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Anxiety over the new Gmail Compose (storyblog.io)
255 points by onelovelyname on Sept 3, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 241 comments

Lately I've had a persistent feeling of annoyance with several Google products. Each annoyance is small enough to tolerate individually, but in aggregate it seems to me that Google has really lost something in the attention-to-detail department; this kind of persistent annoyance was the same thing that led me to Google from other services years ago.

Two examples:

- maps: new interface is so terrible that I am actively looking for a replacement. It is painfully slow, search results are no longer displayed on the same page as the map (what?), and in general the minimalism has gone too far: the interface requires too much hunting.

- gmail: Previous/Next-message buttons flake out constantly (grayed out - clicking does nothing). New formatting options are hard to use and obnoxious.

And an old one that I ran in to again today:

- there is no (intuitive) way to copy a URL from google search results without all of the google redirect garbage. This fundamentally degrades the world-wide web. For example, I want to email a link to a pdf. If an in-browser pdf reader is not available, then the link downloads immediately and there is no way to get the de-obfuscated link. I clicked the "share" button in hopes that this might give me the link; but no, it wanted me to share on G+.

There's a reason for this pattern. When I complained to a friend at Google about the new GMail compose, he said that what was driving it was that Larry wanted a beautiful, consistent look throughout all Google's products. That sort of motivation leads to design disasters. The various Google products may have been inconsistent, but each of their designs was the product of long evolution.

Steve Jobs could probably have forced consistency on Google's products without breaking them, but few CEOs have the taste Steve had.

I used to work for a software company that had a visualization product with several kinds of visualizations. One of the design philosophies was that all the visualizations had to have the same interaction model. Which of course made very little sense and artificially constrained the visualizations to the point that some of them were next to useless.

Customers liked the consistent interaction model for about the first 20 minutes, until they wanted to do something that was natural, but specific, for the visualization they were working with. When it turned out the product didn't and wouldn't ever support that thing they wanted to do, the entire house of cards came falling down.

Eventually we got rid of the person responsible for that decision and the product progressed rapidly and customer satisfaction (and sales) went up exponentially.

Consistent design is a very hard thing to get right, and very easy to get wrong. I think Apple under Jobs knew how to use consistency as a basic scaffolding for an application, but the actual details could still be quite app specific. The framework kept users oriented, but didn't dictate the functions of the software.

So why isn't any telling Larry that this idea isn't working that well? I thought Google was the kind of place the higher ups could tell the CEO that his idea wasn't so hot?

Fwiw, this search for 'beautiful consistent look across products' doesn't seem to be confined to Google. Yahoo Groups had a decent interface till they introduced a completely broken, unusable new look named "Neo". Just thinking about how unusable this made using Groups, makes me angry.

The new Maps interface isn't driven by the idea of making it "consistent" with GMail, it's driven by the same idea that Google Search's homepage used to represent -- simplicity. The Map is the UI.

A single search box. You type in POIs, the Map is constructed around the search results.

The old Google Maps (the tile based one) was based on the idea of a multi-pane map with gadgets and a side panel of 10 ranked search results, but the map was the same no matter the search (pre-rendered tiles). Search results had to be clicked on the map to get a popup to see what it was. The new Maps is based on the idea that the Map itself is the search result The POIs are rendered directly into the map, just like a specialized paper map. It is based on spatial based exploration and relevancy.

There's a difference between a design disaster and "I don't like this because it is different than what I was used to and I don't want to change" IMHO, the new maps is what Maps should have been all along.

It was always a single search box. And it always centered around results. Removing the side panel makes it so I now can't use a browser text search to find the results I want faster.

So, I disagree, and I think the old way was both easier (because I knew it) AND simpler (less complex). What now?

And here is the difference between Google employees and their users. Google believes, and has told their employees, that when they change something, users will always hate it because it's different, and that there is a gestation period during which the majority will "get used to it."

That "gestation period" now seems infinite, and any change is allowed to remain because real user feedback is ignored.

I think we've seen lot of instances of major vendors changing something, and everyone complaining, and then the new design becomes the new normal. Practically every Facebook redesign got pissed on.

Apple famously got ripped for Final Cut Pro X, for many of the same reasons people are ripping the new Maps (bunch of power user features removed)

I personally prefer the map to show the results. They are spotlighted and easy to see. The result box on the side used to annoy me because I'd have to keep moving the mouse and/or eyes from the list to the map and back. The new Maps consistently pops up the Infobox in the same place too.

You can't please everyone, but on mobile and touch devices, having a multi-pane interaction model is lame anyway. So really, the desktop is simply converging with the tablet.

>>I think we've seen lot of instances of major vendors changing something, and everyone complaining, and then the new design becomes the new normal. Practically every Facebook redesign got pissed on.

You might be getting confused. There's a difference between the new design becoming the "new normal," and the new design being tolerated because there aren't any real alternatives to the product. After all, the only reason Facebook users stopped complaining about each redesign is because they realized Facebook doesn't care what users think. (But I bet when major advertisers complain behind closed doors, they listen.)

Google Maps is not like Facebook. While it is currently the dominant maps service, it is not the only one. Not only that, but it also cannot rely on a strong network effect to protect it like Facebook can; if all your friends are on Facebook, then being on MySpace is kind of dumb. Can you say the same about Google Maps?

Here's the idea: you can afford to make sweeping, disruptive design changes if and only if you have a virtually unbreakable monopoly in your market. This is why Microsoft could risk changing the MS Office interface back in 2007. Even if they had screwed up, what would people switch to? There wasn't a good enough alternative. Again though, can you say the same about Google Maps?

No, obviously the stickiness is less based on network effects and more on brand perception. But a brand can also die from staleness.

A new generation of users are coming online whose experience is predominately a mobile one, and on touch, sparse, touchable, explorable interfaces are the norm. If Google simply kept maps the way it has been for a decade, sooner or later, they'd find themselves criticized because it doesn't work like "Apple Maps".

In fact, people seem more willing to adopt radical new user paradigms if the form factor changes. If I change your desktop email, you'll get annoyed, but if I create a radically new out of the box mobile email experience, you'll be more amenable to learn it.

>A new generation of users are coming online whose experience is predominately a mobile one, and on touch, sparse, touchable, explorable interfaces are the norm. If Google simply kept maps the way it has been for a decade, sooner or later, they'd find themselves criticized because it doesn't work like "Apple Maps".

Or, you know, they could have changed them into something better, either incrementally or in one step, instead of the new broken design.

Note that Apple, after the user rebellion from Final Cut Pro X, made the previous version available again, and is re-introducing many of the features removed into the new version in a manner consistent with the new (substantially improved) user interface.

>I think we've seen lot of instances of major vendors changing something, and everyone complaining, and then the new design becomes the new normal.

Sure, because what else are the users supposed to do? Return to MapQuest?

Meanwhile their hatred increases...

My particular issue with the new maps is when I search for a new unknown city and zoom out to see bigger area - pointer is gone! Try searching for city Kazan in Russia and try to quickly get an idea where the city is. Pointer or any mark of fhe city is gone when you zoom out enough!

There's still some important stuff missing in the redesign though, like My Places. You can reach it through the settings menu in the top-right corner, but it just redirects to the old layout. I seriously hope they're not considering removing this feature...

Another issue: there doesn't seem to be a way to go to your current location, which is especially annoying because Google Maps decides to show me the US at the beginning (I'm not in the US).

