One of the challenges of user interface design is that we tend to get locked into our initial style of interaction with a program or device. Add new features and most people won’t even notice. That’s exactly what’s happened with Gmail, Google’s super popular email service…
I’ve been on Google Mail (Gmail) for so darn long that I remember having to get an invitation to join up, and then having people email me asking for me to invite them to join Google’s shot at a Web-based email service. It wasn’t anything unique, both Microsoft (Hotmail) and Yahoo had popular email services, but Google did it better with their clean, simple interface and keyword-based labels rather than the more traditional email folders.
I’m not alone in being a fan of Gmail either. Google shared that there are over 1 billion active users of Gmail. That is a lot of email and a lot of users who are enjoying either the Web-based or app-based email experience. Of course, many users never dream of going to mail.google.com to get their email since they have an app on their phone or tablet, access their Gmail account through IMAP or similar within their favorite email program or similar. And yet there are still tens of millions who appreciate that if you have access to a Web browser, you can jump on and check your email.
I use all of the above, keeping track of my email through the Gmail app on my phone, the Kiwi program for Gmail on my Mac and, sometimes, straight to Gmail from a Web browser. Which is why it was easy for a big change in the usability of the Web Gmail interface to pass me by: The contextual menus have changed quite a bit!
You might not even have realized you could right-click within the Web interface, actually, since usually that’s just a Web browser menu with save as, copy link and similar features. Indeed, even within the Kiwi Mac app for Gmail, a right click generates this uninspiring menu:
It’s no wonder I never right click: the menu doesn’t really offer anything useful.
Jump into a regular Web browser, go to Gmail, and perform that same right click, however, and the menu is quite a bit more useful:
Quite a startling difference, isn’t it? In particular notice that this makes it easy to move messages to specific tabs if you’re using that prioritization and organizational system in Gmail and that it finally makes it easy to differentiate between Reply, Reply all and Forward (which are otherwise a surprising pain in Gmail).
It also makes it really easy for you to begin categorizing your email so that you can keep everything more neat and organized, actually. See the “Move to” entry? Choose it and you’ll not only see the “labels” you have, but…
You can see I’ve highlighted it above: “Create new“. With just that one feature, you can begin to organize your email into folders (well, “labels”) by topic, sender, theme, organization, or similar. And I can tell you that labels + filters really lets me use Gmail to manage the hundreds of email messages I receive every day. Without them I’d just give up and go back to carrier pigeons!
The moral of this story is for you to experiment and poke around occasionally in your favorite programs or sites. You might just be surprised what’s changed and what’s new.
Pro Tip: I’ve been writing about Gmail since I first joined and have hundreds of helpful Gmail tutorials. Please check ’em out while you’re here on my site.