As a photographer, I try to use my own photos as the background for Gmail. Not too hard [see use a custom photo for your Gmail wallpaper] but my friends often ask if they can also use these photos for their own Gmail theme. Can they? Is there a way to share Gmail themes?
Until recently, the answer would have been “uh, no, just email them your photo” but I expect the Gmail team did a bit of analysis of people who were using custom themes and found that there was a significant duplication of imagery and theme settings for those custom themes. Enter the “share your theme” feature for people who have a custom theme set up. Obviously if you’re using a stock theme sharing it is as simple as telling someone else to check out the “Beach HD Theme”.
Like you, I also only work with custom themes on Gmail – because I can! – and scrounge Google Images to find striking photos that match my mood, whim or thematic obsession of the moment. A search for images that match the resolution of your screen that match, say, “london at night” can produce a remarkable array of options. Or, as you do, use your own images. Even better!
When you upload custom images or photos as part of a Google Gmail theme, turns out that they’re stored in Picasa, Google’s photo management system. Not a big deal, except as you’ll see shortly, it’s worth knowing because going there and deleting your photo disables everyone else’s shared theme, which can be handy!
To start, here’s my custom Gmail theme in all its Tokyo nighttime glory:
Gorgeous, right? Okay, so I’ll share it.
To do that, click on the gear icon just below your thumbnail photo:
That’s easy enough, isn’t it? “Share your theme”.
Choose that option and you’ll see there are three available choices for sharing:
Curious about mine? The “link” option is this rather gnarly URL: <a href=”https://mail.google.com/mail/?tm=1#settings/themes/customlight?https%253A%252F%252Flh4.googleusercontent.com%252F-NioW2YyYqAI%252FUxEo6TLFUSI%252FAAAAAAAAUqc%252Fm4gt4cCDMxc%252Fs0%252FTokyo.jpg” target=”_blank”>https://mail.google.com/mail/?tm=1#settings/themes/customlight?https%253A%252F%252Flh4.googleusercontent.com%252F-NioW2YyYqAI%252FUxEo6TLFUSI%252FAAAAAAAAUqc%252Fm4gt4cCDMxc%252Fs0%252FTokyo.jpg</a>. Yikes.
Better, click on “Send an email” and it’s the same long URL, but it’s neatly tucked into an email message:
Or if you’re a Google Plus fan as I am, perhaps sharing via Google+ is more your speed.
Click on that option and you’ll have a chance to customize your message too:
Easy enough and it masks that crazy URL, which is nice. In fact, here’s the result when I did share it:
Attractive and easy for anyone to share the theme I’ve set up in Gmail. Nice.
I do want to highlight the curious warning on the sharing window: “Be thoughtful abut who you share this link with: anyone can reshare it. Photos you share are stored in your Picasa account. You can delete the photo to disable the theme.” So that’s handy: if you get cold feet about oversharing a particularly gorgeous image (or perhaps one of your spouse or children) you can delete it from your Picasa album and all the people that have themes based on that image will suddenly find themselves stuck with the default theme instead. Time to update!