I hate that I can't simply place a pointer on the map and ask the GPS coordinates at that point. It's as if it is a walled product. On my Android - the same. Can't simply save a pointer on the map as GPS coordinates to a contact.

Interesting idea. However, my two year old machine that was top of the line in 2011 couldn't run the new maps.

This is not uncommon from what I've read.

Performance issues are valid, the Map obviously taxes machines more because it is using GPU rendering, but I would expect them to optimize it as time goes by.

But why release a version that has performance issues even on two year old hardware without optimizing it first. The new google maps is slow to the point of unusability on my two year old hardware. I can live with the rest of the UX changes, but not with the magnitude of the slowdown.

What a load of crap. Plenty of untasteful and inconsistent crap had come out of Apple, under Jobs; it's painfully easy to find examples [0]. Everyone is going to have their opinions, of course, but the compose, unlabeled / iconography buttons, detractors of WYSIWYG emails, etc are _not_ disasters for myself and many others.

[0] http://www.tuaw.com/2011/12/06/on-ui-inconsistency-in-ios-5/

If you're going to be so belligerent, at least use an example of something that wasn't developed while Jobs was disengaged and on his deathbed.

More importantly, though, I love that you read 2 paragraphs and then blew your top ("what a load of crap" -- really?) over a parenthetical comment that was already qualified with a "probably."

Here're some, random, examples off a Google SERP...

From an acclaimed Apple-enthusiast: http://daringfireball.net/2004/10/themes

Ever seen the window controls for a full-screen iTunes 10? http://zapp0.staticworld.net/reviews/graphics/products/uploa...

More: http://watchingapple.com/2008/05/how-apples-contextual-menus...

May Jobs rest in peace, but iOS 5 didn't just materialize in a single day, and Jobs presented it, undoubtedly as the next-best sliced bread, at WWDC.

More importantly, though, I love that you read 1 paragraph and then blew your top ("belligerent" -- really?) over a comment. It's really tiring to hear about how "if only Jobs were here" or "Jobs would never let this happen!" pg should know better, and so, I won't hold his hand.

I think you misread pg's point. He didn't say jobs produced perfect consistency.

Pg said that forcing consistency tends to result in bad design decisions. Maybe jobs could do it, page can't.

To disprove that point, you'd need to show an example of forced consistency across apple platforms that degraded usability. Showing inconsistency isn't responding to the argument.

I really can't see the line between the top-most comment, about bugs, pg's special insight into Jobs, and the conclusions you've drawn. What Jobs has to do with the class of issues bulleted, in the top-most comment, is beyond me. There's not even any proof being shown that what Page or Google is doing is wrong; just a bunch of parroting of blanket statements.

I really didn't want to compare Apple and Google or Page and Jobs; that's the point. We're not even comparing the same things, and you don't have to look far to find power users scorning The Apple Way. We can go on all day with issues pertaining to Apple's HIG -- forced consistency -- and the degrading of usability.

I'll try to state it more clearly. I'm just restating pg.

1. Pg says forced ui consistency tends to be bad. 2. Maaaybe a skilled design genius like jobs could do it (maybe), but most people shouldn't try.

His argument didn't turn on Jobs. It was a rhetorical flourish to bolster the idea. If even the best in the field (according to pg) couldn't do it well, then others should be wary.

I really doubt pg would be suggesting, as an entrepreneur and investor in entrepreneurship, to be wary about besting supposed idols. Myths, hearsay, and not scientific.

The top-most comment is fair to point out bugs, but I don't see the correlation with Jobs and his genius, UI/UX brush. Are you suggesting mandates for consistent UI -- whatever that has to do with the article's discussion about the compose window -- creates more bugs? Makes Maps slow? They should fix those things, but it has nothing to do with UI / UX consistency nor Jobs.

unlabeled / iconography buttons

How do you know what anything does with graphical-only buttons, in Gmail compose UI, Android copy/paste UI, etc., without tapping everything at least once and potentially losing data?

I use keyboard coords to navigate and operate most facets of GMail, and all of the buttons have a tooltip, distinctive icons, and have the ability to undo. I'd be willing to eat crow if there were actually a study showing that users of 2-3 icons without labels don't know their purpose after the first couple uses. Instead, we get a bunch of parroting about how Google and Page have lost their way -- nothing scientific.

As for Android, sure there is no undo, and I wasn't really speaking for Android, but I'd, again, be really surprised if the cut/copy/paste is statistically confusing. I'd only suggest the paste option only be offered in the context-menu above the selection and not also next to the cut/copy icons. I'd also argue that it's really unlikely I'd be doing anything with an Android device that isn't repeatable with little effort or would be undoable and before I possibly had to cut my teeth once or twice. I think iOS did a better job here, as Android offers no means of backing out a change.

If it's any consolation, if you long-hold an Action Item (anything in the top or botton bars, including the copy/paste UI) in android a tooltip will appear explaining what the button does.

Larry wanted a beautiful, consistent look throughout all Google's products. That sort of motivation leads to design disasters.

Of all the mantras from 37signals over the years, the one that I agree with and adhere to most is "context over consistency" for exactly this reason.

This was a good comment but the Steve Jobs bit was unnecessary (because people like me will get distracted and flame you for it).

Is your distraction his problem though?

If you want to be understood, you have to make sure your point is clear. Throwing in an unnecessary controversial point, especially about someone as divisive as Jobs, just muddles pg's main point.

I am not sure how consistent they are... Beside the obvious learning curve to learn the new composer, I still find the old composer faster to use and more productive than the new one. Unless you know all the keyboard shortcut, now to use bullet points you need to click on the _A_, move the mouse on the bullet point icons and then clicking. Before one click was enough.

It will be interesting to see how the new design of iOS 7 goes with this in mind.

Everything about the new Google Maps besides the maps themselves is so mindbogglingly bad that I have no idea how they thought it was ready for public consumption. It seems to be missing most of the features of the classic Google Maps, and those that are present are far harder to use. The UI for the public transit schedules is pretty much the only thing that seems like it could be an improvement once I get used to it (but for now it's mostly just really awkward).

I've especially been missing the ability to make directions with multiple stops (I used to use that feature about 50% of the time). Also, the interface is a lot slower - it's tolerable on my 1 year old computer, but it's close to unusable on my 5 year old laptop.

> I've especially been missing the ability to make directions with multiple stops (I used to use that feature about 50% of the time)

Ah, so it's not because I've gotten dumber and my eyes have gone worse, they really removed it.

Bloody hell...

It works just fine for me in chrome on my six-year-old laptop. What browser are you using?

I'm not op, but I used chrome on a fully upgraded 2011 13 inch MacBook air. New maps was so slow it was unusable. I used chrome.

Also not OP, but on my 2012 Macbook Air I had to turn off the maps preview because it was making my machine very warm, reached over 98C before I switched it off. Only took a minute. I was very disappointed.

Chrome on a 4 year old desktop. And chrome on a low end 1 year old desktop. Slow for both, not to the point of being unusable, but slow enough to be annoying.

Even on my new i5 laptop, it's not quite as snappy as the old version.

The New Android map app is bad too. Rip the menu button, no way to get other routes suggestions anymore, I didn't find a quick way to switch from navigate view to route view.

All that is still the move toward less and less control for the user, initiated by Apple. I hope Google can revert soon, now that it is actually Apple which is coping with Google.

