GMail’s new features

Google’s email application, GMail has added some neat features in the last few days that I thought were worth a comment.

First, they have finally rolled out Web Clips for everyone. These are RSS feeds shown one at a time just above your Inbox. It seems like a helpful way to keep in touch with what is going on in the world (whether political updates, gadget news or whatever your preference). It is completely customizable. They have some preloaded feeds that you can delete (as I did with most of them). You can then add feeds from various sites including blogs. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get it to add feeds from certain sites (e.g. I tested Eszter’s Blog, but it didn’t rec0gnize the feed).

One unfortunate aspect of this feature is that it doesn’t seem to recognize when you have followed up on a clip so it keeps showing you feeds that you have already viewed. The clips are sometimes ads, which is fine since this is an ad-supported service. It is surprisingly sophisticated. I entered a subject line of two words in Hungarian without any message body (I was just sending myself an attachment as a backup) and it gave me an ad for something in Hungarian.

Second, GMail now gives you the option of previewing attachments as a simple HTML document. This is less exciting for something like a Word file, but intriguing for something like an Excel file with numerous worksheets. It renders them quite nicely. I recommend trying this out next time you want a quick glance at the contents of an attachment.

4 Responses to “GMail’s new features”

  1. Chris Says:

    In a recent blog entry, Dave Winer complained about the relabeling of RSS in GMail as “web clips”. ( Do you think that Google is doing a smart thing by slightly obfuscating the names of these things (implying that Winer has a point), or do you think that TLAs like RSS turn off casual users who might be intimidated by “RSS”?

  2. Chris Says:

    Err. Above I was asking whether Google did the smart thing renaming RSS (and pissing off Winer) or whether watering down the RSS term probably doesn’t matter at this point…

    It’s too late and this is a good sign that I need to get to bed.

  3. eszter Says:

    Thanks, Chris. I already understood the question from the first comment (but no problem about posting twice:).

    You bring up a good question. I think the use of Web clips is a bit unorthodox and maybe not the best decision as it is pretty far from the standard terms used in this realm. That said, I do NOT think that “RSS” would have been a good choice. We know from surveys that very few people know what that means. There is no need to be so cryptic as to offer acronyms most people do not understand. Instead, perhaps use of the word “feeds” would have made sense here since that’s what these are and it’s a more commonly known term.

    (I feel like I had another thought in response to your comments, but I lost the first version of this response. )

  4. jeremy Says:

    I apparently got web clips early as part of some pilot test, and I was thankful that part of making web clips available to everyone was also giving the people who had it the ability to turn it off, which I did immediately. Too distracting.