More of the best of Gmail’s new and updated inbox tools made easy

14th September 2018

When it comes to this blog, what I promise, I deliver. After picking out my five favourite new Gmail features earlier this week, I told you I’d come back at the end of the week to run you through the pick of the rest of the additions. Well, here I am and here they are.

I’m going to save the juiciest for the last and I’m going to do that for two reasons: (i) in the hope that it will entice you to keep reading; and (ii) because it’s the most complicated to digest. So, let’s start with a simple but effective new feature…

Gone phishing? Fat chance
The Nigerian government official or West African prince may still send the odd email asking with help transferring funds out of the continent but these days email scammers and phishers have become a lot more sophisticated. That is exactly why Gmail’s lead product manager announced that, “We’ve increased our investment in phishing protection dramatically.”

Google’s machine-learning algorithms now run safety checks on every new message received. That’s what happens behind-the-scenes, what you’ll be able to see out the front is an eye-bulging improvement to security alerts.

Forget whispered warnings, Gmail will now alert you with the sort of banners usually spotted on the side of London buses. These colour-coded notices will tell you the type of alert, what has triggered it and what you can do to make it go away.

Offline no longer means off duty
Like Wi-Fi down on the London Underground or up in the air on aeroplanes, personally I’m not yet sure how I feel about this. But this isn’t all about me and my love of disconnected downtime. I know some of you are far busier than I – and do a lot more travel than my two-mile cycle to work each morning.

So, this one’s for you. Gmail has now introduced a native offline mode. By “native” I mean that the technology has been developed in-house and so is completely optimised for Google’s systems as opposed to needed to be built to be used on multiple systems.

If you so desire, you can now access some mail functions offline. In Settings, under Offline, select “Enable Offline Mail.” You can now compose, search through, delete, and organise emails offline. If you compose a message while offline, it will automatically be sent once you’re connected to the Internet again.

The Fine Art of Mixing Apps: the classic sidebar
Forget Cointreau, Grand Marnier, Dry Curaçao and a dash of lemon juice. Instead mix up a measure of Google Calendar, Google Keep, a new Google Tasks and a generous splash of a couple more tools compatible with Gmail and you’ve created yourself a pretty handy sidebar.

No longer do you have to leave behind the comfort of your email display window to find out what time the boiler engineer is meant to be coming around or when the deadline is for filing your latest set of company accounts.

As long as the app is compatible with Gmail (and that list includes productivity enhancers like Trello, Asana and Dropbox, essentially anything availability on the G-Suite Marketplace) then you can add to the bar that now appears on the far right-hand side of your screen.

This message will self-destruct in five, four, three….
In the words of ComputerWorld’s Mike Elgan, “Most email can either be secure or easy to use. You can have one but not both.” Well, Gmail have valiantly tried to have their cake and eat it by introducing a new Confidential Mode that lets you add an expiration time and date or text-messaged passcode to the email you wish to send.

As well as this level of protection, emails marked as ‘Confidential’ cannot be copied, forwarded, printed or downloaded. Very handy you would think for sending personal information that you want to remain very secure and, more importantly, want to remain under your control.

After all, we learnt pretty early on in our lives that the words, “Don’t tell anyone, but…” where a dangerous cocktail of temptation, liable to lead only to eventual exposure. Once your secret is shared, its life, its context and its content are out of your hands. It was this problem that Google was attempting to address.

ComputerWorld’s Mike Elgan on the pros and cons of Gmail’s Confidential Mode

However, they have opened the tech equivalent of a can of worms. I could use more words trying to name all these phylum Annelida but, to be honest, at this stage I’m going to cede the platform back to Mr Elgan, who knows a lot more about this than I do:

“Confidential Mode is great, but don’t get lulled into a false sense of security. It’s more private than regular email (which isn’t saying much). But it’s not as private as other forms of communication. And it certainly isn’t secure.”

Whether you chose to self-destruct your emails or not, I hope these last two posts will help you make the most of your Gmail account. And if you haven’t already got an email account, come back next week and I’ll run you through the best of the options out there.