Other routes are there:

When you have searched for a destination, click on the bottom right where it shows the commute type (car, bus, bicycle, walking) and estimated time. From there you'll find a list of three suggested routes (at least I do). When clicking on any of the the suggested routes, it'll show all of them in the map and you can also choose a route by clicking on it in the map.

Additionally, I get back from navigation to route view just by pressing the back button. Works just like it should?

Just tried it and it is like you say, thanks. Influenced by the previous version, I thought pressing back button would exit navigation.

Then one more complain: in the previous version I could get a metric scale from the labs, which I think is not there anymore. I think a map without a scale is a toy-map.

The latest version has a scale by default. Turn on auto updates in the Play Store or see if you have a manual update ready for Maps.

I really hate the lack of ability to show street view and a map at the same time. How is that an improvement? It is now very hard to know where you are looking at.

This is the worst ! I used to drag and drop the yellow character to view exactly the place I wanted to see, now I have to go back and forth between maps view and streetview until i get to the right place...

Plus, the switch between views (public transport, bike, traffic) being hidden in a hover menu that disappears when I make a search... Now I have to first think about enabling the mode I want before making my search. How is that a progress ?

When I got in to the beta, I thought it looked great, but after I tried to use it, I quickly reverted back to the old maps

Same here. I used street view combined with find directions, to find how the streets at each exit point in the route look like. Now it's impossible to open the street view of a route point.

I've filed it as a "commentary" (it doesn't allow bug reporting) through the feedback tool; if many of us do the same, maybe we'll get them to listen.

Let alone know where you'll be able to get a street view or not. The blue overlay is great in the old maps, now I spend 10 minutes randomly clicking around on roads to see what has one or not.

I can't even figure out how to get a permalink in Maps anymore. Nightmare.

It's the chain button next to the printer button just to the left of the map. It's... right there. What would you prefer they do to make it easier for you?

[EDIT] Oh, looks like I don't have the new version yet. Oops. Thanks for the correction.

No, it is not. The new maps does not have a print button:


Unfortunately you are looking at Classic Maps. Classic Maps was perfectly usable, I agree.


* Buffering was nerfed/broken some time ago. I can no longer watch 720p+ videos on youtube at all.

* Changing video quality now has a long and unavoidable delay, and often fails outright.

* Google are evidently uneasy about the profile name that I signed up with, and have been repeatedly nudging me to change it. I don't know how to reassure them about my choice.

* Advertising. Everywhere.

I hate that Google "created" a youtube account for me, just because I use Gmail doesn't mean I want a youtube account (I don't). One day I forget to sign out of Gmail, I browse to Youtube, and bam, now I have a Youtube account, I'm signed in, and my video history is tracked, and I have to manually turn that off. I didn't ask for that.

If you're not on Google+, you can delete that.


YouTube keeps insisting I merge my legacy YouTube account with Google+. Then YouTube insisted I use two-factor authentication (to watch cat videos) and made me choose between giving them my phone number so they could send me a text message or giving them my phone number so they could robo-call me.

I think the last time they bugged me about it there was no choice to opt out (because I have some uploaded videos on it IIRC). I clicked around and somehow I now have a new G+ account which is different than the one linked to my Google account which is linked to my Youtube account.


I can watch 720p+ videos but I have definitely noticed recently that loading is slower and sometimes more inconsistent.

The subscription feed is a mess. Before it was a grid and now it's in a list. The only reason why I know there are more videos uploaded than what's in my feed is because video authors title their videos in parts. So if I see "Part 3" I know that Part 2 and Part 1 are somewhere, just not in my feed.

There's ads on youtube? I wouldn't know, I'm using adblock

A trick I use when I change quality is immediately clicking on the time bar, it enforce the change right away.

I agree with all the annoying points above!

Luckily you can fix the buffering behaviour with a browser extension. Look for "SmartVideo for Youtube".

adding to this:

- google voice: selecting 'all' only selects displayed items (calls, missed calls, voicemails, etc) so to delete items, you have to click 'all', then 'delete' then 'all' again. If you have 1000 items in your history, it takes 100 clicks to delete them all. Compare that to gmail - you can select every single message not just those displayed.

The "new" Google Maps is essentially an opt-in beta. The "replacement" is to continue to use classic Maps until it is done. It is obvious that most of the old features like multi-stop directions will return, but Google needed external testers because WebGL is very dependent on machine performance and GPU, and they indicated as much when they limited the initial users to an explicit signup form.

I find the new Maps interface incredibly better than the old one. Search results appear directly on the map so you can see spatial relationships, easily highlighted and clickable. It invites exploration. No separate Google Earth plugin needed, seamlessly move from 2D to 3D, no separate Flash plugin for Street View. The way the map spotlights important roads and related places when you click on a particular POI helps with planning.

The only downside is it is slow, because it is a very complex web app, probably the most complex one ever written, but I'm sure they'll optimize it by the time it is ready for public consumption.

  It is obvious that most of the old features like 
  multi-stop directions will return
IMHO that is far from obvious.

I'm not sure they will optimize enough to make it as fast as the 'old' on an old machine. They won't put that much effort and just require machines supporting accelerated css/webgl and fast enough to run complex javascript such as this.

I hope they manage to keep the "old" maps accessible after switching to the new, since the responsiveness is so low it negates all the new features.

- in Google plus, scroll down the steam, then decide you want to use j k to navigate, pof! you are back on top.

- in Google plus, you need to play maze to avoid the pop ups.

- contacts takes ages to load, when I usually use it only for a little tweak that should take 3 sec.

I just figured out that last point about google URLs today.

I wanted to copy/paste a link in a chat window but the google redirect url is so long it takes up the whole chat window and more! Instead of the domain.com/word I wanted.

If you're using chrome, you might want to check out this extension: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/remove-google-redi...

Thank you. Installed.

Exactly what I wanted.

I wrote a pair of shell scripts to deal with the URL encoding. I've also switched to DuckDuckGo for virtually all my search.

Apologies as HN's quoting is line-wrapping and I can't seem to fix it. I'll pastebin this.


> Apologies as HN's quoting is line-wrapping and I can't seem to fix it. I'll pastebin this.

Try indenting by four spaces. Like this:

    Apologies as HN's quoting is line-wrapping and I can't seem to fix it. I'll pastebin this.

I had. For whatever reason, code with linebreaks was getting wrapped ...

Oh. Duh. That's my CSS stylesheet. I'd gotten sick of seeing unwrapped long lines requiring horizontal scroll, I've got:

    pre { white-space: normal; }
... set in my Stylebot stylesheet.

Re: maps, you can revert to "classic" by clicking on the gear.

I tried this, but it keeps forgeting the choice to use the classic maps and I always have to go to the options and pick it again. It's not such a big deal, but yeah, it's annoying.

When you get back to the classic interface there's a yellow message at the top asking if you want to make the change permanent.

Web apps and me are constantly at odds because I run all sorts of privacy extensions, I disabled Local Storage (via folder permissions) and I don't let cookies persist. So, I just stopped using web apps wherever possible in favor of native ones. It pisses me off too because the web (and the Internet) could be so much better than this.

Anyway, for the longest time - even with a bare browser (no extensions) - YouTube wouldn't save certain settings (annotations disabled, video quality), even while I was logged in.

Aren't you more uniquely identifiable on a native app, though?

Most of the native apps that I use don't serve ads and they don't pull in third-party resources from the web.

For now.

Hopefully, it will work like Google Groups. Meaning that for the next two or three years, we will be told that "The old Google Maps will be going away soon," but it won't actually happen.

