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Introducing the new compose in Gmail (gmailblog.blogspot.co.uk)
288 points by derpenxyne 1869 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 191 comments

I hate being the guy who sidetracks a thread off the bat by complaining about something unrelated, but...

Whatever blogspot theme Google uses for this blog is just god awful (oh, I see, this is it: http://gmailblog.blogspot.co.uk/p/as-you-may-have-noticed-gm...), and I swear it gets worse every time I view a post there.

To wit:

When I load the page I see the orange "loading" gears. Then that sliiiiides up to reveal the content. Really? Can they really not innovate here? This is a company that spends massive amounts of resources to get their homepage to load as quickly as possible. Heck, they even penalize companies in their index with slow loading times. And yet they purposefully add loading animations and transitions which add at least a second to page load, and probably more as far as time it takes me to engage in the content.

Also, every time I reload the page I see something different. Sometimes there is text in the black menu bar. Sometimes there is not. Sometimes there is an "extra" screen that slides up after the orange loading gears, sometimes not. Sometimes the sidebar navigation is there, sometimes not. Try refresh a few times yourself and you'll see.

Also, I love the five-second delay for the document URL update when you navigate via the sidebar.

All of these fancy, look-we're-using-ajax, gee-whiz-its-a-single-page-app features -- just for a simple blog post. Talk about complicating a simple problem!

Again, apologies for the rant but I couldn't even concentrate on what the blog post was saying because I was so distracted by this garbage.

Ugh, why would anyone up-vote this comment? Some how this is the top comment, even though it doesn't address the content of the article. This happens all the time on HN and I find it very annoying.

It's not just that I don't want to scroll past this comment. These meta-comments may seem harmless, but when this is the top comment, it stifles the entire discussion about the article. Instead of people discussing the merits of the new GMail UI, there is an endless chain of replies burying all the topical comments.

I've said it before - I'd like to see a community guideline advising people not to make comments like this. These comments end up being easy ways to score points, entertaining for the people involved in the criticism, but harmful for the topical discussion. If it's a "Show HN" post about a hacker's new project, it seems topical to criticize the technology, but when it's a blog post, it seems so lame to criticize the blog software.

This kind of complaint belongs in its own thread - it should be a blogpost or something. The comment doesn't even apply to me - the page works perfectly and crisply for me.

I found your meta-meta comment more useless, better to just let it be. OTOH this meta-meta-meta comment is fantastic, especially this sentence.

> These meta-comments may seem harmless, but when this is the top comment, it stifles the entire discussion about the article.

And for others this is one of the main values of HN. Usually the discussions here are much better / insightful than original articles, and quite often those interesting discussions are tangential to the article itself. Let the community decide what to discuss about, in terms of topic (and the community do decide, by the means of an upvote).

it doesn't address the content of the article

I wholeheartedly disagree. The singing and dancing crap that people surround their text and images with is content. It's just crap content. Think about it the other way: if it's not content, why is it even there? Why does a blog need a loading screen?

I never did read the article because of the same features that the comment you're complaining about complains about. The format of the google blog seriously sucks.

EDIT: I just realized: the Readability bookmarklet manages to hide all the cruft, and make the post readable. Amazing.

He's getting upvoted because it had to be said... finally.

Yeah! After all, it isn't like this comes up every (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4070192) single (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3767025) time (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4196833) a official Google blogpost is submitted or even is brought up.

I'm finding HN harder and harder to deal with without comment upvote counts to provide perspective as a filtering mechanism. I find that regulars and comments like this always tend to get upvoted, even when they're normally far from the most insightful comments posted.

It would be helpful to have some way to collapse a comment thread that we are not interested in.

Normally I'd agree but I came in here to post this same thing as the page is almost unreadable for me in Chrome.

Agreed, these ux complaints are getting annoying.

So, of course, are these horrible ux's.

Worse yet, they've somehow broken the ability to hit space to scroll by a page.

That is keeping with google's newly found traditions. For example, the ajax-ing of search has mostly broken the back key among others.

Shit Case 1: sometimes you do a search, find a new phrase and begin typing it only to see the phrase disappear from the original search results and replaced with updated results for an incomplete and often incoherent query.

Shit Case 2: often I begin typing a new search query and realize mid "sentence" that the current query was fine. Well, too late. Because the results have already refreshed. Hitting the back key does little good. In best case, it doesn't work. In worst case, it will take you to the previous physical page that you were on before you came to google.

I find some of these changes mind boggling and can only convince myself to accept them by tell myself "hey google looks at the numbers, may be most folks just like it". Particularly the ajax search...annoys the crap out of me and finds way to enable itself even when I disable it.

> I find some of these changes mind boggling and can only convince myself to accept them by tell myself "hey google looks at the numbers, may be most folks just like it". Particularly the ajax search...annoys the crap out of me and finds way to enable itself even when I disable it.

Google needs to be usable by everyone. They iterate the product to make sure that most people get good search results. But this means that some people are getting sub-optimal results, especially as Google makes changes to the way search works.

Google didn't used to use stemming. Some words are now stemmed automatically. Google didn't used to substitute words. Some words are now substituted automatically. Google used to use + to force inclusion of a word, but they've dropped that and now use quotes to "force" "inclusion" of words "or phrases".

People reading HN might think that + is easy enough to use, and "enclosing" "every" "word" in "quotes" is stupid, but Google does have the numbers. (http://insidesearch.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/search-using-your...)

