Starting at 6PM Pacific Time tonight, Google will start rolling out Gmail Labs, an experimental area of new Gmail features that will be familiar and very welcome to users of the Better Gmail Firefox extension. Once your Gmail account is Labs-enabled, you'll get a Labs tab in the Settings area of your account where you can enable 13 new experimental Gmail features, including signature tweaks, mouse gestures, keyboard shortcuts, and even a game. After the jump, get an exclusive sneak preview at the new Gmail Labs experimental features, with screenshots.
First, let's get right to the good stuff. Take a gander at the 13 new experimental features Gmail Labs adds:
Better Gmail and Better Gmail 2 users will be familiar (and hopefully very happy) with Fixed Font, Signature Tweaks, Custom Keyboard Shortcuts, and Hide Unread Counts. Google says it will start its user rollout in about an hour or so, which will continue over a span of the next few days or weeks. I've just gotten my account enabled here at the Google campus, so as I play with each feature, I'll add more screenshots to this post.
Update: Here are some more details and screenshots of the Gmail Labs features in action.
SuperstarsNow you can flag, star, and otherwise mark messages using up to 12 different colored and shaped icons. When you enable Superstars, you get a new section in the General settings area, which looks like this.
Click on the star button on a message repeatedly to cycle through all the Superstar choices. Looks like Superstars is more a visual indicator than anything; you can't search by all the messages superstarred the check, for example.
Quick LinksBasically a souped-up version of the Gmail Saved Searches Greasemonkey user script, Quick Links adds a module to the Gmail sidebar where you can store links to searches, views, and even individual messages. Go to the view you want—like all messages that have PDF file attachments using the
has:attachment PDFGmail search—then click "Add Quick Link" to save what's essentially a Gmail view or message bookmark there.
Email AddictThe Email Addict feature adds a "Take a Break" link to the top of your Gmail inbox, that looks like this:
When you click it, you get 14 minutes off from dealing with email:
SnakeyOk people, Snakey is a straight-up time-waster, meant to give you something to do while you're procrastinating responding to email. The Snakey developer told me that he originally put it together for users to play while they waited for their inbox to load, but then thought it would be better to not make users wait at all—and give them the choice to play. As you can see from the screenshot, I suck (my high score is only 30 after 3 games!) and I hear that it's not easy to break 150 (but I'm sure you will try.)
Custom Keyboard ShortcutsJust as you'd expect from the name, the custom keyboard shortcuts feature lets you map Gmail actions to the keys of your choice. While this isn't quite as cool as Gmail Macros, it's nice for folks who want to archive their messages via keyboard, but have something against the Y key (for example.) Click on the thumbnail on the right to pop up the full list of available key mappings and actions.
Random SignatureAdd a random quote to your email pulled from an RSS feed by enabling Random Signature. By default, Random Signature uses a feed from BrainyQuote.com, but you can set it to the feed of your choice in the signature settings.
The Gmail team announced the new Gmail Labs at a press event at the Googleplex today which I attended with several other tech bloggers and reporters. After the announcement, Keith Coleman (the Gmail product manager who we interviewed a few months back), took us on a tour of the Gmail "pod" or workspace. The best part? On a whiteboard where developers got to brainstorm feature ideas, they had taped a printout of Lifehacker readers' Gmail features wishlist. Not kidding. When I get home tonight, I will post photographic evidence.