It's so nice of Google to give their users so much advance warning of incoming suckage. I guess that's part of the whole don't-be-evil mission statement. Kudos to them.

maps: I love the new interface. The only thing missing is re-adding rightclicks for additional options. For what I use maps nearly everything is easier than it was before. But as you want a replacement, what about OSM [1]? It's becoming better every day and a lot of areas have better data than google.

gmail: It became slower and more bloated all the time, the interface changes looked nice but were, as many said, horrible UX. I know the lack of tags is a dealbreaker for many but as I can live without them, fastmail.fm [2] is a replacement that does pretty much everything else better and faster.

search: Yeah, the lack of easy linking is extremely annoying and has been for quite some time now. My problem is still that I need the bubble to get relevant results for me. Every time I try to use DDG [3] or other replacements, searches result in way too much noise over signal. And with those boxes on the right side google now has what was one of the best features of DDG.

At least calendar is still useable for now as I haven't found a replacement I really liked.

[1]: http://www.openstreetmap.org/ [2]: http://fastmail.fm [3]: http://duckduckgo.com

The new Google Maps on Android is disappointing. I can appreciate the clean, minimal interface, but with it are gone:

1. Zoom buttons. Now I have to hold the phone in one hand while pinch in and out with another, instead of a tap with one finger.

2. Offline maps. I suppose it's part of the "cloud strategy".

3. Secondary streets at common zoom level. Now I have to really zoom in to see them. A tad out and they're gone. Sometimes it shows them just fine, though. Perhaps, it's a bug.

It's not intuitive at all, but for zooming, you can double-tap-and-hold, then move your finger up and down to zoom in and out (or is it out and in?). That way you don't need two hands to zoom.

>- maps: new interface is so terrible that I am actively looking for a replacement. It is painfully slow, search results are no longer displayed on the same page as the map (what?), and in general the minimalism has gone too far: the interface requires too much hunting.

I can't for the life of me figure out how to show street view on android's google maps. I know it used to exist, but did they really take it out?

Exactly, lot of UI features in GMail, Maps and Google plus are starting to piss of me. The UI used to be nice and comfortable to work with before, but now it is plain horrible. I read somewhere that Marissa Mayer used to control the UI of GMail and Maps(she apparently used to depend on metrics to get things right). Does this have to do something with she leaving?

> the link downloads immediately and there is no way to get the de-obfuscated link

If you go to your downloads list you can right click and do "copy link address" (at least on chrome and firefox)

Or use "wget" for the download, which lists all the intermediate address steps as it resolves them.

The self-righteous anger about the irredeemable horror of the new Gmail compose is starting to get a bit old.

First of all, it's not as one-sided as people are making it out. I was also annoyed when it first came out, but there are some clear benefits. Being able to browse email in the background while composing email is a huge win for my email workload (CTO for a 30-person company).

There are some important philosophical reasons behind some of these changes that I strongly agree with:

First, the small window by default encourages short emails which is always good. The OA seems to glorify long-winded CEO screeds, but by definition the vast majority of emails are going to be short (and if they're not I don't want to work with you), so it's correct to optimize for the short case. The two levels of pop-out (the second of which the OA appears to be completely ignorant of) scale up and out quite nicely.

Second, the hidden headers and formatting options are encouraging simplicity in email. Most email should not have formatting, and arguably most emails don't have CCs, BCCs, or edited subjects either. Putting them behind one extra click is really not the huge usability nightmare people make out. It takes a little while to get used to and then you just subconsciously do the double click, it's not really any harder than finding them in a sea of icons, it's just that previously you were used to that sea of options. The optimization for the common case is done correctly.

For me the new design (after turning on compact view) is a moderate improvement that did nothing to dilute the core value of Gmail which are the labels, keyboard shortcuts/navigation, conversation view and search/filters. Running it inside Mailplane makes it even better.

There are definitely annoyances, but nothing that's even close to driving me to something like mutt, and forget about GUI clients, all of them feel like molasses compared to Gmail.

I chuckled when I read:

> First, the small window by default encourages short emails which is always good.

"Sorry mom, I intended to write you a longer message but gmail encourages me to keep it short."

> Putting them behind one extra click is really not the huge usability nightmare people make out.

Folks at Microsoft are nodding their heads and furiously tweeting this sentence.

Nice pith, but how about adding some meat to that rebuttal.

> "Sorry mom, I intended to write you a longer message but gmail encourages me to keep it short."

The topic at hand is power emailing. Not people who write a message to their family once a week as the majority of their email.

> Folks at Microsoft are nodding their heads and furiously tweeting this sentence.

I don't even know where you get this. Having a minimal interface with the most used features present and others grouped under menus of some sort is an age-old proven UI convention. This is the exact opposite of what I think of when I think of Microsoft software or other bloated programs with toolbars and ribbons bursting at the seams. Citing Microsoft is just a way for you to justify your emotional reaction to my comment without adding any substance.

> "The topic at hand is power emailing. Not people who write a message to their family once a week as the majority of their email."

That use-case is completely valid. Unless you're going to argue that GMail is meant to be a'power emailing' tool, which I'd disagree with. Optimising for something that doesn't suit the majority of users is usually a mistake.

I'm sorry, your message makes no sense to me. There's nothing about Gmail that prevents that use case. I just responded because it's a stupid example.

> Unless you're going to argue that GMail is meant to be a'power emailing' tool, which I'd disagree with.

Okay, so first of all, yes Google was in fact invented to be a power email tool because it was built by engineers for engineers.

But that's neither here nor there because obviously they are trying to improve it for the most common case which is the source of the much-reviled changes.

It's not normal people that are complaining about these changes. It's entrenched power emailers who had their workflow thrown off by change and whose muscle memory is leading them to believe that this redesign is a disaster. New users won't have any worse experience than they did before, I guarantee you that.

> "I'm sorry, your message makes no sense to me..."

I'm trying to point out that the topic is wider than power emailing as these feature changes affect everyone. You don't get to choose which ones to adopt.

> "Okay, so first of all, yes Google was in fact invented to be a power email tool because it was built by engineers for engineers. ... obviously they are trying to improve it for the most common case"

It doesn't follow that Gmail was 'invented to be a power email tool'. Also, there's an assumption in there they're genuinely trying to improve for the common case. It could also be a range of internal pressures forcing changes that are actually detrimental for users. Companies fuck up like this all the time, so let's not pretend that Google is somehow exempt from that class of big-company-mistake.

> I'm trying to point out that the topic is wider than power emailing as these feature changes affect everyone. You don't get to choose which ones to adopt.

And I'm arguing that Gmail's design decisions are made with a solid basis in the widest common use case despite all the self-righteous nerdrage piled upon the tired mantra that Google is horrible at design.

> It doesn't follow that Gmail was 'invented to be a power email tool'.

What do you mean it "doesn't follow"? I'm not justifying this as a logical argument, I'm repeating statements I've read from Gmail's creators in interviews over the years.

What exactly does "power emailing" mean to you? Is it the ability to send a lot of short emails quickly? Is it the ability to email while seeing emails come in?

From my perspective the new compose modal window removes power from the user. Instead of having all of the formatting tools and options open and ready to go, you've got to expand the window the see them. You've got less screen real estate to work with and even on the reply window you have to click on the formatting icon to get the formatting tools even though there is plenty of room to just show the tools in the first place.

Making users click more to complete a task is not bad if there is a good reason to do so. Forcing users to click more because you hid important functionality to save room that is not used for something else doesn't make sense. You've added load to the task for virtually no gain.

