Tag Archives | Gmail

Google Puts Tasks on the iPhone

googlelogoA couple of months ago, Google brought a simple but effective task manager into Gmail, courtesy of Gmail’s Labs proving ground for new features. Now it’s brought the feature to the iPhone, using a Mobile Safari-friendly interface:

Google Tasks for iPhone

The desktop version of Google Tasks emphasizes simplicity and speed over features; the iPhone one (which you reach by visiting http://gmail.com/tasks) is even more basic. I wish that it, like the desktop one, were integrated with Gmail itself–when I’m in Gmail on the iPhone, I’d like to be able to bop quickly into Tasks, and to be able to instantly turn an e-mail message into a task.  (On the iPhone, the two services are sepearate and unrelated.) You also can’t indent tasks on the iPhone.

But Tasks for Gmail is snappy and useful–and it’s especially welcome given that the iPhone still has no native task manager. For now, though, I’m sticking with the iPhone version of Remember the Milk. It’s part of RTM’s paid Pro service, which runs $25 a year, but unlike Google Tasks, it brings all the richness of its full-blown Web version to the iPhone. And I like supporting Remember the Milk, a very small company that consistently makes worthwhile products and does interesting things (like supporting offline access via Google’s Gears) before larger companies like Google get around to doing them…


Gmail Gets Offline Access (Finally!)

GmailThe Official Gmail Blog bears good news this afternoon: Gmail’s “Labs” experimental-feature proving ground is adding offline access, letting you read and send e-mail even when you don’t have a live Internet connection. Once you turn it on, you can choose between an online mode, an offline mode, and a “flaky connection” one that behaves as if you were online but synchronizes mail in the background as possible.

The blog post goes to pains not to raise folks’ expectations too high: “Offline Gmail is still an early experimental feature, so don’t be surprised if you run into some kinks that haven’t been completely ironed out yet.” And truth to tell, Gmail already plays nicely with e-mail clients that support POP and IMAP, so it’s already easy enough to use Gmail even when you can’t get to Gmail. But I’m still looking forward to trying out the new feature (which hasn’t been enabled in my Gmail account yet, although Google says it should show up shortly).

Offline Gmail uses Gears, the Google technology for offline browser access that Google Docs also takes advantage of. Docs uses Gears to provide a pretty skimpy subset of the online version’s capabilities–you can only edit word-processing documents, and lose a lot of features–but Google’s blog post says “Our goal is to provide nearly the same browser-based Gmail experience whether you’re using the data cached on your computer or talking directly to the server.” (One question which the Google blog post doesn’t appear to answer: Can I download every kilobyte of the gigabytes of e-mail that sit in my Gmail account to my hard drive, so there’s truly no distinction between Gmail’s online and offline flavors?)

Gears is an exciting piece of technology, but it seems safe to say that it doesn’t make building offline apps into a cakewalk: It was introduced back in May, 2007 and there are still only a handful of services (from Google or anyone else) that take advantage of it. At first, I assumed the launch of Gears meant offline Gmail was imminent; then I forgot it might even be a possibility. And now I’m pleased to see that it’s been in the works all along.

At the pace that major Web services are figuring out how to go offline, I think it’s possible that Internet access will get close to pervasive before offline access can be assumed. Once you can get on the Net from an airplane or the boonies, you might only care about offline access for those rare moments when your connection (or Gmail itself) has temporarily conked out. Even then, it would still be handy…


Gmail Plays Taskmaster

gmail1Gmail Labs, Google’s proving ground for new Gmail features, is piling on new stuff at such a dizzying pace that it’s hard to keep track of everything. Some, like the Breathalyzer-like Mail Googles, are enough to make you wonder whether that Google policy of letting engineers devote 20 percent of their time to personal projects is such a good idea after all. Not so, I’m happy to report with tonight’s new feature. Gmail now offers Tasks–aka a to-do list–and they’re such an obvious feature for the service’s bag of tricks that I was momentarily surprised when it dawned on me that it didn’t already do them.

