Google adds, drops Gmail features

Editor’s Note: The following article is reprinted from the Today @ PC World blog at PCWorld.com.

Google has made some changes to its Gmail service, upgrading six Gmail Labs experiments (like YouTube previews) to become standard Gmail features, while permanently dropping five others (including location-based signatures). Check out the list below to see what's become a regular part of your Gmail experience, and if any of your favorite Labs features are gone for good. Whenever possible, I've listed alternatives to those Gmail features that have been lost to the dustbin of history.

Added

Search Autocomplete: When you start typing in the Gmail search box you'll start to see see suggestions, just as you do when searching on Google.com. Gmail suggestions will include contact names, labels, and advanced search operators like "from:" and "to:".

Go To Label: If you want to search for a specific label just type 'gl' and the "label:' search operator will pop-up in your Gmail search box. Just start typing the first few letters of the label name until it is highlighted below, hit enter, and all of your messages with that label will appear. To use this feature you must have keyboard shortcuts enabled, and your cursor cannot be in the search box when you type the keyboard shortcut 'gl'. While this is a handy new feature for keyboard shortcut addicts, in my tests it was just as fast to select your label from the left hand column using your mouse.

Forgotten Attachment Detector: This feature alerts you when you've forgotten to include an attachment, by analyzing your e-mail messages for words like 'attached' and 'included.'

YouTube Previews: If someone sends you a YouTube link via e-mail, you'll be able to watch the video right inside Gmail.

Custom Label Colors: Color code your labels for easier organization. Google says you can choose from over 4000 color combinations to differentiate each label. You are supposed to be able to do this by clicking on 'add custom colors' from the regular label interface, but at the time of this writing this feature was not available for me.

Vacation Responder: Set your vacation days in advance in Gmail, by specifying a beginning and end date for your vacation autoresponse. To activate Vacation Responder click on 'Settings' in the upper right hand corner of your inbox and then click on the 'General' tab.

Dumped

Muzzle: This feature hid your friends' Gmail chat status messages to conserve screen real estate. Not everyone is happy with Google's decision to dump Muzzle. Users have started an online petition to bring back Muzzle and even created a Gmail Muzzle Twitter account to help get the word out.

Fixed Width Font: An option found in the Reply menu that let you view messages in a fixed width font. Firefox users can still use this feature by adding this Greasemonkey script or you can try out this CSS hack.

E-mail Addict: A feature that shut down your Gmail for 15 minutes so you could get some work done. As the name suggests, this was a great feature for more undisciplined Gmail users. Firefox users can try out PageAddict as an alternative.

Location in Signature: This one is a little surprising considering the popular rise of location-based services, but Gmail has cut a tool that automatically displayed your location as part of your Gmail signature.

Random Signature: Placed a random famous quote at the end of your e-mail signature. Windows users can try out a program called Quotes that puts random quotes at the end of your signature using an e-mail client or Webmail. The catch is, you have to create your own quotes list, so check out this list of quotes from Wisestamp to help get you started.

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