gmail labs-1.pngGoogle has decided to take a few risks with Gmail by introducing Gmail labs. They say that they receive a lot of ideas for Gmail from both users and employees at Google, but they don’t always have the time to develop and implement them all. For this reason they started Gmail Labs which they say, “is a way for us to take lots of the ideas we wouldn’t normally pick and let you all decide whether they’re good or not.

For now it’s just offered in standard Gmail, and not for those using Google Apps. That’s not to say that they won’t offer this feature in the future for Google Apps users though. We could easily see this turning into something like iGoogle where everyday users, not just Google employees, will be able to submit their own work which would be great.

At this point, the Google Labs feature is available to those in the United States and the United Kingdom. You’ll know if you have it by logging into Gmail and clicking on the Settings tab. If you see a section at the far right labeled “Labs,” you have it. Just click on it to browse through the features that have already been made.

Of course you can view all of the different new features here, but we’ll quickly run through them so you can get an idea of what’s available:

  • Quick Links: Adds a box to the left column that gives you 1-click access to any bookmarkable URL in Gmail. You can use it for saving frequent searches, important individual messages, and more.
  • Superstars: Adds additional star icons. After enabling this feature, you can choose which icons you wish to use in the “General” Settings page.
  • Pictures in chat: See your friends’ profile pictures when you chat with them.
  • Fixed width font: Adds an option to the reply dropdown menu that lets you view a message in fixed width font.
  • Custom keyboard shortcuts: Lets you customize keyboard shortcut mappings. Adds a new Settings tab from which you can remap keys to various actions.
  • Mouse gestures: Use your mouse to navigate with gestures. Hold right-click and move the mouse left to go to a previous conversation, move it right to go to the next conversation, and move up to go back to the inbox view. Works best on Windows.
  • Signature tweaks: Places your signature before the quoted text in a reply, and removes the “–” line that appears before signatures. Can’t use this and the “Random signature” Labs feature at the same time.
  • Random signature: Rotates among random quotations for your email signature. Can’t use this and the “Signature tweaks” Labs feature at the same time.
  • Custom date formats: Adds options to the general settings page allowing the date and time format to be changed independent of language. For example, you can use a 24-hour clock (14:57) or show dates with the day first (31/12/07).
  • Muzzle: Conserves screen real estate by hiding your friends’ status messages.
  • Old Snakey: Kick it old school with Old Snakey! Enable keyboard shortcuts and hit ‘&’ from the main page to play a game of snake.
  • Email Addict: Lets you take a break from email and chat by blocking the screen for fifteen minutes and making you invisible in chat.
  • Hide Unread Counts: Hides the unread counts for inbox, labels, etc.

Before you go and opt-in to some of these features, just note that they may not always work perfect. They are experimental features, and Google even notes that they could change without notice, break or disappear.

Thanks for the tip Cory!