Big changes are being rolled out at Gmail starting Wednesday. Washington Post tech columnist Geoffrey A. Fowler got to try the new Gmail out early, and says that while he was initially annoyed at some of the "cutesy" changes like rounded buttons and a new font, he was on board with the redesign after using it for a week. He notes that most features are still in the places you're used to and the layout is largely familiar, but the calendar is (helpfully) much closer and easier to access now. Some of the biggest changes, per Fowler as well as CNBC, the Verge, Forbes, and Fast Company (which notes that the last Gmail redesign was six years ago):
- Self-destruct: You can now choose "Confidential mode" when composing an email, then set a time limit. Recipients will see that they've received a confidential message and that it will "self-destruct" in the chosen time frame (a day, a week, a month). That means they won't be able to access it anymore, though they can request to be able to. You can also restrict them from forwarding, copying, downloading, or printing the email. If you use the mode, you can also revoke access if you no longer want the person to be able to view the message after you've sent it.
- More security: You can even require recipients to type in a passcode (it will be texted to their phone) before viewing an email; this aims to help protect messages should a recipient's email get hacked.
- "Nudges": Gmail's artificial intelligence learns about user behavior over time and, with the new Gmail, that information will be used to help you out. If three days go by without you replying to a message that seems like one you typically would respond to, Gmail will move it back to the top of your inbox with a warning to "nudge" you to reply. Google says that in testing with business users, each week 8% of people were saved from forgetting about an email. Don't want to be nudged? You can turn the feature off.
- "Snooze": You can also "snooze" emails you don't have time to look at, and they will go back to the top of your inbox at a time of your choosing.
- Smart Reply: Gmail will suggest three possible responses to an email; you can use one, tweak one, or type your own response. The more you use the feature, the more it will adjust to your writing style.
- Intelligent Unsubscribe: Based on how many emails you get from certain senders and how often you open them, Gmail will ask if you want to unsubscribe.
- Less buzzing: If you're sick of your Gmail smartphone or tablet app buzzing all day long when new emails come in, the new Gmail will have an option to receive alerts only for messages Gmail deems "high priority."
- Offline mode: You can now compose emails while offline and they will be sent when your connection returns; you can also set messages to be deleted or archived when you're back online.
Users can turn on the new version immediately by tapping the gear icon to access Gmail settings and clicking "Try the new Gmail." If you prefer to wait, Google will be rolling it out to all 1.4 billion users over the coming months. (Read more Gmail