A fresh coat of paint? Hardly.
The new Gmail is a clean, tidy, trim, and powerful new version--the biggest update since a 2011 redesign. That's a long time to wait, but I'm happy to report that the new look is refreshing and clear, even if there is one serious problem that I'll explain a moment.
Now, if you don't know--this is not an insider beta version. If you use Gmail, you can click the Settings icon on the upper right (it looks like a small gear). Then click to upgrade--that's it! You can also downgrade easily to the classic version using the same steps.
Gmail looks different, with a cleaner design. There's a ton of white space, which might remind you of the Google Inbox app. However, everything you normally use like the tabs up top for less important email, labels, and the big Compose button are all in the roughly the same place. Many features are still available but just look a little newer.
Under the hood is what matters most, though. Gmail now does a better job of showing you which attachments are in an entire thread. I liked seeing one email chain and noted that there were a total of 13 images in the thread, not just for the one listed email.
I've also noticed that Gmail is faster. Emails open faster, and images seem to pop-up without the weird delay in the older Gmail. The new version also borrows the automated replies from Google Inbox where you can click a button to send a canned response--like "looks good" or "yes, i'm interested" based on the context of the email. It saves a ton of time. Google has also improved how it scans for nefarious spam.
Now, here's my one and only complaint so far.
It requires a little backstory.
I own Toyota Corolla, and it's not the best car in the world. It has 240,000 miles. It's a third car, the one that we call old reliable. When I jump in, I know exactly where to find the heat controls, the cruise control and other settings. I don't have to adjust anything, it's comfortable. The truth is that I kind of hate the car, but I also love it at the same time--it's like a dinged up pair of jeans or a favorite blazer. Because I test cars as part of my job as a journalist, I like going back to the known known as they say.
The new Gmail is like a new car. It's flashy, bright, and powerful. I'll keep using it, but I miss what I've known these past 10 years or so. If you're like me, the new Gmail might slow you down at first, even though it's actually way better. One example of this: The new Gmail doesn't have an empty box where you can type your replies and has a more obvious Reply button. It makes more sense, especially for new users, but requires an adjustment period. (I joked on LinkedIn about this topic that I'm still adjusting to the life changes.) I don't really like how the labels pop-up works, mostly because it's just different.
That said, there are hidden luxuries. For one, you can click a sidebar to see Google Cal, your Tasks, and Google Keep. (Those last two are not common but maybe they will rebound now.) You can add more sidebar apps. Including one for Trello that's really handy. Gmail will now remind you to reply to emails that have sat around for a while. A new security feature allows you to disable whether people can forward, copy, download or print messages. A guide to everything that's new is here.
Overall, the changes are already helping me find emails faster, and I like the more spacious and open look. It fits in better with other Google apps, too.
I'm still getting used to the new world. I like what I'm seeing so far. I'm curious if you've experienced the same jarring sensation so let me know.
We know it's better. Now we need to accept that and move on.