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Why (and how) your Gmail is suddenly different

If you open Gmail today, things might look and act differently, but the changes are being well received – here’s what’s new.

gmail new material you

Gmail is no stranger to redesigns. In the past 10 years, Google’s email service has undergone at least four major overhauls and countless minor tweaks along the way. The latest redesign, motivated by Google’s design initiative Material You, adds everything from aesthetic changes to quality of life updates.

The redesign is expected to begin rolling out to all Gmail users in the next few weeks, and is meant to be consistent in appearance for desktop and mobile users alike.

The change you’ll most likely notice immediately is the difference in backgrounds for buttons, read emails, and panels, along with the addition of a vertical pane containing Chat and Meet options to the left of the inbox. This frees up some more space for your labels and inbox categories in what will become the middle pane directly to the left of your messages. 

Gmail’s multiple inbox system that includes Updates and Social categories will remain as part of the design.

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The redesign also adds a dedicated filter button to the top of the inbox. Previously, filters were available, but only through the search bar. The addition of a specific button is a welcome update for those looking to save a step when sorting their inboxes. 

Less explicitly, your inbox will benefit from some revisions to Gmail’s search suggestions. TechCrunch notes that Gmail will prioritize first names and email addresses (as opposed to last names) when using the search bar, and “historical conversations” will factor into your results as well. This means that you’re more likely to get the Sarah you talk to all the time rather than the one who onboarded you three years ago when you type their name into the bar.

As TC points out, you can turn off the overt design changes in your inbox settings if change terrifies you. Doing so will restore your inbox to its pre-update glory without nerfing any of the more implicit updates. 

Since Google recently teased some upgrades to Drive and Docs as well—one of which involves multiple windows and drag-and-drop for tablets—it seems reasonable to expect that they may integrate some of those features into Gmail at some point.

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Jack Lloyd has a BA in Creative Writing from Forest Grove's Pacific University; he spends his writing days using his degree to pursue semicolons, freelance writing and editing, oxford commas, and enough coffee to kill a bear. His infatuation with rain is matched only by his dry sense of humor.

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