Nearly 20 percent of the world's population--1.4 billion people--use Gmail, so it's worth noting when Google makes changes to the platform. Several upgrades arrived March 25, and if you're a user of the free version, you'll need to opt-in using the Settings cog. If your company is one of the 4 million businesses that pay to use G Suite apps, your domain administrator can enable the new features. Either way, here's what you can find.

Attachment preview

It's a pain when you need to get to an attachment and it's buried in a lengthy conversation. This feature now shows attachments in "default" view--which is one of three density settings in the new Gmail--directly from your inbox, so you can access things like photos without having to open a message.

Snooze

If you don't need to reply to a message right away, you can send it away from your inbox to return at a date and time of your choosing. You can do it without opening the thread by selecting the clock icon that appears when you hover over a message. Google says this feature can eliminate 100 million unnecessary opens every month (in which people  repeatedly open the same emails).

Side panel

It's a collapsible and expandable column that hangs out on the right side of your screen and lets you get to other Google apps including Calendar, Keep, and Tasks without having to leave Gmail or toggle between tabs. You can also expand and collapse the left-side navigation menu in Gmail to allow for extra screen real estate or vertical density.

Nudging

It uses artificial intelligence to remind you to follow up and respond to messages that are more than a couple of days old. A notice will show up on an email asking if you want to reply.

Smart reply

This popular feature has been live on mobile for about a year. Now it works on the Web app, as well, and offers three responses that are likely appropriate for whatever message you're reading. It uses machine learning to figure out your style, so if you tend to prefer exclamation points it will offer you something like "Thanks!" instead of a plain "Thanks."

High priority notifications

The idea here is to interrupt you less. Turn it on in mobile and you'll only get notified for important messages based on signals like contact affinity or the likelihood you need to respond or read a message in the near term. According to Google, this feature reduces notifications by 50 percent on average.

Assistive unsubscribe

Google can see when you're not opening newsletters and will ask if you want to unsubscribe from them. If you choose to unsubscribe, you'll stop getting emails from the sender in question.

Confidential mode

This feature gives you a deeper level of control around who can do what with your messages. It lets you send an email confidentially, and it lets you expire it, so once a certain date and time is reached the email will no longer be accessible by the recipient. You can also revoke previously sent messages and prevent recipients from doing things like downloading attachments and forwarding messages. 

Not all these features are available today. Google says a handful--confidential mode, nudging, assistive unsubscribe, and high priority notifications--will go live in the next several weeks.

Published on: Apr 25, 2018