I guess if short, rapid fire emails are the primary mode of usage for a user the new compose UI works great. I'd imagine the vast majority of gmail users do not send a high volume of emails per day, and the old compose UI worked fine while surfacing all of the functionality they needed.

> Being able to browse email in the background while composing email is a huge win for my email workload

If only someone had invented a windowing GUI.

My main issues, now I've set the default to fullish screen, is it's more like Outlook: editing the To/CC fields is annoying, and it wants you to always quote the entire email.

I await a Chrome extension to let me live in the past with people who knew how to use computers.

>If only someone had invented a windowing GUI.

At work I have to use a mac, it's a PITA to manage multiple non fullscreen windows on it. There is also a fair amount of screen estate lost per window.

Same with Windows, and Linux as they just copy Windows/Mac GUIs and never bother to finish them off. The problem is Raise-on-click, means you can USE overlapping windows, and drag and drop breaks. My theory is all GUIs are fundamentally stuck in the year they were first designed, so 1983 or so for Windows/Mac. Full screen, almost single tasking. RISC OS, being designed in 1986, is better, as a GUI.

I use Slate for this: https://github.com/jigish/slate

Whoa whoa whoa. short by definition ? I use email to you know write to people if I want short I can text or chat or tweet or smoke signal. I rather assume email is long by definition.

Okay I played fast and loose, but I meant this:

By definition of the length of a day, if you are sending any serious volume of emails then most of them are going to be short.

Given the mess long email conversations become, if as CTO you're sending that many short emails I'd say you're using the wrong medium.

A PM tool makes it much easier IME for the team to keep track of, and on top of, messages relevant to their projects, and reference them later.

You have so many assumptions in this response that I'm quite sure you don't know what you're saying. My organization is not a little tech startup with everyone sitting in a room. We have editors, translators, acquisitions, materials, marketing folks, etc. We have part time, full time, contractors, volunteers. We have people in over 20 countries, some working from home, some from offices, some from coffee shops. Most of them use Macs, some of them PCs, at least one person runs Linux.

Email is the universal medium. If I need to search for some history, I start with email since it is the most common. Skype we use for private and urgent chat. Campfire we use for general development chat. Basecamp we use for archivable product decision making. All of those have their uses.

I can't begin to think why you believe all my short emails are better suited for chat, but without context it's extremely, extremely ignorant and wrong.

> I can't begin to think why you believe all my short emails are better suited for chat, but without context it's extremely, extremely ignorant and wrong.

I can't begin to think why you think I've even suggested chat, but hey, jump to your conclusions.

All that remains is for me to thank you for being a patronising bastard, and leave it there.

> All that remains is for me to thank you for being a patronising bastard, and leave it there.

I'm just returning the favor.

"By definition of the length of a day, if you are sending any serious volume of emails then most of them are going to be short."

Or you could type fast.

Someone on the other end has to read that.

Still doesn't follow from the definition...

Why don't you go below and correct Avshalom's misuse of logical fallacies. I was trying to make a point you pedantic bore.

That still begs the question that gmail is meant for a specific cross section of corporate users, instead of it's apparent market of everyone.

> Being able to browse email in the background while composing email is a huge win

It was possible to do this before the changes rolled out. Shift-compose opened it (still does) in a new window, and you could work with it and your mailbox side-by-side.

Not in reply it wasn't.

Shift+R could do it (Shift+a for reply all)


I remember trying and being unable to do it. You may be right but current documentation doesn't really prove it.

> the small window by default encourages short emails... the vast majority of emails are going to be short (and if they're not I don't want to work with you)

Agreed, write enough emails and you eventually learn that you're on borrowed time beyond the first half sentence.

PS - Seven paras? Tsk... :)

Browsing email while composing isn't part of my workflow. Definitely makes sense as a use case, a few others mentioned it as well.

Agreed, for short emails (setting up mtgs, quick reviews) it works fine for the most part.

Personal preference wise - I feel more comfortable sending email when I'm able to see CC/BCC, text formatting, & attachments. Understand that not everyone feels the same way.

If email has to be short in your company, then why don't you just use twitter. Those 140 character limit should clearly help you and your employees to express better.

In the meantime, please leave alone people that use email to actually write something and go back to twitter and the likes.

> Being able to browse email in the background while composing email is a huge win for my email workload (CTO for a 30-person company).

That's what window managers are for.

For my usage, the new compose has been a major step back. It now takes additional clicks to accomplish basic tasks (e.g. change the subject) and is less clear on what I am doing (e.g. when you cc someone and switch back to the body, the cc-ed names is now in To: line making it appear that you are sending it to them directly.) There are many other examples where the experience has become worse.

I am not clear if Google truly believes the new compose is an improvement or if there is a behind the scenes reason that is making up for the decrease in usability. The new product is so obviously a step back (to me) that I am assuming it's the latter. Has anyone seen a write up that has an explanation other than "improved practicality?"

Oh man, I wish I knew. Have you noticed this one? You're editing a wrapped paragraph, you use the right-arrow key to move, and once you're at the end of -any- line, it suddenly jumps down to the "..." (the toggle for displaying the quoted message).

(Also, why hide the formatting bar...)

Ah, is that what's happening? All I know is I go back to proof my email before sending and I keep randomly ending up at the bottom and cursing as I scroll back.

To avoid being distracted by the gmail inbox and to have a clean composition interface, I always keep this URL bookmarked, and it still works w/ the new compose:


not to be snarky but you know, this is 2013, not 1999. If the largest and best funded company can't get something as simple as email right, then they should just pack up and go home. Or at least fire their whole UX/UI department and start fresh.

By right, I mean a clean, simple interface that you don't need to judiciously learn over dozens of hours of frustrating trial and error or by googling in support forums.

The old gmail UX was fine. In fact, compared to the new compose it was the bees knees. It takes humility to be able to realize that. But Jason wants to leave his mark - unfortunately the mark is an ugly smear.

Thats funny, cause they got it right for me.

Who is jason?

Jason Cornwell is responsible for the atrocious gmail UX

Or hold down Control when you click Compose.

Holding shift when you click compose is also a good one to know about. (Opens the compose dialog in a new, dedicated window.)

Oh, wow! This is pretty beautiful. Thank you.

I just use the old basic html view. On the one hand, it's ugly as sin, but on the bright side, you can open any link in the UI in a new tab and it works as expected, which is like a breath of fresh air. So I can just middle click the compose button to get a new full-screen compose, or middle click threads from the inbox.

What gives me anxiety is complaining about minor UX changes for a class-leading free product on a site that's called "Hacker News". I hate to get all old-fogey but Hacker News has really turned into "the random opinions of people in the startup world". I learn a lot less on this site than I used to.

Sorry to the OP, it's not your fault that you provided content the community likes and I have no personal issue with you.

It's comments like yours that I don't like. Also, I don't like this comment I'm writing.

Gmail had good UX, and people went to it for that. Now it has a few flaws. As people who care about UX, these flaws are worth discussing.

Some 'hackers' don't do UX, which is fine. So those people may find the topic boring. But many people here are making things, and find the UX direction of the leading web email client interesting. If only to see future trends in web site development. Other reasons this is interesting is to see how they are monetising their apps more, and how they are trying to make email a worse marketing channel.

Having worked at Google, it is understandable if you get annoyed when people bash your company. But that comes with being successful. So don't sweat it too much.


