Twelve must-have Gmail labs projects

One of the cool things about Gmail is that it has so many Labs projects. You can text people, you can insert images, you can easily translate emails, you can optimize Gmail for the wide-screen, and much much more!

1. SMS in Chat & SMS in Chat gadget

Although this one is technically two different lab projects, when you combine the two you can have a really nice experience chatting with someone over text messaging.

Once you’ve enabled these two projects, you can just enter a phone number and chat:

The only downside to this is the receiving person gets a message from a number starting with 406 and a one-time message about what the Gmail chat service is.

2. Undo Send

Have you ever sent an email to someone that you really regretted? Save yourself the pain and undo the send! Although it won’t actually delete already-sent emails off other people’s accounts, Undo Send will keep every email you send unsent for up to half a minute.

After enabling the feature and sending an email, you’ll be told that the message has been sent–and that you can cancel it.

3. Insert Images

We’ll file this one under the heading of “no duh”. Gmail is the last major webmail provide to have no official, non-experimental way to insert images into your emails. After enabling this, you’ll be good to go and on your way to success!

4. Refresh POP accounts

If you set up lots of POP3 accounts in Gmail, then you probably know that the only way to check these is to either wait or to go to Settings>Accounts>Refresh. That’s too much work, isn’t it?! Enable this to have a single refresh button on the top of the page for all your accounts.

5. Previews in mail

Do you get lots of emails with Yelp links in them? Friends like to send you maps? Perhaps your mother finally figured out how to use Flickr/Picasa and is sending you lots of albums? Or is it just that you hate having to click through to Google Voice to listen to messages? If you are in any of those situations, the Previews in mail labs can help. It’s actually several different Labs, with one for each site, but getting previews in your emails is pretty helpful.

Example previews from Gmail labs

6. Inbox preview

Gmail takes a precious second to load. Why not make use of that second? Enable this lab to get an instant preview of what’s in your mailbox instead of a boring old loading screen.

7. Extra Emoji

What says :D better than ? Easily add almost a dozen pages of emoticons, from fruits to pets to just plain random stuff–with the Extra Emoji lab project. You’ll have these, spread across 11 pages:

…you know, in case you ever need to send someone a little dog. Or a cat.

8. Message Translation

Salut, dotTechie! Ça va? Comment vas-tu? Au revoir! Le lit est dans la chambre.

Now that I’ve used up my limited French vocabulary, wonder what you would do if you received an email in a foreign language you didn’t know. Would you bother reading it? Would you just send it to spam? What if it was an email from someone important and you just threw it out? Enable Message Translation to get one-click translations of most languages.

So that’s what it means!

9. Video chat enhancements

Do you regularly video chat in Gmail? Even if you do it once in a blue moon, enable Video chat enhancements, which brings:

Enables new features in Gmail voice and video chat, including higher resolution and bigger windows, with more improvements coming over time.

Impressive, no? Try it today!

10. Send & Archive

If you like to actually use Gmail’s Archive feature, then you’ll love Send & Archive. With a simple click of a button, you can both send a reply and archive the thread. Once your recipient reponds, the email will pop back into your inbox. It’s what lets me have an inbox of only 5 emails!

11. Right-side chat

After enabling Right-side chat, your chat box will move to the right side of the screen:

It will give you a nice looking, better-for-widescreen interface with Chat on the right side.

12. Unread Message icon

Checking your email every thirty seconds? Stop! With Firefox 4 and Chrome, you can just pin Gmail as a so-called “App Tab”. Pin Gmail and enable this to get the full, no-checking needed effect.  When you get an email, the icon’s number will change:

Image from Lifehacker

An alternative one that I use is to simply rely on tab colors. In Firefox 4, app tabs change color with new emails.

Bonus: Old Snakey

Ok, this is thirteen. But thirteen is close to twelve, isn’t it?

After enabling Old Snakey, just hit the ampersand (Shift+7) to start a fun, mind-dulling game of Snake:

Ahh, the joys of a dull mind.


Gmail labs is a great place to go mucking around. There’s all sorts of things you can find in there, and all sorts of things left to be made. The labs are a great testing ground for cool new features that one day–let’s hope–will be part of Gmail. I’m talking to you, Insert Images.

Visit the Labs (under Settings>Labs)!

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  • Ritwick

    Brilliant and super useful post. Some of these gmail labs projects are too good. Thanks Locutus. I’ve clicked through from which I follow regularly and this seems to be another great site. It might even make it into my daily checklist of blogs. Keep up the good work.
    P.S.- you seem to have a great sense of humour :)

  • It’s a shame for us visitors that your site is no longer being updated daily as before!

  • phoenix_rising

    @Dusty: “Signature tweaks – places your signature before the quoted text in a reply, and removes the “–” line that appears before signatures.” … Thank you! This has been a big annoyance for me as well. Don’t know how I overlooked this extension, but thank you so much for drawing attention to it! Brilliant!

  • Casey

    Déjà vu. ;)

  • Dusty

    Thanks so much for the article, Locutus.

    re unread message icon: I used to use a Firefox Add On that put a notice in your status bar when you got new emails, but it hasn’t worked right since they updated to Firefox 3.5. I’ve been searching for an adequate replacement ever since, but I never thought to look in gmail’s labs.

    That’s the only one I needed from your list, but while I was there looking around, I found two more that are very helpful for me:

    Auto-advance – automatically shows the next conversation instead of returning to your inbox after you delete or archive a conversation.

    Signature tweaks – places your signature before the quoted text in a reply, and removes the “–” line that appears before signatures.

    Both of these have been annoyances for me since I started using gmail, so I’m very pleased to find these fixes. And I never would have found them without your article, so thanks again.

  • David Roper

    @David Roper: Excellent article, Locutus. I didn’t read closely who had authored the article. Excellent.

  • David Roper

    Excellent article on GMail extras. Thank you, Ashraf.

    I had insert picture applied already – use it all the time – and a few others Lab “featurettes” already but I read with interest about Send and Archive, but I cannot make it appear, even after closing and re-opening GMail. Maybe that’s why it’s called LABs.

    ..and don’t get me started about how unresponsive GMail is in general. I remember how long it took to repair a bug in a new feature they suddenly applied one weekend. Broken for months. I forget what it was now.

    Great article and I recommend to anyone to add the “add Picture” feature to your Gmail account if you haven’t already.

  • JJ
  • jumbi

    very useful article for lovers of gmail!

    I am already using 3-4 gmail labs project and did not bother to check the rest of them, so this article comes in very handy.
    Congratulations Locutus :-)

    Another very useful tip for gmail, which is not actually a labs project but may be very useful to some people who use gmail to their pop client (like outlook, thunderbird, etc), is the following:
    There is the option to “leave messages on server” by adding “recent:” in front of the account username, thus enabling the possibility to read your emails for the past 30 days in multiple clients eg. office- home-notebook etc.