> In the past, we provided users with the “+” operator to help you search for specific terms. However, we found that users typed the “+” operator in less than half a percent of all searches, and two thirds of the time, it was used incorrectly.

Check my math, but I think that means that + was used correctly in only 1 out of 600 searches.

And how many millions of correct searches was that? How many millions of extra seconds are spent wrapping whole words in quotes rather than just a '+'? It could even be costing lifetimes!

+ was changed because of Google+ branding, IMO.

> Google needs to be usable by everyone.

Since when AJAX search is more usable than JavaScript-less one? I'd say it's strictly (in the mathematical sense) other way around.

> Google needs to be usable by everyone.

Why does Google need to work the same way for everyone?

I am one of those people that loves the AJAX search. I know it's generally hated around here but I think getting the suggested results as you type in your search is one of the best search features Google has implemented.

For example, let's say I found some new framework for a new language I haven't worked with. I can easily find competing frameworks by typing in something like '[framework name] vs' and Google will will suggest the most commonly compared frameworks. I think it's very useful when you don't know exactly what you are searching for. Yes, I know it has some usability issues but in my opinion the pros outweigh the cons.

You are talking about Suggestions which is an entirely different feature than auto-refreshing of search(though both use ajax so I could have used a better description in my OP). I personally love Suggests as much as you.

What I hate is when I type, say a few letters of my query, and begin seeing frivolous search results begin to appear. I hate when I hit the back key, often it takes me to the previous page or simply removes the last letter from my query and updates the results. I hate when I begin typing an obscure name I just found from another query and see it disappear after I have typed a couple of letters.

I was just fine hitting the "return" key to pull up search results.

BTW you can fix both of these issues by disabling Javascript for http?://www.google.com/search/* (I use the "site preferences" in Opera for this, but I assume other browsers have similar built-in features). What you get back is something very much like the old vanilla Google web search.

I used to have it for quite some time, new laptop set it back to normal, and for now it hasn't quite annoyed me enough yet to set it again (also because I'm using DuckDuckGo much more these days, for similar reasons), but it was good when I had it.

I really wish Google had some setting to turn off this "instant search update" thing, as well as how the input box continuously steals the focus (this breaks many keyboard shortcuts in Opera), because the other interactive/dynamic features they do with JS on the web search page are quite useful.

Do beware turning off JS; the results page no longer has a submit button for submitting new searches.

Google seems to be one of the prime culprits making web pages and browsers so complicated that functions useful for reading which used to work everywhere are now broken on a significant number of pages.

Parent mentions scrolling with the space key. Another: selecting text (prior to copying it). Another: making text bigger, e.g., with the Zoom In ("+") button. Another: going to the start or end of the page. Another: scrolling without annoying or time-wasting latency.

Besides the scrolling problem, the pinned header also pins down a low-value use for the easiest-to-read part of the page. That is, reading on a laptop you have a narrow screen set low, making you bend your neck to read the lower parts of the page, where all these jokers force the actual text you're trying to read.

They also don't properly filter keyboard events, so Cmd-Left navigates to the next most recent article, rather than browser-back.

> I hate being the guy who sidetracks a thread off the bat by complaining about something unrelated, but...

Then don't do it.

Fails to work w/o javascript enabled as well.

Fail Google.

Disable cookies, watch the gears spin forever. They made a web page that requires javascript and cookies to view a piece of static content.

Absolute fail. This is really one of only a few sites that I know which don't present the content as HTML. Unbelievable.

Most of Gawker Media performs (or fails) similarly. There are others. I typically just reject them.

I find this theme great actually: it plain and simply doesn't work in Camino, which is my browser of choice, so I just blacklist any site which shows "the gear"

It also doesn't work on Dolphin Browser Mini for Android, which is what I use when I'm in low-reception areas. It is really frustrating to wait forever for a page to load only to find it's doing some unneeded animation that makes it completely unreadable on mobile.

You blacklist a site based on that it doesn't work on a web browser that isn't even on the list of the 10 most used browsers? (src - http://www.w3counter.com/globalstats.php)

Displaying text articles in a cross-browser way has been a solved problem for more than a decade, the parent's browser of choice isn't to blame here.

Why not? The web browser in question is basically just FF10 with a more OS X friendly UI stapled onto it. The site owner shouldn't have to do anything special to get it working in Camino, just don't make it the most over-the-top and animation-heavy blog you can.

Google chose to ignore that, and they're rightfully catching flak for it. This isn't some fancy homepage, it's an informational blog. Text on a white background is the reason 100% of visitors visit. Hamming it up at the expense of non-mainstream browser users is pointless.

Seriously? Chrome, Firefox, Safari... etc... Time to upgrade and stop blaming the web for advancing.

Advancing? Most 'scripting is taking a pound of flesh from the user experience, in return for little to no actual gain.

scripting? I have no idea what you're referring to, but using a browser capable of rendering the web properly is a requirement these days. That's why they have mostly gone to an automatic update model, the web is fluid and changes rapidly, to keep up you need to be running a modern browser.

> That's why they have mostly gone

Actually that's incorrect. The majority of browsers don't utilize a rapid release system. Really, only Firefox and Chrome do.

