Gmail is supposed to be a highly advanced free email service. It offers you plenty of free space (about 7 GB plus) and several useful features. Added to the regular features are various new features that are added from time to time as experimental features by Gmail Labs. As per Google, “Gmail Labs is a testing ground for experimental features that aren’t quite ready for prime time”. However, many of the Gmail Labs features have got established over time and are quite useful. Here is a list of various Gmail Labs features that you may find useful for being used in your Gmail account and that may further enhance your rich experience with Gmail.
(1) Auto-advance: Usually when you delete, archive or mute a conversation in Gmail, it automatically goes back to the Inbox. However, with Auto-advance feature, instead of showing your inbox after the delete, archive or mute operation, you can choose whether to automatically advance to the next or previous conversation in Gmail by selecting the appropriate option in the “General Settings” page.
(2) Default “Reply to all”: When you click “Reply” button in Gmail, the reply email shows response being sent only to the sender. If the incoming mail had copies marked to other recipients, your reply will not automatically include replies to these recipients; of course, you can select to add them separately as recipients of your reply. With the Gmail Labs feature “Reply to all”, you can make “reply to all” as your default option for responding to emails. This means that in one click, all persons named in the incoming mail will be shown as recipients of your reply email.
(3) Background Send: This feature allows you to send the email in the background while you can start doing other things without waiting for the email to be sent. This saves your time. However, for the obvious reasons, you should continue to be logged in till the mail is actually sent in the background.
(4) Google Maps previews in mail: When enabled, this Labs feature will display Google Map previews of the addresses found in an email.
(5) Inserting images: It is a very useful feature which allows you to insert images / pictures directly into the message body of an email being sent. The images can be from any source – your own computer or on the web. Thus, you can upload and insert an image file in an email message from your computer, or by providing the URL of the image.
(6) Mark as Read Button: This feature creates a “Mark as Read” button that makes it convenient to mark emails as read by a single click, instead of clicking on the “More Actions” menu and selecting Mark as read action every time.
(7) Message Sneak Peek: Have a look at the conversation by right-clicking on an email in the inbox without actually opening it. You’ll see the preview. So, it becomes a handy tool to get an idea about the contents of a conversation without even opening it. Depending on it, you can then take further action, i.e., either open it to view full contents or delete it or move it to another folder.
(8) Undo Send: Allows you to stop an email from being sent within a few seconds after hitting the “Send” button on that email in your Gmail account.
(9) Create a Document: You can create a Google Document from an email conversation with the help of this Gmail Labs feature, or else create a new blank document by hitting ‘g’ key followed by ‘w’ key (your keyboard shortcuts should be enabled for using these keys to create a new document).
(10) Google Docs previews in mail: When you receive a link to a Google Docs document, spreadsheet or presentation in an email, this feature will display its preview directly in the email. It also offers an option to open such document directly in Google Docs.
(11) Quote selected text: When you reply to an email, it allows you to quote the text that you have selected.
(12) Google Voice player in mail: If any voicemails have been left in your Google Voice account, this feature allows you to play them right from the email notification.
(13) Sender Time Zone: It will display the time zone of the sender so that you can get better idea as to what the exact time it would be at the sender’s end right now. It can be helpful if you want to call the sender instead of replying by email.
(14) Default Text Styling: This Gmail Labs feature allows you to set the default text styling such as the font name, font size, etc., for the outgoing mails. You can change these settings under the ‘General’ tab on the ‘Settings’ page, after enabling this feature.
(15) Video chat enhancements: Adds new features, such as higher resolution and bigger windows, in Gmail voice and video chat.
(16) SMS (text messaging) in Chat: Use this feature to send and receive SMS (text messages) in chat.
(17) SMS in Chat gadget: This feature requires that the above-mentioned Gmail Labs feature “SMS (text messaging) in Chat” should first have been enabled. This feature will add a gadget to your Gmail account making it easier to send SMS messages.
(18) Picasa previews in mail: If you receive a link to a Picasa photo in an email, its preview is shown.
(19) Flickr previews in mail: It is similar to the above-mentioned “Picasa previews in mail”. It displays photo previews for any Flickr photo link received in an email.
(20) Send & Archive: A new button is added to the Compose form using which you can send a reply email and archive the email conversation in a single action by clicking that button.
(21) Filter import/export: It allows you to export your mail filters as a file, which can be backed up, shared and saved. You can then delete such exported mail filters, if you so wish. At a later stage, you can import these mail filters from the saved file.
(22) Message translation: If you receive an email in another language, this feature will translate it for you using Google Translate.
(23) Pictures in chat: This Gmail Labs feature will display profile pictures of your friends when you chat with them.
(24) Extra Emoji: This will allow you to use a large number of Emoji characters while composing an email. Emoji is the Japanese term for the picture characters or emoticons.
(25) Preview Pane: It adds a preview pane next to the list of conversations in Gmail, and makes it easy to read emails faster.
(26) SmartLabels: This Gmail Labs feature enables automatic categorization of incoming Bulk, Notification or Forum emails. You can use Settings -> Filters to modify these default filters or create new filters. The Bulk mail can be filtered out of the Inbox by default.
(27) Multiple Inboxes: It allows you to create extra lists of emails in your Inbox to see important email at a glance. These new lists can be created on the basis of the labels, starred messages, drafts or any search you want. You can change the settings for these lists under Settings.
(28) Canned Responses: Allows you to save and then send your common messages using a button next to the compose form. It can also send emails automatically using filters.
(29) Custom keyboard shortcuts: Not satisfied with the default keyboard shortcuts? This feature will allow you to customize keyboard shortcut mappings as you wish by using a new Settings tab for remapping keys to various actions.
(30) Right-side chat: It is a simple feature that moves the chat box to the right side of the Inbox.
(31) Signature tweaks: Change the place where your signature appears and remove the “–” line that appears before the signature.
(32) Apps Search: It will extend search results with those from Google Docs and Sites, and will show these additional search results below Gmail search results.
(33) Custom date formats: Use this feature to change the date and time format independent of the language chosen. Use a 24-hour clock (16:32) or show dates with the day first (27/12/07), and use other similar date and time formats of your choice.
(34) Google Calendar gadget: This feature will display your Google Calendar in the left sidebar of Gmail. Makes it convenient to keep a watch on the upcoming important events, locations and details.
(35) Google Docs gadget: Displays your Google Docs in the left sidebar of Gmail, including recent docs, starred docs, and fast search.
(36) Quick Links: Display a box in the left sidebar of Gmail in which you can store any bookmarked URLs for a one-click access. Your most-used searches, important individual messages, etc., can be bookmarked here.
(37) Refresh POP accounts: This feature allows you to use the refresh link on top of the inbox to get emails from your POP accounts as and when needed.
How to enable these Gmail Labs features?
Enabling these Gmail Labs features in your Gmail account is quite easy. Click on the Settings icon (of the shape of a wheel) in the top-right corner of the Gmail screen, select Settings from the drop-down menu, and then click on Labs link in the toolbar that appears. Now, locate the individual Gmail Labs feature that you like to add to your Gmail account, click Enable checkbox next to it, and then click “Save Changes” button at the bottom (or top) of the page.
So make use of these additional features of Gmail Labs, that make Gmail a feature-rich email service vis-à-vis Yahoo Mail and Hotmail.