Something that gets me in a little trouble from time to time, forwarding an email includes the entire previous conversation chain...which isn't normally a problem, but gmail compresses the previous chain into a collapsed [...] box that I sometimes forget is there. So on occasion I forward parts of emails to other parties that probably shouldn't be seeing those other bits.

I have to remember to expand it, then delete all the content I don't want to be included in the forward.

Other comments here have pointed other gui foibles, I agree with all the maps complaints, I'm on the beta for it and switch back to classic almost 70% of the time because I can't get something done in the new one.

And I won't repeat what I had to say about the absolute brokenness of the youtube interface.


Even in search, lots of the nice sidebar utilities I used all the time like the search tools' time range are now buried two clicks deep. Searches give you quick options for web, images, maps, shopping and applications, but one I use several times a day, video, is buried.

Forwarding the entire thread with each email is also bad netiquette. If anyone still cares.

I suppose this comment comes too late to have much visibility, but as for me, I can deal with the fullscreen popup thingy.

The inability to default to replying in plaintext to HTML mails is annoying, but I can deal with that, too.

What I can't deal with is the broken UX for the fake HTML elements, which were previously native controls that worked fine.

The To field is now a magic list of clickable email addresses instead of a regular textbox. Great, but clicking and dragging to select no longer works, typing with a selection active does not delete it, and undo no longer works.

The From field (for use with multiple email addresses), which used to be a native <select>, is now... a HTML reimplementation with no additional functionality. It sort of works from the keyboard - you can press space to bring up the list, up/down to choose an item, and enter to select. But it's not quite the same (as OS X, at any rate): the list starts with no selection rather than the current item, you can't press space again to close the list, and you can't choose an item by typing. In fact, if you try to do a few things in the new compose, including typing on the list, the keystrokes pass through to the greyed-out main window and you perform random email actions.

These interactions are not inherently critical: I could easily learn to live without them in general. But they work for every other like control in the OS, and they used to work here, so naturally I have and will retain muscle memory for them; the result is infuriating.

I'm actually quite surprised nobody has made a user script to fix these and the other issues in the three weeks since my account was forced onto the new compose; Gmail's obfuscation makes this a little more annoying, but not too bad if you stick to modifying elements rather than directly interacting with the JavaScript. I'll probably end up writing one myself.

I agree with this post's use of the word "ruined". That's what the new Compose did. It's a usability train wreck which I'm astonished they put out at all, let alone impose it on users against their will. There are big things wrong with it and there are little things wrong with it and the sum total is frustrating and disconcerting. It's one thing to redesign a website, but email is a huge part of my daily work, and this feels as if renovators just drove a post up through the living room floor.

Eh. I wouldn't call it a train wreck. I'm perfectly capable of accomplishing 100% of what I need to accomplish in Gmail, which is create, send, sort, search, and delete.

Jason Cornwell is a stupendous example of the Peter Principle.

Let's not get personal. There are lots of ways this kind of thing can happen.

How is it personal to mention the individual who is responsible for the change?

Three of four comments you left in this thread call Jason's name and attempt to discredit him, with little substantial criticism addressing Gmail UI.

You are wrong. Jason's work discredits him rather well without any need for me or anyone to resort to personal insults.

As for substantial criticism of gmail's new UX, why rehash what has been already discussed over and over again here and everywhere? just google for 50+ well thought out blog posts and comments to those blog posts and google forum discussions.

I'm sorry if you are a googler and feel the need 'to circle the wagons' out of misplaced loyalty. Or if you fail to see that it is pertinent to mention the person responsible for the changes out of a perverse sense of 'white knighting'.

Now please downvote this to prove how intelligent you are.

I accidentally deleted an email thread the other day. How? When replying in Gmail, there's a little button below the editing area that has a trash can icon and will discard a draft. There's a button with an identical icon on the same screen, just above the editing area that will delete the email/thread. I don't know much about design, but this strikes me as an extremely poor interface.

Clicking the "Full-screen" button on the compose modal shows the following dialogue; perhaps the author just closed the tip?

  Click here to exit full-screen.
  (Shift + click to compose in a new window.)

  You can set full-screen as your default using
  the More menu next to Discard.
Likewise, the tooltip on the "Full-screen" button states Full-screen (Shift for Pop-out). And for someone that spends so much time in email, like a developer and his IDE, it might be time to improve one's efficiency with keyboard coords -- gmail shortcuts (https://support.google.com/mail/answer/6594) -- and use Shift+c (popup) or Shift+d (tab) composition.

I'm actually quite fond of the new compose window and I fall into essentially the same category of email user as you. My anxiety was in fact lessened a bit by the chat-like (and therefore more casual) vibe, thanks to large expanses of white space making me feel like I /must/ fill them with text.

Email anxiety is no fun, maybe a native client would be the best way to ensure your workflow is optimized?

Makes sense. I do like it for casual mail - e.g., if I'm setting up a quick time to meet an advisor. But for more important things, it doesn't work well for me.

I am checking out Airmail thanks to an older HN thread. Cheers!

The "full screen mode" is like a parody of poor user interface and false promises.

That said, Outlook 365 is also bloody awful in terms of usability. Say I've sent an email to a list of people, there's no way (as far as I can tell, which is all that matters really) to then copy those email addresses. You have to literally click through each one and get the address individually.

"My messages are important, god dammit."

no, they aren't. get over it. The new compose does a great job of framing your sent emails in the way your recipients are probably viewing them: quickly, and often from a small screen/window.

You can't possibly be serious? :)

I can be replying to CC-style conversation and the way recipients are hidden now, I can easily make a mistake not removing key opponent when making comment to partners, a lot of money can be lost.

Email is extremely important for a lot of people.

Great point, thinking of it that way gives some insight into why Google may have changed the UI.

The insight being is that Google is now discarding the professional crowd who bought into their Apps for ADD teenagers. Time to look for alternatives.

Google Apps generates less than 3% of Google's revenues. (Probably much less.)

Thus, not enough of a money-maker to influence the direction of Gmail.

Are you kidding me? I get emails from customers every single day, each one of those emails I read very carefully, from a large screen. Each one requires a response on my part, and if you were a customer you would expect the same.

I also do a real lot of personal emailing. I have family all over the country, and email is one way we keep in touch. I can spend over an hour composing an email to one of my family members, or one of my friends. If I wanted to communicate a shorter message, I'd use SMS, but if I'm telling a longer thought email is my go-to.

Really, anxiety? Use a native/local mail client and I'm sure it will solve your problems.

The problem with that suggestion is that the old Gmail used to have the best UX out of all email clients—web or desktop. I preferred it over Outlook or Thunderbird. Now I'm begrudgingly using it unti something better comes along and hoping Google doesn't acqui-hire them out of existence.

Yeah I'm kinda OCD about my email.

Thanks, just found the HN thread about email clients. Checking out Airmail now.

Perhaps the anxiety is because there was a change, and not specifically this change?

I started using eM Client as a native desktop email app because of the new gMail reply feature. Feature-wise it does everything I expect/want for email.

It drives me absolutely insane when a company makes an 'enhancement' and reduces usable window space. If I am writing a long email I want to be able to use the maximum amount of window space and not be crammed into something that is 25% of my monitor size.

Link to the HN thread with email clients?

I still use the basic HTML client in many circumstances, esp. when tethering off my phone with limited reception:


It approximates the first Ajax/DHTML interface that Gmail introduced when it launched in 2004.