Firefox and chrome are "most browsers"

No, they are most used browsers, but they are not "most browsers" as they are 2 out of 5 "standard" major browsers (IE, Opera, Firefox, Safari, Chrome)

massklin is not complaining he can't use an old browser to navigate a 3D maze of blog posts jurassicpark style.

I don't blame the web for advancing, when I see a reason for sites not to work I use an alternative browser. We're talking about a fucking blog here, not advanced data visualisation, if you just have to shit over the very core of the web for a blog, I can't bring myself to care about what you have to say: it won't matter that much anyway.

Laughably bogus (almost entirely unreadable) on a former flagship Android phone that is just barely out of contract, too.

I must admit, I am not a fan of the default blogspot theme. I miss their old blog theme that worked fast and well with or without JavaScript enabled.

+1000! I've been more and more bothered by that shit "gears" theme, too. High CPU usage, cannot be viewed without javascript capable/enabled etc. Sometimes I get the feeling the google devs are being replaced by retarded monkeys.

Apparently Blogger customers want this sort of design, so Google tests the themes on their own blogs before giving them to normal users. More feedback, etc.

I was about to come on here and post this same thing.

The worst part is the font. Almost unreadable using Chrome/Win7 (Their own browser!).

Anybody who tries to defend them should just imagine how the web would look like when every page on the web would present you a more seconds of gears before the content, or absolutely nothing without the JavaScript.

If somebody's from Google is reading it, please fix your blog theme! It's the most unusable theme, period.

They have a sort of theme roller implemented. Watch the dropdown on top left.

Saving a draft, opening the old email, and then reopening your draft wastes valuable minutes. The new compose pops up in a window, just like chats (only larger).

Minutes? I do sometimes wonder where the day goes...

Alternatively, Shift-click on compose (or press capital C to with keyboard shortcuts on), and you'll get an actual window that you can move and resize. With the chat mini-windows I frequently wish that I could adjust them, and often accidentally collapse them by clicking in what looks like a title bar.

Or if you already have a message open, just shift-click on Inbox to open a new window. Or not --- Google in their wisdom has disabled that to prevent confusing some poor soul with a broken shift key, praise be their servers. But C-n for a new window, ma-return, /search, C-w isn't that bad.

I like the idea of minimizing the address area, but don't understand the advantages of the new approach. Is it primarily for tablet compatibility? Or is the concept of windows still considered unteachable? And why are they decreasing support for traditional click modifiers?

I completely agree. We all have some sort of window manager that deals with handling multiple windows in a consistent way. We don't need every website reinventing window management in their own half-assed manner, that is utterly inconsistent with other sites and other applications.

I don't think the average user can really deal with multiple windows efficiently.

True. But I'm very skeptical that they'd be able to deal with a given websites' reinvention of multiple windows either (or even recognize it as such).

I hate hate HATE new windows. It reminds me of IE or MS outlook manage this particular problem. I like this idea of a smaller chat like window, it's really blurring the line between chat and email once again. (Like google did when they started chaining emails together. Remember when that wasn't even a thing! I do, cuz I was amazed when google started doing it.) I think google really gets me when it comes to how I like to communicate via email..

If I'm reading the wikipedia article correctly, Mutt was threading email in 1995.

Gmail's innovation wasn't threading, but conversation view - displaying all the messages in a thread (linearly)in a large scrollable region rather than one at a time.

haha touche. Granted... Mutt was terminal based....

> Mutt was terminal based

And it still is, as many satisfied users will tell you.

> We all have some sort of window manager that deals with handling multiple windows in a consistent way.

Don't you like having tabs in your browser or windows in Vim? I remember the same argument being made when tabs were introduced in web browsers and yet, most people aren't complaining now.

I like tabs, but thats because most window managers do a piss-poor job of actually managing windows. I can get a nice row of 20 or so tabs across the top of chrome and it's pretty easy to keep track of them all still. 20 windows on the windows task at will have you pulling your hair out. Mac OS and Ubuntu unity are pretty much useless with more than 5-6 windows. Maybe some obscure window managers have a more tab-like interface that can handle a lot of windows, but I'd say tabs are better not because we need two layers of window management, but because tabs are just better.

I do use and like tabs, but they tend to have better window manager integration, as they are more or less a way to consolidate the "old" multiple window paradigm into a different interface, so for example I can cycle through my Firefox Tabs with Ctrl+Tab. For me they streamline the "usual" mode of browsing, but slow down other tasks, e.g., if I want to display something side by side I have to first pop them out into windows and let the WM handle it.

But what Google is introducing seems to be similar to their Google Talk "windows" that are already available in Gmail. They come in two modes: Either I get a small Ajax-y popup on the bottom right of my browser window, which I cannot resize, move or see when Alt+Tabbing/Ctrl+Tabbing. I absolutely loathe this mode. The second mode is where they pop out an actual window. I like this mode, as I can interact with the chat window as with every other window on my desktop. My assessment above is based on this experience.

A few different web services are trying more and more to be "Online Operating Systems". I think GMail and Facebook have gotten to that point.

I agree. Plus the visual and mouse distance between the "Compose" button and the lower right corner Compose pane is far and uncomfortable. Ugh.

You can make a chat a separate window that is adjustable if you want. Just click on the pop out (arrow going up and to the right) button on the upper right of any chat window.

