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

Google is shifting two big features from Google Workspace (Google’s paid tier of enterprise Google accounts, previously known 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 year ago, Google introduced a major change for Gmail that will flip it from a easy e-mail app right into a “single, built-in expertise” the place you could possibly ship e-mail, chat, work on a Google Doc, and make video calls, all from one browser-based super-app. In August, this alteration started 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 characteristic out there to all Google customers.

The “unified” Gmail UI largely takes the type of a segmented sidebar design with all kinds of Google apps in it. Gmail has lengthy featured a segmented sidebar that features a chat program—first Google Discuss (from 2005), then Google Hangouts (2013), and at the moment Google Chat (2018). With at the moment’s change, there are new sections with a spot for Google Chat “rooms” (or group chats, which are actually separate from common contacts) and a piece for Google Meet (so you can also 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 is able to open the Google Doc inside a brand new, multipane interface inside Gmail, along with your navigation sidebar on the left. A split-screen interface with Google Chat on the left and the Google Doc on the proper 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 in case you obtain the hyperlink by way of e-mail. The interface additionally would not work when you have Chat in a pop-up window. Chat must be proven in a full-screen interface for the button to look.

One other new widget you may in all probability 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 change to “Don’t disturb” or “Invisible” so you will get some work performed.

“Beginning at the moment, 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 would not make a ton of sense, however you’ll be able to examine this field by going to settings -> “Chat and Meet” and flipping the “Chat” setting from “Basic Hangouts” to “Google Chat.” When you 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 “cover.” That ought to offer you common Gmail.

Google Chat for everybody

Enlarge / Google Chat. It is wonderful.

Ron Amadeo

Additionally in at the moment’s batch of bulletins: Google Chat, Google’s newest messaging app, is rolling out for all client accounts. Google Chat has had a protracted 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 the moment, Google Chat can also be being drafted into service as a client chat app and can ultimately exchange Google Hangouts, Google’s hottest chat product.

Google has launched (and shut down) many chat apps over time—Google Discuss, Voice, Buzz, Disco, Google+ Messenger, Hangouts, Areas, Allo, and so forth.—however one person base has stored all of it operating all through this chaos. The unique Google Discuss person base from 2005 was upgraded to Google Hangouts in 2013, and now these Google Hangouts customers will likely 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 operating on the brand new Google Chat purchasers.

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

I’ve had early entry to Google Chat for some time now, and in case 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 an excellent factor. Google’s earlier efforts to switch Hangouts, equivalent 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 will likely be nice for greater 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 fashionable purchasers. Plus, not like Hangouts, Google Chat will maintain operating for the foreseeable future.

One other new Gmail interface—and one thing known 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 the moment was introduced a 12 months 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 characteristic known 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 characteristic, which was known as “Rooms” and any longer will likely be known 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 embrace “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 the moment are so full of flowery advertising language and devoid of specifics that readers could 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 information sharing and neighborhood constructing for groups of all sizes, the place all of the related data, conversations, and information for a mission may be organized, and the place matters—even on the group stage—may be intelligently moderated. With the flexibility to pin messages the place everybody can see them, Areas will play an important position in serving to individuals keep linked and knowledgeable as hybrid work evolves.

Proper. Seems like a chat room to me.

What’s extra fascinating is that the Areas screenshots present a bunch of modifications to the Gmail interface. A lot 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 the moment, these spots are white and mix in with the principle content material space.

The sidebar buttons are all styled in a different way with icons and textual content; at the moment, 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 would 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 contributors nonetheless stay within the prime proper nook of this screenshot. If they’re DMs, you’d suppose the “Chat” icon would have a notification quantity subsequent to them the best way the “Mail” icon does. Unusual. Google would 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

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