Google’s unified Gmail interface (and Google Chat) launches for everyone

Google is transferring two big features from Google Workspace (Google’s paid tier of enterprise Google accounts, previously referred to as “G Suite”) to free, client Google accounts. Google Chat, the corporate’s newest messaging app, is now open to everybody. And Gmail’s huge merger with Google Chat, Google Docs, and Google Meet (Google’s Zoom competitor) can also be coming to client accounts.

Nearly a yr in the past, Google introduced a big change for Gmail that may flip it from a easy e-mail app right into a “single, built-in expertise” the place you would ship e-mail, chat, work on a Google Doc, and make video calls, all from one browser-based super-app. In August, this modification began rolling out to paid Google Workspace accounts, and it has experimentally appeared on some client accounts. In the present day, although, Google is formally making the function accessible to all Google customers.

The “unified” Gmail UI largely takes the type of a segmented sidebar design with all types of Google apps in it. Gmail has lengthy featured a segmented sidebar that features a chat program—first Google Speak (from 2005), then Google Hangouts (2013), and presently Google Chat (2018). With at present’s change, there are new sections with a spot for Google Chat “rooms” (or group chats, which at the moment are separate from common contacts) and a piece for Google Meet (so you may make video calls).

Though it isn’t within the sidebar, Google Docs even have Gmail integration. If somebody pastes a Google Docs hyperlink into Google Chat, you’ll be able to mouse over the thumbnail and click on “Open in Chat,” which can open the Google Doc inside a brand new, multipane interface inside Gmail, together with your navigation sidebar on the left. A split-screen interface with Google Chat on the left and the Google Doc on the correct may also seem. “Open in Chat” looks like an odd identify for this button because it’s opening the doc inside, however this split-screen interface doesn’t really work when you obtain the hyperlink by way of e-mail. The interface additionally does not work you probably have Chat in a pop-up window. Chat needs to be proven in a full-screen interface for the button to look.

One other new widget you may most likely spot within the Gmail UI is the selectable Google Chat standing within the prime proper nook. Usually, this standing says “Energetic” and has a inexperienced dot subsequent to it, however you’ll be able to swap to “Don’t disturb” or “Invisible” so you will get some work finished.

“Beginning at present, you’ll be able to allow the built-in expertise in Google Workspace by turning on Google Chat,” Google says. Hiding the unified Gmail interface behind the “Google Chat” flag does not make a ton of sense, however you’ll be able to test this field by going to settings -> “Chat and Meet” and flipping the “Chat” setting from “Basic Hangouts” to “Google Chat.” For those who hate the thought of all this further stuff inside Gmail, you’ll be able to flip the “Chat” setting to “Off” and the Google Meet setting to “disguise.” That ought to provide you with common Gmail.

Google Chat for everybody

Google Chat. It's fine.
Enlarge / Google Chat. It is advantageous.

Ron Amadeo

Additionally in at present’s batch of bulletins: Google Chat, Google’s newest messaging app, is rolling out for all client accounts. Google Chat has had an extended and eventful life as a service. It was first introduced in 2017 as “Hangouts Chat” and was unique to Google Workspace/GSuite. It was Google’s competitor to Slack, the $27 billion enterprise chat app, and was renamed three years later to “Google Chat.” Beginning at present, Google Chat can also be being drafted into service as a client chat app and can finally substitute Google Hangouts, Google’s hottest chat product.

Google has launched (and shut down) many chat apps over time—Google Speak, Voice, Buzz, Disco, Google+ Messenger, Hangouts, Areas, Allo, and so forth.—however one person base has stored all of it working all through this chaos. The unique Google Speak person base from 2005 was upgraded to Google Hangouts in 2013, and now these Google Hangouts customers shall be upgraded to Google Chat in some unspecified time in the future. Google Chat is already cross-compatible with Google Hangouts—your contacts and messages in a single app will present up within the different—Google simply must kick customers off the previous Hangouts purchasers and get them working on the brand new Google Chat purchasers.

Rolling Google Chat out to everybody is step one in that course of. Presumably, we’ll finally see prompts within the previous Hangouts purchasers to modify to Google Chat, whereas Google Hangouts will lastly bear the promised shutdown that has been delayed a number of instances now.

I’ve had early entry to Google Chat for some time now, and when you’re questioning what the distinction is between the previous Google Hangouts and the brand new Google Chat, the reply is “not a lot.” That is really a superb factor. Google’s earlier efforts to exchange Hangouts, comparable to Google Allo, have been woefully insufficient when it comes to lacking options and shopper help. Google Chat is functionally the identical as Hangouts. The 2 huge variations are that chat rooms help @ mentions now, which shall be nice for larger rooms, and rooms are separate from the person contact listing, similar to in Slack. The result’s neither a dramatic improve nor downgrade, however Google Chat does have extra trendy purchasers. Plus, in contrast to Hangouts, Google Chat will preserve working for the foreseeable future.

One other new Gmail interface—and one thing referred to as “Areas”

Google's blog post shows a new Gmail interface with gray borders around a white content area.
Enlarge / Google’s weblog submit reveals a brand new Gmail interface with grey borders round a white content material space.

The Gmail interface that’s rolling out to everybody at present was introduced a yr in the past. In the present day (together with the announcement submit), Google confirmed off one other new Gmail interface and a brand new Google Chat function referred to as “Areas.” In the meantime, Areas will get a separate blog post all to itself. The replace feels like a revamp to Google Chat’s group chat function, which was referred to as “Rooms” and to any extent further shall be referred to as “Areas.” (Google already had a product called “Spaces“—it was a messaging app that launched in 2016 and was shut down eight months later.)

The weblog submit mentions that Google Chat Areas will embody “new options like in-line matter threading, presence indicators, customized statuses, expressive reactions, and a collapsible view.” Google Chat already has reactions and presence indicators, so it is unclear what the weblog submit is speaking about there, however in-line matter threading would make the service extra Slack-like. Each of Google’s weblog posts at present are so full of flowery advertising and marketing language and devoid of specifics that readers may have a problem parsing what’s altering and what the brand new options are. One of many posts says:

Areas can present a spot to gasoline data sharing and neighborhood constructing for groups of all sizes, the place all of the related data, conversations, and information for a venture will be organized, and the place matters—even on the group stage—will be intelligently moderated. With the flexibility to pin messages the place everybody can see them, Areas will play an important position in serving to folks keep related and knowledgeable as hybrid work evolves.

Proper. Feels like a chat room to me.

What’s extra fascinating is that the Areas screenshots present a bunch of modifications to the Gmail interface. Many of the navigational UI space is grey in these screenshots. The sidebar, the highest search and settings space, and the right-side panel are all grey, whereas at present, these spots are white and mix in with the primary content material space.

The sidebar buttons are all styled in a different way with icons and textual content; at present, the buttons present icons when collapsed and textual content when moused over. The buttons additionally appear to be clickable navigation objects on this screenshot, whereas the sidebar is presently solely an accordion-style listing—you’ll be able to click on on an arrow subsequent to “Chat” to develop the chat listing within the sidebar, however clicking on the “Chat” title does not do something.

There are additionally three person-shaped icons within the decrease left-hand nook. It is unclear what these are. The icons for the group-chat members nonetheless reside within the prime proper nook of this screenshot. If they’re DMs, you’ll suppose the “Chat” icon would have a notification quantity subsequent to them the best way the “Mail” icon does. Unusual. Google does not acknowledge this redesign in its weblog submit in any respect, so we’ll want to attend till the redesign rolls out for more information.

Itemizing picture by Google