After watching my Mom use the computer, I understand why Google doesn't create a new window my default. She can't switch between windows in her normal workflow (she can't remember where they went or the keyboard shortcuts to switch between windows). It's not as if she's new to computers - she has been using a PC since the 80s when she used Autocad to draft. She just doesn't really understand how to use multiple windows in a workflow and doesn't want to remember keyboard shortcuts.

I think is an important rule in design - are you building something you can use, or something that your mom can? More people are in the latter camp, and if you can design something simple enough for your mom, it probably is useable by people like you.

> and you'll get an actual window that you can move and resize.

I'd do this all the time if it gave you a new tab rather than a new window. Who uses new browser windows these days?

That currently works as well. You can open Compose in a new tab with Control-click for Win/Linux or Cmd-click for Mac.

I rarely see the appeal of tabs, so generally use windows. They are great as temporary bookmarks, but not for working with multiple sources in parallel. I'm confused that this is not more common, other than that more and more sites break it. Similar to the "new" Google compose window, and unlike tabs, the main advantage is that you can see both source and compose at once without needed to switch back and forth.

I'll turn the question back at you: why don't people use new windows? Is it just backlash from terribly designed sites that automatically pop up new windows for everything?

> the main advantage is that you can see both source and compose at once without needed to switch back and forth.

Until you click back on the Reference window and your Compose window suddenly disappears into the z-order void of your windows manager. I find it much easier to flip between two tabs than two windows, especially with Chrome's excellent tab strip UX. I'm not interested in having to constantly move/resize windows to see both pages at once.

(A decent focus-follows-mouse (no autoraise) solution for OS X would be nice as well!)

You can open Compose in a new tab with Control-click for Win/Linux or Cmd-click for Mac.

You can also click on the Compose button normally, then click on the "In new window" icon, in the upper right hand corner.

Most web browsers then offer the ability to drag that new window back into your main browser window which turns it into a tab.

Kind of a hassle, but it does work, and someone might find this information useful...

Also CTRL+SHIFT click compose opens a new email in a new tab (at least on Chrome on my computer).

Or just ctrl-click, or middle-click.

Critically, though, middle-clicking the Compose button doesn't work (Chrome, OS X).

ChromeOS does (or at least did) something interesting for GChat, where they would open up from the bottom of a browser window, and be persistent through every site that you visit.

I sometimes wish that I had this for emails & GChat from within vanilla Chrome.

Do you know how annoying it is to have 5 gmail tabs open and have to constantly switch between them because you have email threads that you need open and then a compose window as well. And every time you switch you have to cycle through them to choose the right one? This is a daily occurrence. I hugely welcome this change.

Could you flesh this out so I can understand the benefit? Are you replying to each of the threads, and thus need 5 compose windows as well? I tend to stick with windows and rarely use tabs, so I certainly could be missing an essential use case.

One tab: an email with project build instructions.

One tab: an email with a homework assignment.

One tab: my inbox.

One tab: composing a reply to a recruiter.

Two tabs: Other emails from the recruiter I'm using to compose my reply to the recruiter.

The first three I'm fine with being separate tabs in Chrome. That's fully intentional. However, the last three tabs are all one task, and in my mind should be achievable in one window/tab.

Not saying I haven't been there, but that's a lot of multitasking. You could probably get the tasks done more efficiently if you worked on the homework assignment and recruiter emails in serial, and then set aside dedicated time to check your inbox.

The problem there is that you need to load an application 5 times rather than 1 time, and then opening up the separate emails in their own tab. Introducing another floaty thing that reinvents the wheel isn't the proper solution here.

Are you arguing for tabs inside the Gmail interface? It's the same functional equivalent, we're just quibbling about style then.

You've always had the option of compose in a new window, shift-click.

I just got done describing that that's not what I want, though I'm not sure I made myself very clear.

Different tabs, different windows, it's all the same thing. I want Gmail open exactly once for a single goal. My other post describes my use-cases more completely.

It seems to me that you're using gmail wrong. Focus on one thing at a time, switching between random things isn't going to help and if you do need to do that use the tabs. I just can't be too sympathetic to complaining about how hard it is to switch between tabs. Learn to use the keyboard shortcuts and focus on tasks sequentially rather than randomly chopping between different tasks.

I can see the merits of this, but I'm curious about how it fits into a mobile strategy.

My big complaint about email, especially gmail, is that it seems to insist on keeping too many elements from desktop to mobile. My mobile email needs are much more like my SMS needs, yet the UX for mobile Gmail (for example) largely resembles the desktop client.

I know that's tangential, but it's what's on my mind regarding Gmail right now.

The thing is, who uses mobile GMail? Almost everyone I know uses a native client (Android or iOS). The mobile version of Gmail is definitely a second-class citizen, but I'm glad they're not letting it hold back development of awesome features like this.

I dislike all native mail clients even more than I dislike the iOS gmail app, which is largely a hybrid web app if I'm not mistaken.

I use the iOS gmail app, but what I really want is this:

An app that present emails to me like iOS messages, but with some design changes to fit long content.

This would allow for better context (messages are individualized and chronological) and faster, one touch responding while I'm on the go. Responding to emails on a phone is much slow and significantly more challenging than responding to a text, and I see no reason for that.

I hate to be that guy, but buy an Android. Google is working to expose a lot of ways to reply quickly to texts and email, and I don't think Apple really cares about being ahead of the curve in this area. For example, Jelly Bean adds the ability to open a modal dialog and reply to a text message without switching applications. Presumably, this feature will come to GMail shortly, and if not, someone can use the API to make an email client where it works.

