Preview Pane: New Gmail Feature

Gmail labs has rolled out a new feature called Preview Pane.

It’s similar to the preview panes in other email programs; e.g., Yahoo Mail, so I’m not terribly impressed. I’m not a fan of Yahoo Mail, AOL Mail, or Hotmail, though I was a user of all of them for years. It’s not good to be similar; Google needs to be dissimilar, forward-thinking, to impress me. I especially loath Yahoo Mail because the premium version is included in the bill for my Yahoo web site account. And I don’t care what anyone says, it’s crap. But that’s another post.

First of all, this is not a preview pane, it’s a reading pane. A preview pane implies that the email you’re viewing can be opened further after previewing, in a normal reading mode. In Gmail’s new feature, there’s no intuitive method of opening the resulting email further. You can open it in a new tab or new window if you know how, but that’s not a normal reading mode for Gmail. You cannot then, for example, move to the next conversation.

As a side note, does anybody know why the Gmail icons for opening an email in a new window and creating a document from it in G-Docs are exactly the same?

Since the layout of the page in Gmail with Preview Pane is different than other layouts for Gmail, the code for Webmail Ad Blocker doesn’t work yet. That would make it better.

I’ve always thought Gmail should be one of the places where Google just sets aside the whole ad-supported free stuff paradigm. I understand we are the product not the customer, but they’ve got our eyeballs on a lot of other places. And e-mail is such a personally critical interface, where one often needs to work without distraction. (Yes, I sometimes use IMAP with Thunderbird or Outlook, but prefer the Web interface.)

If you follow the link above and read about Preview Pane, you’ll see a very nice screen shot. There are no ads visible, which makes the example disingenuous; a prevarication, let’s say. And it was done on a Mac. I have nothing against Mac except the price. But as a technical documentation matter, unless the topic pertains to use of a Mac, the screen shot should be done with a Windows PC, not Mac OS or Linux. Windows is the most common platform.

Like other preview pane layouts, there’s a toggle for putting the pane on the right or across the bottom, which is nice. But when you toggle the Preview function off, you find that the feature disables Multiple Inboxes, another useful Gmail Labs feature. The only way around that is to go back to Gmail Labs and disable Preview Pane.

I’m always happy to see new Gmail features, and appreciative of Google’s innovations in the tools I use every day. I’ve been a Gmail fan since the day I got my Beta invitation and first logged in. Threaded conversations may have saved my sanity. And I realize improvements are probably underway to Preview Pane, but so far there’s very little there yet to say Wow about.