The basic HTML view of gmail has no latency hiding abilities of any kind. It is much slower for every action, and it gets worse the slower your connection is. If you have a high bandwidth, high latency link like "4G" mobile service, ordinary Gmail is almost certainly better.

If course if you have something like GPRS then basic HTML is just the thing.

Gmail also seems to shorten the names of people you email to (at least for me). That makes me second-guess whether I'm really emailing the right person at times.

Agreed. It also is not showing the email address making it easy to mistakenly send a personal email to someone's work account and vice versa.

It always shows last names for me (so long as they're available). Unless you've got some new feature, I'm guessing those contacts just don't have full names assigned. Spending some time in the "contacts" tab, cleaning things up really made things easier for me in this respect.

I literally wrote dozens of complaints to google about this, obviously they go into a black hole of nobody cares, but I like their feedback feature because it says "What part of the screen is the problem" and I highlight EVERYTHING. The new youtube interface? Garbage. STEAMING GARBAGE. The new gmail interface? Sounds like you want a desktop client BECAUSE GARBAGE.


The new GMail Compose is a horrible horrible interface. It's bordering unusable. After looking around to disable it without any success, I started looking for alternatives. I ended up installing Thunderbird and couldn't be happier! With IMAP I can run Thunderbird on different machines and got the benefit of moving from machine to machine and still be able to access mail accounts.

Thunderbird is the way to go!

Google have taken quite a few missteps with their UI changes to Gmail and Youtube especially. I'm not a designer, but as a web developer know a thing or two about easy-to-use and decent interfaces. The new Gmail compose popup to me signifies the once predominately engineer led company is turning into a design led one.

While being a design-led company isn't necessarily a completely bad thing, you need those engineers and developers guiding the designers and keeping things in check. Unrestrained creativity can be a dangerous thing.

I feel the same way about the new compose popup. It's intrusive and distracting and I even emailed them about it sometime ago. I got some cookie cutter response about how Google are continually refining their products, blah blah.

I would use a third party email client, but email is crucial for me and if the chances of something going wrong between the connection of the client and Google's servers are higher than that of losing an email composed within the Gmail interface itself.

My problem with that is people who write emails in full screen windows end up writing poorly formatted emails (very long paragraphs) because they are now composing their emails with 300 columns.

Besides, a CEO that can't focus on writing a message unless they don't have any other distraction on their screen should probably work on their focus skills.

"should probably work on their focus skills"

Terrible argument. "Let's add more distractions to the screen, because the user should be able to focus anyway".

Also, Google broke the "Best Secret Gmail Feature" [1]. In the last few months, you can't select text and hit reply to quote it anymore. Grrr

[1] http://gizmodo.com/5963768/the-best-secret-gmail-feature-is-...

Really? This still works for me, I use it a lot...

I believe there is a Labs option in settings to turn that on.

"Besides, a programmer who can't focus on coding unless they have a quiet office with with no interruptions should probably work on their focus skills"

Everyone regardless of profession has a "zone" where they are the most productive. If a CEO needs to write 10 long-form emails in a day they should definitely have the best environment and the best tools for the job. It can be the difference between spending 5 minutes composing an email vs. 30 minutes.

Writing concise, properly formatted email is the responsibility of the writer, no matter the email client UI.

It's also my responsibility to ensure I can focus and work efficiently, agreed. Whether I can do that well with Gmail's new Compose is the issue.

Besides, a CEO that can't focus on writing a message unless they don't have any other distraction on their screen should probably work on their focus skills.

Also, they're holding it wrong. Right?

Doesn't gmail still offer imap? Use a real mail client, not a web page. Much more fulfilling in almost every way. I like emacs, because I like to be able to write emails using the same editor I use for everything else. But that's a preference. There are many good mail clients to choose from.

Of course that doesn't always protect you from Google's whims. Google purchased the company that made the mail client I like, Sparrow.

This is actually a good thing. I've always wanted to get better at HTML5 / "web 2.0" programming. Now I have an incentive. I think I'll just go ahead and make my own web mail client, with imap support, and host it on my own server (or AWS account). Can't think of a better way to learn than to have a good project (necessity and invention, and all that).

Exactly. A "startup CEO" for whom email is his most important tool and he's baffled by a change to his client? Switch clients.

Google products changes recently have been a pain to use. Damn, its so annoying coping up with these crappy UX changes nowadays

1. First of all the new Gmail inbox with the tabbed interface, it does not show you the number of unread mails in each of the tab, once you have opened a tab, the new mails count vanishes. There should at least be an option for enabling that.

2. Hangouts, it just sucks. Does not work reliably on a data connection, messages are received late. Can't discover online contacts on the UI easily. Makes it easier to chat but harder to find people to chat. I still don't get why did it replace a fully functional chat client with a half-baked piece of crap !?

I don't even want to get started about Google+, the connection model is very good, but the execution is very crappy. Why is Google forcing everyone onto Google+ ?

I have a feeling that this new design ("docked floating div" instead of "new regular window"; "modal floating div" instead of "new fullscreen window") is an effect of Windows and OSX, in their latest iterations, pushing apps to fullscreen virtual desktops.

If Gmail is the whole screen, you can't actually open a "new window"; it would open back on the primary desktop, instead of within the app's screen. Maybe Windows+OSX need to refine their "app-desktop" solutions with some limited form of window management, so that every app isn't having to reinvent its own window management just to keep its windows visible...

> is an effect of Windows and OSX, in their latest iterations, pushing apps to fullscreen virtual desktops.

Hrm, possibly Windows 8 does that; haven't used it. To do it on MacOS, you have to either click the strange icon in the top right, or hit the highly obvious key combination CMD-CTRL-F. Anecdotally, most people don't even seem to realise that the fullscreen thing exists, unless it's pointed out to them.

https://twitter.com/NewComposeSux collects together a lot of sentiment about how great this new feature is. I kinda feel sorry for Jason Cornwell. He's been blasted with "feedback" on Twitter since it went live.

Thanks, checked it out. Impressed that Jason takes the time to respond to many of the tweets.

Umm... powered by Storystrings, but features the Svbtle network's Kudos button (as "cheers")... is there a connection here, or is the former borrowing from the latter?

Using the github library here: https://github.com/masukomi/kudos

Also from the sourcecode on this blog: <!--No plagiarizing here. Thank you to SVBTLE and https://github.com/masukomi/kudos-->

Interesting that someone took my code, nearly character-for-character, and "open sourced" it without permission.

I was not aware of that. I just saw the licence section of the github repo and decided that was good enough.

Not sure how you want to deal with the repo owner, but I can stop using the code if you want.

Client side code is open source.

But open source doesn't imply a certain license. Does it?

But not Free Software

I could live with the new Compose... its the hidden/floating "Formatting Options" that really grinds my gears.

A lot of people complain about the window size, but I agree. It's really the hidden options and extra clicks for me. Everything that used to be easy is now harder. And things that used to be hard are easier.

One trick I use for composing messages: Add "compose" as a search engine to chrome. I use the url https://mail.google.com/mail/?view=cm&fs=1&tf=1&su= , which means I type "compose", hit `tab`, and then type the subject line of the email I want to send.

Makes for a nice way to get quickly to a distraction-free compose window.

I'm not sure it's a good idea to take anyone's opinion of gmail seriously that doesn't use the keyboard shortcuts. If you really are composing so much, hit 'c', not reach all the way over to the mouse like an orangutan.


