox has an ‘assists’ function, that operates much like the AI system coming to Gmail, reminding you to reply to important messages, or unsubscribe from newsletters and other irritating communications you never open.
What you can’t get
Sadly, there are no equivalents in anything we have looked at already to the new “confidential mode”, so if you want to be able to make your emails self-destruct after reading, you are going to have to wait.
While it is a frustratingly uncertain wait before we can get our hands on all the features of the updated Gmail, there is much you can do right now to make your Google email experience more productive and better to use with a few minutes of tinkering in options menus.