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Gmail Adds Voice and Video Chat

gmail1Gmail is rolling out a new feature today: Voice and Video Chat. The bad news–for me, not you–is that it isn’t showing up for me yet when I log into Gmail. The good news? I happened to be visiting Google when the news broke, so I got an in-person demo. (They say that it’ll be available to all Gmail users by the end of the day.)

The feature looks cool, and it’s exceedingly straightforward. When you’re in Gmail, your contact list will show a little green camera icon next to any buddy who has a Webcam, is online, and has installed the Gmail Voice and Video Chat plug-in (which works with IE 7, some versions of IE 6, Firefox, Safari, and, of course, Chrome). Click the icon, and you get a chat window with video in the botton right-hand corner of the Gmail interface. (You can also blow it up to full-screen mode.)

Here’s Google’s demo:

I haven’t used Gmail for chat much; this is a reason to give it a try…assuming that I can get the folks I’d like to chat with to install Google’s plug-in, that is.

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Gmail Enters the Emoticon Wars, Inevitably

STOP THE PRESSES! The big news in tech this morning is that Gmail has introduced a feature I’m surprised it didn’t have already: emoticons. Lots and lots of emoticons. In two styles: squarish-headed and roundy-headed.

Here they are:

That’s a total of 148 emoticons, some of which are animated. (And yes, the last one in each set is…er, a pile of crap: I didn’t know that Google had a slightly off-color sense of humor, and I’m not sure if I’d want to be presented with that emoticon each time I wanted to insert a simply smiley, frowny, kissy, or weepy into my e-mail.)

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Operation Foxbook: Life Inside the Browser, So Far

I’m typing this in Firefox on an HP Mini-Note netbook. In fact, I’m doing everything in Firefox on the Mini-Note at the moment, because I’m engaged in the experiment I call Operation Foxbook, in which I spend a few days trying to go cold turkey on desktop applications and my fancy MacBook in favor of working in a manner that’s as close to purely Web-based as possible.

How’s it going so far? Not bad, but not entirely free of bumps. A few notes on the Web-based applications I’ve been using:

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A World Without Google

Ten years ago today, Google’s filing for incorporation as a business was accepted. It’s far from the only date one might choose to mark the company’s tenth birthday–and as I write this, I don’t see any celebrating going on at Google’s home page or corporate blog–but many Googlewatchers are doing their ruminating on Ten Years of Google right now. (I’ve already done some myself in my posts on bizarro Google offshoots and the company’s 1998 homepage.)

The first thought that jumped into my head when I pondered the anniversary was this: It’s only been that long? Google has become so core to how I live my life that I forget that I managed to spend thirty-four years without it–including twenty years of being online in one form or another. There just aren’t that many commercial products or services that have become anywhere near so pervasive. (Coca-Cola? McDonald’s? The Gillette safety razor?)

Once I started to think about life before Google, I began to toy with the idea of life without Google. What if the world had gotten to 2008 without the company ever being formed? (Maybe Sergey Brin and Larry Page had never been born; maybe they became Stanford professors; maybe they became fabulously successful at some other endeavor–I dunno.) Just how different would life–or at least life on the Internet–be?

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The T-List: Special German Edition!

My trip to Berlin for the IFA electronics show is winding down, but I still have stuff to talk about. And it’s a slow news day. So here’s a T-List about my visit–be thankful it’s not in German!
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Gmail: Love It! Hate It! Love It! Hate It!

There are applications and services that I know I like. There are applications and services that I know I don’t like. And then there’s Gmail. Ever since I got my hands on an invite back in 2004, I’ve been a fan…or so I’ve thought. But recently, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s slowly driving me crazy–and that it may be time for an intervention of some sort.

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John McCain: Secret Wikipedia Fan?

A political scandal! A dead service with a funny name! Two e-mail services that have had trouble doing e-mail! And a computer we all know that’s celebrating a very special day! They’re all on today’s T-List.
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