Pop the window out and maximize it if you don't like the new interface. If you hit d, it will open the compose window in a new tab, _the whole thing_, dedicated to your awesome email that you really need to concentrate on writing.

But as for the "hidden text formatting controls".

Don't use text formatting; send plain text email like a decent human being.

If you need to emphasize or:





that's why we have markdown. No one wants to see your fancy fonts and fuchsia signature. Content, yo.

If it's that much of an issue, why not edit content in your favorite editor then paste it into gmail?

If you're on a mac, you can format to your heart's desire in textedit (full-screen-mode-obviously) then copy it all and paste into gmail and all your stupid font size changes and bold shit will still be there.

EDIT: minor changes, also imagine that the formatted stuff is the raw markdown, because I forgot that this does that.

Edit 2: it's cool to hate - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PkRJzErnRmY

I sometimes wonder whether Google developers only use giant screens and don't realize how much the "comfortable" whitespace on Gmail and Google+ layouts detracts from the product on smaller screens or laptops.

Why not just hold shift when you click "compose"?

Using shift-click to open in a new window is a fairly standard behaviour in most browsers these days isn't it? Then again I guess it wasn't intuitive in this case.

Edit: I should note that the above is actually a genuine question.

Shift-click to open in a new window is a pattern for links. Gmail's 'Compose' doesn't look like a link, it looks like a button.

Shift-clicking the 'search' button doesn't work on Google.com.

> Shift-clicking the 'search' button doesn't work on Google.com.

It does in pre-webkit Opera. One of the things I really miss in other browsers.

Also just shift-c if you have the keyboard shortcuts enabled.

Yep, just found this out from another comment. Thanks!

this is close to the old functionality, but not the exact same.

Holy cow. I'm starting to experience outrage outrage and this post may have been the straw that broke the camel's back.

Indeed. Of all the 'usability nightmares' I've seen on the internet, Digg was by far the worst offender and deservedly so given the transition of users from Digg to Reddit. Gmail has made some odd changes (specifically compose on the bottom right) but ultimately it hasn't irked me at all. I mean, if people want a free e-mail service, they can still go to Outlook or Yahoo.

> Anxiety over the new Gmail Compose

Anxiety over some feature?

If your anxiety doesn't come from the fact that you agree to the concept of the surveillance state (by using products like Gmail), then something is clearly wrong.

Yeah exactly. This should be a top comment. But apparently everyone is moving on, business as usual, as if the case were closed. And a lot of people could not access your accounts. And read your email.

Apparently some UI-issue is a bigger threat to user-satisfaction.


> Weird.

I'd say frightening.

This is HN. Readers are people who understand and produce technology. People who also understand the nefarious potential it holds, if abused.

The situation just doesn't compute.

Click the "-><-" arrows at the top and you can go back to the old style.

I like the new version and wish they'd used it long ago, I want a large box to type my emails in, not a small rectangle.

Clicking "-><-" brings me to a small chat-like box for my email. Agreed though, I like large boxes for email.

The window size and position is fine; I like being able to easily refer to other emails.

It's what they've done to the editing that bugs me.

- It encourages top-posting. To bottom-post, you have to click the "..." button, and then remove the two blank lines at the top.

- Fast selection of text with shift-Pg{Up,Dn} no longer works.

- Firefox's "It's All Text" add-on, which lets you drop into a real editor to edit a textbox, no longer works with it.

The idiotic modal window is bad enough, but the new Gmail Compose also breaks basic shortcut keys (such as Command+left or right arrow to skip to the end of a line), at least in Firefox on my Mac. And pasting text in "Plain text" mode often adds weird line breaks. Gmail used to be such a pleasure to use and I cringe to click Compose now.

You know what I like about the new Gmail compose? Nothing.

I don't understand, why can't they just have the 'show all options and full screen' mode as well? They had it optional for a while now, what does it cost to maintain the old composer?

Composing a new message should be a lot more RESTful and first class, not a modal popup. I understand the on-the-fly desire but not at the cost of manipulation.

Personally I am a big fan of the new compose, although I can also understand why it isn't right for some people.

My usage would be something like 80% very short emails, 5 lines or under with maybe a copy paste block. Occasionally I will want to add an attachment or a cc.

The speed and the ability to still see the email list works for me. I should also add the majority of my gmail use is done on a 27 inch screen.

I find it very hard to have sympathy for someone who says "For better or worse, email takes up a large part of my work life." and then chooses to use a free, ad-supported email service.

If this is such a crucial tool for you, then you should be willing to pay a reasonable price for something you're happy with instead of just complaining about it online.

Maybe she's a business user and pays for it. Business version also has the same bad layout.

I do quite like the new compose - I get a bit annoyed by the in line editor when you reply though. Feels a little inconsistent.

If you're such a heavy gmail user, I'd recommend using keyboard shortcuts for linking, formatting, adding cc/bcc, etc.

Once you enable them, you can easily check if you've forgotten by hitting ?, and within a month you won't have to touch your mouse (or navigate the UI) for anything save for the esoteric features.

I don't mind designers and/or developers changing their products. If they think they have something better(disregarding the contrived-ness of the term for now), they're more than welcome to provide me the new stuff.

Just don't take back my old stuff which I'm familiar with. Give us the choice, damn it.

I hated the feature at first as well, but I've found myself multi-tasking recently where I type multiple emails in parallel as I collect my thoughts for each. It's growing on me, but I definitely see the validity of the criticism. I do wish it was easier to get at the advanced features.

If email is important to you, maybe you should take some time to set up an email client.

I personally am using Gmail from OS X Mail via IMAP for a couple of years now. Once you get used to the software, you can focus on reading and writing the mail—there's no distraction caused by continuous UI evolution.

I really hate that thing as well. Although it isn't just supposed to be quick, it is supposed to allow referencing several other emails while you write. Which I don't do so it is terrible for me.

The shortcuts for CC and BCC help a lot with adding recipients.

Obviously that doesn't do much to solve the problem of it squeezing them all onto one line when you focus out if you're paranoid about recipients.

I logged into an old Hotmail account the other day.

The new interface they are using is massively better than Google's, I fell in love straight away, it's actually quite lovely and very fluid to use.

I just shifted my behaviours to different tools that Compose is no longer suitable for. It was a bit of an annoying shift, though in the end felt more helpful with forcing me to organize.

If you have shortcuts enabled in gmail settings you can simply hit `d` (instead of `c`) and you get a full dedicated compose window in a new browser window.

So this is simply a non issue!

If you don't like being subject to changes in your UI, then stop using a webapp that you have no control over. Use a sane client over IMAP and be done with it.

Seems there is an easy solution. Just use Thunderbird.

Whoever approved this change at Google deserves to be fired, its a serious usability fuckup

"recently"? October 2012 this started rolling out....geezus.

And I opted out. I believe that it was only recently enforced on everyone.

I'd be curious to see what the opt-out rate on the new compose UI was. I like to adopt new UI improvements but that was one of the few that I immediately hated and switched back. I wonder if this feature was liked more or less than some of Google's other UI changes.

I get the feeling that Google is ignoring user feedback for some of these types of thing so they can push users towards their corporate goals. Youtube badgering people to switch to their Google+ username is a good example. Clearly a lot of people don't want to do that, yet they persist.


The new Gmail compose is 20 years worth of interface design learning, lost in a single poor choice.

google is good at that. See the latest iteration of google maps for android. Ugh.

My favorite part is that it doesn't work with the hardware search or menu buttons.

tldr; Somebody moved her cheese.

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