Learn the Secrets of Gmail Labs

Category: Email

Over half a billion people use Gmail, but only a few know the secret that you'll learn today. Buried deep in Gmail’s settings is a playpen called Gmail Labs. It’s a place for the adventurous, the curious, the geeky, and everyday users who like to try new things. If you like to push the envelope until the bubble pops (and the metaphors mix), then come check out Gmail Labs...

Venturing Into the Gmail Laboratory

Google is constantly experimenting with new features for Gmail. Gadgets that activate these features in your Gmail account are listed on the Labs tab in the Gmail Settings that can be accessed by clicking on the gear icon in the upper-right corner of your Inbox page, underneath your profile picture.

The first thing to note is the "rescue link" at the end of the general description of Labs. Keep in mind that Labs are experimental features and Gmail warns that they may "change, break or disappear at any time." So I suggest you bookmark that link. If any of the Labs gadgets misbehaves, or just can't load your inbox, clicking that link will deactivate all gadgets and set you right again. Don’t worry about losing mail, none of the gadgets modifies the content of your email. But don't worry too much, I've tried LOTS of them over the years and never once had a problem.

Gmail Labs

There is a search box for finding Labs gadgets by keyword(s), but it’s really unnecessary. The list of all available Labs gadgets is not very long; there are only 19 as of this writing. That number will change as experiments are added and abandoned. If a Labs gadget is popular enough, Google will usually add it to the base code so that all Gmail users have the feature without having to venture into the experimental world of Labs.

When you find a gadget you want to try, just click the “enable” radio button next to it. Your Gmail Inbox page will reload with the new feature installed. If you decide you don't like the new feature, just return to the Labs tab via Settings to disable a gadget.

The utility of Labs gadgets is in the eye of the beholder. Some people really want to know how many unread messages they have to plow through; there’s a gadget that tells you at a glance, for any and all tabs you may have on your main Gmail page. Other people are fussy about the arrangement of sidebars, chat windows, and other furnishings; there are gadgets that do nothing more (or less) than change the way Gmail looks. Here are some of my favorite power user Labs gadgets:

A Few of My Favorite Things Labs

Undo Send might be the most popular feature ever added to any email service. You get a few seconds after hitting the “send” button to change your mind and cancel sending of an email.

You can do a lot with Labs to customize your Gmail experience, but that's just the tip of the googleberg. See my article Power Up Your Gmail! and take a journey through the most useful and interesting things you can do in the other Gmail Settings tabs.

Apps Search extends Gmail’s search beyond email items to encompass content stored in Google Docs and Google Sites (Google’s free web-hosting and site-building service). Search results from these Google Apps sources appear at the bottom of the Gmail search results page, after matching Gmail items are listed.

The Google Calendar gadget adds a box to the left column of Gmail, showing events, appointments, and other Calendar items while you are in mail-processing mode.

Authentication Icon for Verified Senders can help you avoid being fooled by con artists who send fake emails. Widely known, high-volume email senders such as eBay and Paypal embed digital certificates in their mail, informing Gmail and other email services what to do with mail from their servers that lacks certificates. This gadget displays an icon next to verified authentic email.

Google Maps Preview displays any street addresses found in an email on a small Google Map.

Adding the Google Voicemail Player in your Gmail inbox lets you listen to voicemail while reading those hilarious mistranslations of it.

Quick Links is a handy tool for saving frequent Gmail searches. A new box in the left column of Gmail will give you 1-click access to all emails from your sister that mention her cats. If you don't have a sister, or your sister loves dogs, you'll figure out what to do.

Google wants your help on improving Gmail. That’s why Labs gadgets are provided for you to play with, and why there’s a “feedback” button beside each gadget. Give Labs a try and tell Google what you like, dislike, and what you want to see in the future of Gmail.

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "Learn the Secrets of Gmail Labs"

Posted by:

Jay
24 Nov 2014

I just might start using my gmail account again. You never cease to amaze me. Maybe that's because I have come to the point of trusting you to tell me what is new and important instead of digging thru the rubble myself. Thank you, Bob.


Posted by:

Howard Bretman
24 Nov 2014

I cannot find Gmail labs in settings I have looked in advanced as well so could it be called something else?


Posted by:

Chris James
24 Nov 2014

Just one I would like "stop asking for my mobile phone number". I hope they see this. Thank you Bob


Posted by:

ManoaHi
24 Nov 2014

Are they really not that well known or secret? When we migrated to Google Apps for Work (previously known as Google Apps for Business), as "super admin" I turned them all off at the start. But shortly after the cut over, people asked to have this or that Lab turned on so that we now have about 20 of the Labs enabled. Our initial fear was that we've seen Google change or end features as they see fit, and if someone became dependent on a feature, and Google turned it off, we could have a support nightmare.


Posted by:

Paul Nadeau
25 Nov 2014

Very,informative as usual, thanks Bob


Posted by:

Hira
25 Nov 2014

@howard

Click on settings and on the top Labs listed after Web Clips


Posted by:

RandiO
26 Nov 2014

I read thru this whole article all the while thinking you were discussing "Google Labs" (instead of "GMail Labs"), and for a fleeting moment I got all giddy thinking that the "real" Glabs was back in operation since their demise circa June 2011. I've been fooled by a Rankin [I got Rankined?]!
Maybe in an upcoming article, you can discuss the Google's other new offerings showcased at http://www.google.com/intl/en/about/products/, which is really a V2 of the old Glabs!


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