Also, the current Android GMail app sounds more or less like what you're asking for, with the messages neing collapsable.

I think I'll just build what I want myself so I don't have to literally switch hardware and software completely. I prefer the consistency of iOS hardware and the superior 3rd party app quality, and that shows no sign of changing any time soon.

Plus, the iPhone 4 is the best free phone you can get by far.

Have you seen the Nexus 4? I appreciate your liking the iOS design sensibility, but unsubsidized, you can get cutting-edge hardware for less than your 3-generation old phone.

The thing is, who uses mobile GMail? when my wife wants to use my tablet to check her mail.

Which type of tablet? This is solved in Android 4.2 with multiple accounts. You can both use the native client without privacy concerns.

Theoretically. That feature's been announced, not shipped. Don't be so quick to rule out privacy concerns on a feature that no one's used.

This doesn't necessarily need to be a privacy concern so much as a user experience concern. She's his wife, not some random stranger on a bus. There's the user experience of being able to hand your wife your tablet and have her be able to pull up her own Gmail in a native app without a bunch of reconfiguration of settings.

The feature won't be available for phones.

I do, because the Google Apps security policy is way too inhibitive for me to add my work account on my android phone to use the native apps. Essentially, the policy requires me to enter a 6-character password (read: a password, not a PIN) every time I want to unlock my phone. I would much rather not use the native google apps and just access Gmail via my phone's browser, as terrible as the interface may be.

I think the level of the Apps security policy is set by the domain administrator, it can probably be set to allow pins or swipes and your company disallowed it.

I like Mobile Gmail much better than iPhone Mail client.

I prefer Gmail since its redesign back in April.

There, I said it.

Do you have "compact mode" turned on?

I mostly like it, except the contact info side bar can cut into my email pane when I dont have my browser fullscreened.

I almost like it. I do have compact mode turned on. My biggest gripe with the newer style though is the themes/color schemes. I had my own custom color scheme all picked out in the old gmail, now I can no longer pick my own color for each and every little detail/item in gmail, which irks me quite a bit, as this is an option I used to have. I'm not big on custom background images either, I just want to choose my own colors. But hey, I'm a control freak, I guess most people just take whats given to them...

I'm on cozy mode, and with a nice background image. When I looked at Gmail before the April redesign, it always seemed hiddledy-piggledy and wrong-sized. Now it looks much nicer, and I like the 'workflows' on web and mobile. Vast advantage over hotmail and yahoo is that gmail ads are text only. The Gmail logo still looks a bit weird to me; the stretched M always looks wrong.

I like the new one more too, but only because of Compact mode.

Is this really a step forward? It feels a little bit like a step backwards -- more like classic email clients and less like Gmail.

What feels the most like classic email clients is the way they abstract recipients by placing the contact's name into a box and no longer display the email address next to it. The pretty box is fine, but I hated seeing contacts on an email in something like Outlook and not being able to quickly confirm which address was used for that contact, so perhaps it'd be better if they had these recipients in a scrollable list.

Double-click the little lozenge with the recipient's name to turn it back into an email address.

It feels like they are trying to Trojan horse Google+ into Gmail. This change is a step backwards in usability.

In an age where people have multiple email addresses, do we really want the email addresses to be hidden? Come on.

Seems like a good idea for a Gmail Lab down the line.


I often need to write emails with specific details from other threads. this is way way faster than save draft, search, copy, go back to draft, and paste.

Maybe there's a better workflow for this problem - but the draft saving way sucks.

right-click browser tab --> duplicate

Only the most recent inbox is synched, and chat is only in the most recent as well. Unless they fixed that?

I agree. This interface seems cluttered to me. A live view of my inbox may distract me while I am writing an email.

In addition, GMail haas been feeling more bloated for me lately with such an Ajax-heavy UI, and I feel like this could cause further slow-downs.

However, I will keep an open mind - this is not a drastic redesign to the overall system.

Hmm, how do you mean? I don't see how it's like classic email clients.


Does anyone have a comprehensive/good solution to how to move all your stuff out of Gmail?

Midway while typing this post, I did a search and boom: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3581613

If you prefer command line, there is a script called imapsync. It looks like now it's sold for money, but there are older versions around back from the time when it was opensourced.

I used it to move mail to gmail quite a while ago since I was tired of having mail, calendar and contacts in different places.

Does anyone have a comprehensive/good solution to how to move all your stuff out of Gmail?

I use Thunderbird + IMAP to sync a local copy of my Gmail email every week or two.

It does not sync anything except your email, but even that much is pretty nice, for peace of mind.

I don't use email clients, so pardon me if this is elementary, but is there a good way to compress and archive downloaded emails with their attachments?

Also, is the formatting (rtf) preserved?

To answer your first question: It's certainly possible from a technical level, but I'm not aware of any end-user application that enables this functionality out-of-the-box.

One hacky-but-straightforward way to do this would be to take advantage of an email<->filesystem translation like NMH or MBox, and then write some script that would automatically purge the attachments before archiving.

You'd still have to download the attachments, I believe; I could be wrong, but I don't think IMAP will let you get around that easily.

(To be fair, Gmail's implementation doesn't adhere to IMAP very well in my experience - labels/folders/tags are a major problem - so YMMV).

