The interface change, revealed by leaked screenshots of a test version published by technology site Geek.com, shows a shift towards the simplified design already used by the Google Plus social network and Google’s intelligent digital assistant Google Now.
It could be the biggest change in the way Gmail looks and operates since the service was created in 2004.
The design focuses on Google’s search, which can be used to find and highlight emails in a long list, replacing the need to file email in folders or categories. The cluttered sidebar that contained email labels, folders and Google’s Hangouts instant messaging service has been removed in favour of a sliding menu, already used by Google’s social network and other Google services.
Buttons for composing a new email, setting reminders and other quick actions are now in the bottom right-hand cover, and the tabbed interface that allows users to switch between email, contacts and tasks has been removed. Google Hangouts now drops down from a menu in the right-hand top corner. Google’s starred emails, which are used to flag important conversations, have been replaced by “pins”. Emails can also be snoozed, to be returned to the top of the inbox at a later date.
Google has only made small, gradual additions and changes to Gmail in the past, with some changes remaining entirely optional for years for its 425-million-plus users.
It is possible that the redesign is an internal Google change that will not be released to the public, but it appears to match that of leaked design change of Google’s mobile email interface. It also brings Google’s email service more into line with newer Google online services in look and workflow.
Google declined to comment on the redesign.
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