New Gmail accounts gain an Import option to smooth the transition from competing Webmail services. Also now available: managing tasks in Calendar and Google searching inside Gmail.
Google has added some handy features for its most popular online apps targeting everyone from newcomers to people rely heavily on the online suite.
First up is the ability to import email and contacts from other popular Web-based accounts such as Hotmail and Yahoo along with other POP3-based services. The feature is already available on all newly-created Gmail accounts, where the Accounts tab (under Settings) is now labelled Accounts and Import. Google says it will also be introduced to existing Gmail accounts, just don’t expect it to appear overnight.
Newcomers to Gmail can now import their email and contact from older Web-based email services
“It’ll take longer than the few hours or days that most Gmail features take to get out to everyone” cautions Gmail engineer Chad Parry on the Official Gmail Blog
. And even then, it won’t be available to everyone: “Businesses and schools using Google Apps won't see these new migration options” Parry says. “Everyone can still use POP3 mail fetching and upload your contacts in a CSV file, but this new way is much simpler for basic imports.”
Gmail also allows messages to be forwarded from your old account for 30 days, “giving you time to take Gmail for a test drive while you make up your mind” explains Parry.
The ability to search the Web with Google has also been woven into Gmail, although it’s available only as one of the advanced options on the Labs tab (under Settings) which displays a search box on the left side of your inbox. Enter the search term and a small window appears at the bottom of your screen containing the first few search results.
Google sees this as a way to help its customers do more from within the Gmail interface as well as yet another opportunity to capture eyeballs – even while you’re writing an email.
Also new is in-email searching of the entire Web through Google, with context-sensitive actions
“You can click on a search result and it'll open up in another window (or another tab) so you can make sure it's what you're looking for” explains Google software engineer Adam de Boor
. “Once you're sure it's a result you need, moving your mouse over the result back in Gmail reveals a pull-down menu that lets you do stuff with the search result.”
The exact contents of that menu depends on what you’re doing in Gmail, de Boor says. “If you're reading a message, you can start a reply to the message with the search result as the first thing in your reply. If you're writing a message, you can paste the result, or just the URL into your message. If you're chatting with someone, you can send the result via chat.”
Gmail’s Task list has also been integrated into Google Calendar, something which many Google App adherents felt was long overdue. “Ever since we launched Google Calendar, people in our forum have been pretty vocal about a missing piece – an integrated task list” admits Google software engineer Garry Boyer.
It makes obvious sense for Gmail's Tasks to also be available in Google Calendar
While the Task list will be familiar to Gmail users it has some Calendar-specific tweaks. For example, Tasks that have due dates will automatically appear on your calendar. A Tasks’s due date can also be changed by dragging it to a different date, just as you would with a regular calendar event.