I don't know the answer to your first question, but in response to your second question, yes, formatting is preserved.

If you're a technical sort, offlineimap is quite a good tool, although I don't think it compresses downloaded emails.

You can still open up emails in the larger view, If I'm not mistaken. I can see and have experienced the issue they are attempting to solve here and this seems like an ok solution. I guess we won't know until we try it. Most emails are short however, at least that should be your goal unless it's something more detailed and then you have a larger canvas to work with.

I think they should add a maximize button to this window. Sometimes you just want to edit one email in full screen, and I don't think you should have to revert to the previous interface to do that.

There is an "expand" button that launches a popup window. You can then fullscreen that window.

Fine, but then you have two browser windows. I'm not used to that :P

And ... addressing the content of this blog post: yet another reason mutt wins as a mail client.

Open mutt (preferably under screen so you can 'C-a "' between mail folders), view message(s) you want to reference (optionally: tag relevant messages, using mutt's filtering tools as necessary, than 'l ~T' to restrict to just the tagged messages, allowing you to rapidly reference a set of messages.

Fire up a new terminal window (I bind this to '<shift><alt>t' in my window manager) and write "mutt -s 'subject line'" to start your message, drop into the address lookup window to designate recipients, and edit away in your editor of choice.

And all of this without the multi-gigabyte overhead of a full browser session + gmail.

Oh yeah: offlineimap means you can work on your GMail account (and/or any other accounts you've configured for mutt) readily.

Just sayin'.

That sounds completely doable for 99% of internet users! Surprised my grandma hasn't already been using this exact workflow.

First off: this is Hacker News, not Grandma News.

How often has your grandmother's mail agent changed over the time she's been using it?

One of the reason us old farts have a fondness for commandline and console tools is that they have a strong tendency to remain remarkably consistent over time. I started using mutt in the late 1990s. for the past 13 years, my preferred (though far from only) email environment has changed very, very little.

Other than mutt, I've used at various points in time: BSD mail, BSD mailx, cc:mail, various versions of Microsoft Mail / Outlook, Eudora, Netscape, Lotus Notes (ugh!), the VMS mail client, elm, pine, Mail.app, Evolution, Sylpheed, KMail, the Palm Centro mail app, the Android mail app, K9Mail, Gmail, AOL Mail, Microsoft OWS, Zimbra, and others.

It's not that I haven't tried the alternatives. It's that when it comes down to it, mutt fits my needs, workflow, and practices better than the others.


The most annoying thing to me about gmail's interface is center-clicking on something (to reference it, like something in a mailing list) and having the entire window redirected.

This is cool :)

You can use Ctrl+left-click to get the same 'open in new tab' behaviour as middle-click.

I do agree that broken middle-click is hugely annoying. I'd much prefer they fixed that though, rather than introducing a non-standard popup as the default left-click behaviour.

I don't really understand why they hijacked middle-click in the first place. Does anyone actually use middle-click + drag to scroll? I would've assumed the majority have scroll wheels? Is this some accessibility thing that I'm missing?

This was more of an oversight of some other changes than a conscious decision. It's definitely a known issue though.

This has been one of my biggest Gmail annoyances - having to open a second Gmail tab while composing to do a search.

Really looking forward to this hitting my account.

Interesting that they took this approach primarily for email referencing. Is it that common of a use case that it's worth changing the entire experience around it (and collapsing the formatting bar, etc.)? I'm assuming they tested some sort of referencing UI in the existing compose screen. Wish I could see that. Also, I'm wondering how image insertion works; modals upon modals can be pretty awkward for users.

My real pet peeve: can we start removing "Compose" from email vocabulary?

Ahhh, it's good to see more useful desktop features making their way online (how old is multi-tasking?). Now we wait for the gmail OS that can run applications...

I would really appreciate if Google took some time to work on the speed issues we now experience with Gmail instead of working on this cosmetic changes.

I use Gmail basically ever since it was on early early stages (I even pay for more storage for years now) and the degradation of performance is the one thing that makes me think of leaving the service for something snappier.

How much data do you have?

My personal gmail has less than 3gb, and I dont notice any performance issues.

I experience performance issues a fair amount in gmail now. The issues are network related. Such as sending a message or just loading your inbox can take forever and error out.

That's exactly what I experience on a daily basis too.

I have roughly 33GB of email in Gmail; I definitely can notice a lag when I'm searching for something.

It seems like many people don't like this, but I had this exact issue last night. And opening another tab takes a while to load simply because the gmail app is so big. So while I'm not sure about this exact implementation yet, it could be a nice feature.

I think it looks great. Many times I've opened gmail in another tab to find some info.

On a meta-note, I hate, hate HATE how this blog and G+ blog posts hijack the space bar. I use spacebar as page down and it never works in G+, and it doesn't on this blog either.

Spacebar works fine for me in G+ Stream page.

I will enjoy this a lot, because I do often save drafts to go looking for some other message in my inbox. However, I think it saves valuable seconds, not minutes. :-)

I welcome this change if they implement it well. I sometimes keep two gmail windows open so that I can compose in one while I reference emails or search in the other.

Does anyone else suffer from EXTREMELY slow gmail. This happens for me across all devices, browsers, and even IMAP. 30+ seconds to load messages sometimes and lots of 17, 317 and 503 errors.

I've tried every recommendation, and of course hear nothing back from their support or in their forums. Gmail is almost unusable for me now.

