Leaked Screenshots Suggest Major Overhaul to Gmail

Brandon Dimmel's picture

It appears that Google is getting ready to introduce a whole new user interface (UI) for its Gmail cloud-based email service. Leaked screenshots suggest the overhaul is substantial, meaning current Gmail users could face a significant challenge adjusting to the changes.

If the screenshots are in fact legitimate, Google is hoping to meld its desktop version of Gmail closer to the mobile version, which is accessible through tablets and smartphones. In that way, it's similar to Microsoft's use of the touch-friendly interface that made its way onto desktop PCs when Windows 8 was released.

Changes Include New Menu System, Advanced Email Sorting

Tech website Geek.com alleges to have acquired leaked screenshots showing the entirely new Gmail user interface. The interface includes a completely new menu system that effectively replaces the static sidebar found in the last version of Gmail. (Source: geek.com)

The tabbed email system has also been laid to rest, transforming the interface to sort emails by topic. Those topics include Travel, Purchases, Finance, Social, Updates, Forums, and Promos. It's not yet clear if any of these categories can be customized.

Google Hangouts -- the app which allows users to carry out group conversations and easily share videos and photographs -- appears to be a major part of the Gmail redesign. If Google implements the new user interface, users will only need to click a single icon in order to initiate a Google Hangouts chat session.

One new feature that could prove popular is a "pinning" system that allows users to quickly set aside messages that require special attention. (Source: pcmag.com)

Google Expected to Test UI Before Implementation

Geek.com reporter Russell Holly, who broke the story this past weekend, says there's no definite release date for the new Gmail user interface. In fact, it's entirely possible Google will scrap the plan altogether if testing returns a large amount of negative feedback. (Source: geek.com)

Whether or not these plans go ahead, one thing is for certain: current Gmail users should be consulted about the changes. It's unlikely Google wants to encounter anything like the incredibly angry responses after Yahoo launched a massive overhaul of their mail system user interface last year.

What's Your Opinion?

Do you think Gmail is in need of a significant face lift? Do you like the sound of the changes discussed in the leaked report? Or, do you think Gmail is just fine the way it is right now? Do you think it's a good idea to have PC applications operate similar to mobile platforms, or should the interfaces be completely separate?

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Dennis Faas's picture

Today I received an update from Firefox (version 29) which changes a good part of the user interface, including the tab styles and menus - similar to what you might see on a mobile device.

The new tabs look more like Google's Chrome browser, which I don't really care for. If I wanted to make my browser look like Chrome, I'd use Chrome and not Firefox. I much prefer the look and feel of the old Firefox browser that I had before this update.

I wouldn't be surprised to see more PC software vendors making this sort of PC-mobile software transgression as users opt to purchase mobile devices over PCs.

PS: if you're a Firefox user and you don't like the changes, you can revert using the Classic Theme Restorer addon. It's not 100% (at least for me), but it works:


cjstaples's picture

The "dumbing down" of desktop UIs to match the limited capabilities of mobile devices is a very unfortunate trend.

jsalome2003's picture

Please leave gmail as is, does not need to be changed. I, for one, am happy with it as it is. Already left yahoo as it was changed, do not want to have to leave gmail too.

DavidFB's picture

Hard to gauge from the info presented. Yahoos transition was more of a disaster as much of it was broken for some time. That was a very badly implemented roll-out. But they also took away features. I would doubt Google does that.

I guess I'm a little old-school. The growing market is mobile and matching the interfaces makes sense. But dumbing the desktop down is lame. Do you really want to target the lowest common denominator?

However, except when travelling, I use Thunderbird so am not dependent on the interface. I prefer to sort my email into folders but like Gmails spam handling.

I'm also concerned about Googles integration of services and how that's been driven by user tracking to improve targeted ads.

Per Dennis, I also use Firefox and was obliged to change themes. My old one was abandoned with this update. The new one restores some of my preferences but the reverted back-forward buttons didn't work properly. (sigh)

And I use LibreOffice, which uses an older style menu, pre-ribbon.

Some of this just seems change for the sake of change. How does it improve productivity to rearrange things? Most of us still use a QWERTY keyboard just fine.

ramtodatry's picture

I agree with the user who said NO to the potentially new and upcoming changes.

I also agree with the issue that the changes made within the last week or 10 days should be rolled back. It sucks when your Label bar follows your open folder, etc...

Who the hell do they talk to before rolling out these changes, anyway.

The company that does no evil, does not talk to its users....

Aerokats's picture

If it ain't broke, why fix it? I still use a QWERTY keyboard and Windows 7. Any change to a mobile device appearance is unacceptable. I will continue to use Thunderbird, unless Google somehow makes that impossible, in which case the change will be mine to make, not Google's.

rdav01's picture

For me and many users, Gmail is horribly crippled because it does not sort, so it is not possible to quickly and easily find large groups of messages that you want to delete or file.

If this capability is not offered soon, I will simply move back to Microsoft Outlook or one of the many other systems that do provide this basic capability.

bob.cirelli_2244's picture

Every time they make a change to gmail, it gets more and more ugly.
They hide things that were once readily apparent.
Making it look like the mobile app means I will have to migrate to another email.
I don't use the mobile app because it's hideous.

Google, you may be big, but I don't have to use you.

Focused100's picture

The last major update that implemented tabs I kinda like.
I get hundreds of emails daily and grouping them in tabs make it easier to get rid of the ones I don't want and sort the ones I do.

I'd like to be able to switch between the interfaces to test both or use both.