Google is striving once again to establish its most popular application as a one-stop shop for communications and reduce reliance on email alone. This time, Google has conducted a total redesign of the Gmail user interface. Where email used to be Gmail’s sole focus now stand four options, each given equal space on the screen: Gmail, Chat, Spaces (Google’s new alternative to Slack and Microsoft Teams, following the sunsetting of Rooms), and Meet. Users will be able to hide tabs they don’t use or prefer not to see, as with previous renditions of the app. The new interface is intended to dovetail with Google’s attempt to make each of its apps interconnected via “smart chips,” or links to documents, spreadsheets, or (now) calls that can be tagged within other documents or chats using the @ symbol.
The Gmail call feature follows a handful of smaller updates, including “second-screen experiences” that allow users to hold video conferences on more devices, like the Nest Hub Max Google Meet hardware in conference rooms. Google Calendar recently integrated a “Time Insights” feature, which breaks down how users are spending their time per their calendar events and meeting attendees. Users can also enable a “working location” option that displays to others where they’re working from, whether that be from home, the office, or somewhere else.
Google’s plan to add more new capabilities across Workspace in the future makes sense given the world’s adaptation of remote and hybrid work over the last year or so. The company actually rebranded and re-prioritized the suite of productivity apps in direct response to the pandemic’s impact on how people work. Next up? Companion mode, a feature that will allow users to join video conferences in rooms with AV systems without embarrassing audio feedback loops.
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