Any recommendations or contacts would be appreciated. It seems the only way to get help from Google is to know someone.

This is usually caused by having a lot of devices polling your G-mail account. Go to this link: https://www.google.com/accounts/IssuedAuthSubTokens

and remove any that are old/you aren't using. You'll see a speed up.

Thanks. More exceedingly obtuse Google UI. There were a couple apps I could remove with access to Gmail, but doubtful that is the issue.

Ugh. Gmail continues to roll out new features and arbitrary tweaks, yet the bugs impeding normal tasks continues to grow. I've said it before: can I just have gmail beta back?

(The main ones for me are the compose window never actually loading, or new messages in a thread not displaying (both requiring a refresh). Meanwhile, the chat hover has changed layout twice. Seriously?)

I tried it and it is annoying. Compose window is located in the lower right corner of the screen, and cannot be moved to the middle.

Does anyone know if there's a way to try this out before they roll it out? It doesn't mention anything about it on the blog.

Speaking on a tangent. Has anybody not found it annoying that you can't auto-BCC yourself in Gmail? Only if you do so does it pull up the message thread to the top which I prefer to keep track of timelines. I would be fine without the BCC as long as the thread reflects my response time. Either way, room for improvement.

Does anyone else get annoyed when replying to threads with multiple people?

I always want to reply to the most recent message, but usually someone else responds while I am composing. So I have to view their message and reply to that instead of to the original message. Does this happen to anyone else, or am I taking crazy pills?

No, that happens to me all the time. Gmail used to have a "new messages have been added to the conversation" popup when that occurred, but now that doesn't always happen.

What gmail really needs to change is the "reply" box. When I'm composing a regular email I get a nice big box in which to type my email. When I'm typing a reply email I just have a little tiny (vertically tiny) box to type my reply. Why?????? So annoying.

That looks great!

It feels to me though that google is still playing serious catch-up to it's main competitors (yahoo & microsoft) in the email arena who both have great web-mail solutions that don't get the accolades they deserve.

Now all I need is full folder support and I'm happy!

Maybe Y!, but ermm, Microsoft has a great web-mail product? Are you referring to something other than Hotmail? Because ads aside (bills have to get paid), I find Hotmail to be infuriatingly bad with its UI. Multiple lines of text-only toolbars (hard to find what I want), one text box to search the web and another to search mail (and I always get the web one when searching mail), and just too much non-mail crap on the screen.

That said, HM does seem to have some nice features such as a decent spam filter (finally; it used to be laughable) and easy unsubscribe. But bury it under a poor UI and I just dread using it.

Or maybe when you say "great web-mail" it's blindingly obvious to everyone but me that you're referring to something else, in which case ignore me. :)

I'm referring to outlook.com on the microsoft side. You can read more about it here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000087239639044422690457756...

Dont you find Labels do everything you need for Folders?

don't like this at all, it looks like a step backwards, let the windows manager handle windows instead of doing it inside your webapp, next thing you know they are going to add a taskbar on the browser for each open pseudo-window

Good. I wonder if this also addresses the problem when you are replying to a long chain of email conversation, the compose box includes the entire chain while also displaying the chain above the compose box. Very unpleasant.

or you could just use the old html version of gmail, and open as many messages as you like in different tabs.


It's amazing, when you ask "why would you need a whole page for composing an email?" there is no good answer. Someone dozens of years ago probably made that decision and it's just stuck.

Depends. I use Sparrow and despite the coolness of the "mini text area for reply - kind of like an IM response", I often prefer opening the compose in a new window as I might be interested in cc'ing others or sending with options, layout, etc.

How is this return to popups any different to the option that's always been present, shift-click to open compose in a new window. Personally, I liked having the choice.

I've been using this side-by-side with the old UX on my personal account for weeks (months?). Much prefer the new UX. Glad it's finally launching.

I like it. I cannot count the number of times I've just popped open a new gmail tab to address this exact shortcoming.

awesome! this makes up quite a bit of the love they lost with their abyssmal redesign earlier this year!

Am I missing something or is there no way to pick the sender address in the new composer?

Clicking on recipients line reveals CC, Bcc and From.

Might be good, but I can't use this until they support canned responses again.

The Sparrow team hard at work

Looks like pushing google plus to all gmail users.

Yahoo mail has half those features already

I use IMAP :)

Why is this so important that it reaches top spot in minutes. My links to curing cancer with ultrasound or creating ai get nothing, but the big G opens a new window for compose and it's a giant leap for humanity!

Peter Norvig gave singularity summit talk on exciting work they're doing http://fora.tv/2012/10/14/Peter_Norvig_Channeling_the_Flood_... , why isn't that top spot?

HN is kowtowing to the pseudo-brogrammer crowd.

Let's see why :

- "curing cancer" has been announced many times, and until now every proposed therapy has had at best limited success

- likewise, "creating ai" has been in the news time to time. We seem to be always on the verge of true ai and the singularity, but it has not happened yet.

OTOH, many people here use gmail - I do, and I have been bothered by this compose thing.

To see the issue actually addressed, with proof, and hopefully with an implementation that I can use in the next few days, is more valuable to me that a potential cancer cure or potential ai - especially since I don't have cancer.

These are worthy goals, but until there is some real advance, why bother?

