Customize Your Workspace
Go to Settings and click on Themes to see the wide variety of choices you have at your disposal. Clicking each one instantly changes things so you can sample what it looks like.
Environmentally Conscious Graphical User Interface?
There’s an interesting theme called Tree which takes a queue from iGoogle’s theme approach to things. Once you select the Tree theme it asks where you are located because it will actually change its appearance based on different factors reguarding your location. For example, if it’s daytime, then your Gmail will be brighter, if it’s night time then it will be darker. It also taps into the local weather and will display a wet look if it’s raining outside. It’s rather interesting to think that our themes can work with our external environments this way. This will be a trend that continues everywhere.
Widgets, Gadgets and plugins, oh my!
On top of all this, Google keeps adding more cool stuff in their labs area. When you click on Settings, click Labs to its left to see all of the goodies just sitting there. It’s amazing just how many options we have there. My favorites are the widgets that integrate Google Docs and Google Calendar (see my desktop image above). The tasks pad to the right of my Gmail desktop is from Remember the Milk which integrates wonderfully with Gmail and works with their free iPhone app as well as Twitter and their website. Once you join Remember The Milk for free, go to Services where you can integrate your account with Gmail and manage all of your tasks from there.
Google Talk to the World
GTalk appears on the leftside of your Gmail screen which is cool because you can chat while you work with your emails, Google calendar and Google Documents. They’ve recently added support for audio/video so you can use your webcam to chat with your pals. Also, If you want, you can integrate your Twitter with GTalk and communicate with your friends there as well. There’s support for AOL messenger as well but not for Yahoo or Windows Messenger at this time which would make GTalk truly a universal messenger.
Room for Improvement
Despite all of the cool new features that Google has added to Gmail, there is still lots of room for improvement. For example, they can do MUCH more with Contacts! Right now, it’s just a meager address book from the Web 1.0 era. However, they can actually turn it into a dynamic contact management system that could rival other players in this space such as Plaxo and Soocial. It would be tremendously useful if we could sync our contacts the way Plaxo does automatically. Whenever a contact changes contact info on their end then it propagates the changes all over the web in everyone’s address book in Gmail, ensuring that everyone always has the most current and up to date contact info. I can smell that coming someday. Hopefully soon.
The other thing Google has been slack about has been their Google Profile feature. It could become the web standard for our virtual business card online but they just don’t get it. Instead we see a bunch of third party startups emerging in that space.
Best of Show
Even though Google continues to stretch itself too thin with a plethora of new ventures (sometimes strange ones), it appears to remain focused on one of their best services: Gmail. Let’s hope they keep their eyes on this valuable prize.