Many people say that Google’s Gmail is the best web-based email service around today, and has been for years.
A relatively simple and minimal user interface, spam filters that work, and integration with the broader Google ecosystem are all factors that make Gmail first in the hearts of many of its users.
One of the power user features of Gmail that really lets the service shine, however, is Gmail Labs. Buried moderately deep within the settings, Gmail Labs gives users access to more than 20 widgets, feature enhancements, and add-ons that really complement the Gmail service and let individual users tailor their email provider to their needs.
To access Gmail Labs, simply navigate to your settings, and click on the “Labs” tab along the top row of the settings navigation menu. Once there, you will see the option to enable or disable any of the Labs options.
Of all the options in Gmail Labs, however, here are a few of the must-haves:
Undo Send: You’re typing an email, you’re excited to send it, you click the send button, and then…drat! You see an error or realize you left an important piece of content out. With Undo Send, you have a few seconds after you click the send button to recall the email. This is most useful for the aforementioned grammatical errors or omissions of content, but it could also be used in personal situations such as sending an ill-advised email to a boss or a jilted lover.
Google Maps previews in Mail: In a lot of emails, you might receive a physical address. Perhaps its for a meeting, or directions to a friend’s home. Regardless of what the address is, it is helpful to visualize it on a map, and the Google Maps previews in Mail add-on makes such previews automatic. When Gmail detects an address in a message, it will insert a Google Maps view of that address for you to conveniently see.
Right-side chat: One of the benefits of Gmail is that the interface is relatively uncluttered. The one place that maxim fails, however, can sometimes be on the left sidebar, which can get a little busy, especially if you have a lot of mail folders. One way to help clear up the confusion on the left side of the screen is to activate the Right-side chat Lab. This will move your chat bar, which lets you instant message other Google users, from the left of the screen to the right, freeing up a little space and making better overall use of the screen real estate.
Google Voice player in Mail: This is only valuable for Google Voice users, but if you’re a Google Voice power user, then it can really be a time saver. Google Voice player in Mail will embed a widget within the email notification of a new voicemail allowing you to play your voicemail right from the email message, saving the step of having to go back to Google Voice.
These are just a few of the best Gmail Labs. If you have a use case for a lab that you love, please share it with us. Also, be aware that Google notes the Gmail Labs are experimental, so they could change, go away, or die at any time — so although they are useful and help enhance your day-to-day use of Gmail, it is best not to rely on the Labs services too heavily because of their beta status.