October 4, 2018

How to Improve the New Gmail Look

The 2018 Gmail* update added a number of new features as well as some changes to the overall look-and-feel of the user-interface.  As with any change, some people like it and some people don't.

The purpose of this article is to talk about some of those UI changes that can be fixed, or at least improved through changes in settings.  These changes won't fix the problems for everyone, but for some people it will be an improvement.  They are worth exploring if you can relate to any of the problem listed below.

It's interesting to note that the current "Classic" look of Gmail that was retired was the "New" look that so many hated back in 2012 after the last big change to the UI (http://gmail-tips.blogspot.com/2012/01/typical-problem-with-gmails-new-look.html).

So let's get to it.

  • The message list has too much white-space.
  • The attachment icons are too big and waste too much space.
  • I want the paperclip icon for attachments.
  • I can't see as many messages in my Inbox now.
  • It looks like it was made for kids.
  • Click the gear icon <gear icon> (upper/right), select "Display density" and change it to "Compact".

  • The pop-up icons (archive, delete, mark-as-read/unread, snooze) on the right side cover the message date.
  • The pop-up icons make it too each to accidentally delete a message.
  • The pop-up icons are too busy and distracting.
  • Disable: Settings -> General -> Hoover actions.

  • I don't want suggestions while I am composing a message.
  • I don't want the short suggested message replies.
  • Disable: Settings -> General -> Smart Compose
  • Disable: Settings -> General -> Smart Reply

  • I can't find my labels.
  • The label list in the left column is missing.
  • I want the label list visible all the time, not just when I hoover over it.
  • Click the three-line "hamburger" icon  (upper/left) to toggle the left column between always-open and hoover-to-open.

  • I don't see all my labels in the left column.
  • I don't see the "More" option to expand the label list.
  • Click the icons  at the bottom of the left column to hide the optional panels allowing more space for the label list.

  • I don't use apps so I don't want the right column list of apps.
  • The right column wastes space.
  • Click the arrow icon  (lower/right) to hide the right column.

  • My Inbox configuration is wrong (some people have reported that switching to the new look also changed the configuration of their Inbox).
  • Go to Settings -> Inbox and select the Inbox configuration you want:
    • Classic - set the Inbox Type to Default, and un-check all the Categories except Primary.
    • <x> First - set the Inbox Type to the one you want displayed first:  Important, Unread, or Starred.
    • Priority - set the Inbox Type to priority, and set the Inbox Sections the way you want.
    • Categories - set the Inbox Type to Default, and configure the Category tabs you want:  Social, Promotions, Updates, and Forums.

  • The font is too small.
  • The font is too large.
  • The font is hard to read.
  • This problem is highly subjective to the user.  But for some, setting the page zoom a bit larger/smaller helps. The displayed text (font) size for a web-site or page is a function of your browser. On a Mac use Cmd instead of Ctrl.
    • Zoom in - <Ctrl> <plus>
    • Zoom out - <Ctrl> <minus>
    • Reset zoom - <Ctrl> <zero>
    • Adjust zoom - <Ctrl> <Mouse Wheel>

  • Gmail is hard to read
  • The page is too cluttered
  • There's not enough contrast on the page.
  • Go to Settings->Themes and select "High contrast"
  • Go to Settings->Themes and try the solid color (no image) themes.

  • Gmail is too complex.
  • Gmail is too busy.
  • Gmail is too slow.
  • Gmail is ugly.
  • I want a basic web-mail client that is simple to use.
  • This is also very subjective, but for some people using the Basic HTML version of Gmail is an improvement.
    • Bookmark or sign in at:  https://mail.google.com/?ui=html
    • If you are asked "Do you really want to use HTML Gmail?" select "I'd like to use HTML Gmail".
    • If you see an option to make the HTML version the default, you can select that (although it may not stick).
    • Anytime you are viewing the standard version, you can use the above URL to switch to the Basic HTML version.

* Gmail is a trademark of Google, Inc. This page is not sponsored by or affiliated with Google.

(c) 2018 Brett K. Carver