It's a market economy - someone solving a problem I have is more valuable to me that someone advancing in the resolution of a problem I don't have.

The failed cancer cures were biomolecules. This is about literally cooking it with beams, something hackers with a few hundreds in parts could attempt to do.

The AI advance is seen as an advance by Peter Norvig (head of Google Research) himself.

Both of them are hacker relevant potentially profitable business with huge upsides. Real advances can be made, especially by the hacker crowd. There's too much of a web 2.0 filter bubble going on here.

The failed cancer cures were not just biomolecules - things like freezing the cancers in place, preventing the growth of new blood vessels, etc.

If you're more into cooking, it is something we already do with various particles - and with multiple beams to minimize damage to surrouding tissues (google for gamma knife)

It's a good thing Peter Norvig sees an advance. It'd be much better when that feeling is shared by the scientific community.

Real advances can be made, and there is indeed a web 2.0 filter here - much effort being spent on barely interesting things. The human race can do so much better.

But curing cancer, ai, whole brain emulation etc. are topics which will require a long sustained effort - if only because we are constrained by our technology!

It's not a matter of capital - these problems just can't be correctly addressed with our current technology.

It's a good thing if we are making steps in the right directions, but it's very unlikely these problems will be solved very soon, therefore my interest in news about such problems is quite low, even with a deep interest in them!

So I guess it's just natural that other readers find such things even less newsworthy :-(

I see where you're coming from, but ultrasound is not like gamma knife, it truly is revolutionary (no sides effects + very cheap), and I'd put Norvig inside the science community of AI, he's head researcher of the premier AI company after all. These are current technologies, not futuristic, that are enabled by moore's law. You're assuming that what the crowd sees is what's right, and that isn't always right. The crowd didn't see search engines as important in the 90s but they were wrong.

Anyway, I'm not offended by gmail news, just wanted to get some ultrasound and some ai in there and put things in context.

I think that you are confusing "what you want to read about" with "what the HN community wants to read about".

It's a pain when your carefully curated submissions don't even hit the front page, but you just have to suck it up and move on.

I guess that more than a dozen of people saw this on RSS and rushed to post here. When you post a link that has been already posted recently, HN upvote it for you,


All of the pain points that this supposedly solves have already been solved with tabs. Middle click compose and all of those problems are solved with the added bonus of having an entire screen to write your email in.

Google is being taken over by pointy haired managers and marketing. RIP.

I seem to recall that both Google search and Gmail were initially popular with technically sophisticated users. I remember proselytising this amazing new search engine to people still using Lycos, or Yahoo, or Alta Vista, or whatever it was back then.

I used to be able to get very accurate results in Google search with judicious use of quotes, excluded terms, and exact phrases. Now, Google second-guesses what I really meant, and usually gives me a result that's more generic, more mainstream, but not actually what I was looking for.

The contemporary services are better for people who don't understand sets, and who don't really know how to use the more esoteric features of their browser. That's not necessarily bad, but it's bad for us. But we'll cope: there's no shortage of alternative email clients.

If you want to mention some recent searches that disappointed you, I'm happy to pass that on to the quality team here.

If you're unhappy that Google is trying to autocorrect spelling or add/remove search terms, you might try the verbatim search tool: http://insidesearch.blogspot.com/2011/11/search-using-your-t...

Good to see that PR is on the job of trying to convince people that they don't really want what they really want. It's funny that even verbatim search asks me if I'm sure that I spelt something correctly. I guess our definitions over verbatim differ but to me, in this context, it means "do this and stop second guessing me kthnx." It's also annoying that I have to switch to another mode every time I want to search. There appears to be no setting to set verbatim as the default and even if there was, one would either need to always be on the same computer (if the preference is saved in a cookie) or always signed in (if it's set on the account).

A suggestion - provide a subdomain with the old search, e.g. old.google.com. All of the mainstream customers get whatever UX/marketing think is best for them and everyone else gets to keep using a tool which they find useful - everyone wins!

Oh, and since you might be the right person to ask, why is Quora still turning up in search results when they censor most of the thread? They're even worse than Experts Exchange (and why are they still turning up in results too?).

Society is shooting itself in the foot with the trend of dumbing everything down. While we sit here being presented with one button devices so that "we don't get confused", the rest of the world is busy educating itself to a high standard and building tomorrow's industries. This laziness will be the downfall of the west and we'll have this constant thirst for profit at the expense of society's well-being to blame for it. IMO, anyway.

I would much prefer to have only one email tab/workspace; it helps me switch contexts. Of course, that is only my opinion.

This is great. I've hated having to open multiple tabs to be able to reference an old email(s) and compose a new one at the same time.

Are we stupid or something? First, why the hell are we arguing over the freakin' theme here? Seriously. This tangent discussion should be removed. If you want to complain about the stupid theme, which I also find it hard to use, start your own thread.

Secondly, are we stupid for using these annoying shift, control shortcuts? Google is not reinventing the wheel. Google is not used by elite computer programmers. I don't even use emacs because I am a VIM user. GMail is used by over a billion user and most of them don't even know some shortcuts or nice ways to make their tasks better.

I don't know all the secrets you guys are pointing out, and are you going to call me stupid? This is not reinventing wheel. It's just making the app more usable.

If anyone start spamming me with "you can already do this with X, Y , Z ways but it's not known by everyone...".

wow I am getting downvoted by haters because I am telling the truth.

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