Google just launched a revamped interface for Gmail and a major upgrade to the Gmail Contacts application. The updated Gmail interface now features three separate links for Mail, Contacts and Tasks at the top of the left sidebar, while the “compose mail” and “add contact” buttons have moved underneath these links. The Gmail Contacts application, which is the focal point of today’s update, now offers users the ability to sort contacts by last name and to create custom labels for phone numbers and other fields that turn the application into a lightweight CRM solution.
In addition, Contacts now features a larger notes field, keyboard shortcuts, automatic saving and an improved sorting feature for Asian languages. Contacts now also sports an undo function.
In typical Google fashion, the company will begin to roll these new features out today and they should be available to all Gmail users by tomorrow. For now, the new version of Contacts will not be available to Google Apps users.
Contacts Gets an Updates
As Benjamin Grol, Google’s product manager for Gmail Contacts, told us yesterday, the team approached the Contacts updates and Gmail’s redesign with two themes in mind: simplicity and consistence with Gmail and other Google apps.
The commitment to simplicity can be seen in the new modeless user interface for Contacts, for example, which now allows users to edit any field while browsing contacts without having to switch to an edit mode. As Grol pointed out, switching between modes makes sense on a mobile phone, but by going to a modeless user interface on the desktop, Google can save users a few clicks and make editing contacts a lot easier.
The notes feature in Contacts is still just a plain text editor, though Grol pointed out that Google is thinking about turning this into a more fully-featured rich-text editor that will turn Contacts into a better CRM solution.
Gmail Interface Tweaks
Rumors about this update to Gmail’s interface started circulating earlier this month when a Google employee mistakenly posted a screenshot of the new design. The most noticeable change is Google’s decision to move Contacts and Tasks up to the top of the left sidebar and to move the “compose mail” and “add contact” buttons underneath these top-level navigation links. This change makes the look-and-feel of Gmail more consistent with Google Calendar and other Google applications. As Grol noted, this new design also emphasizes that Contacts and Tasks are first-class citizens in Gmail.
The updated design also introduces a few smaller changes. Instead of the list of links that allowed users to select messages (all, none, read, unread, starred, unstarred), for example, the new interface now utilizes a drop-down menu. This, according to Google, means that the first message now appears about 16 pixels higher than before.