Gmail Labs! Google rolls out another surprise…

So Google’s at it again! Last night this all new link titled Gmail Labs materialised out of thin air in my Gmail interface. It turned up in one of my accounts only – which means Google’s rolling it out gradually – just as they’ve done with their earlier surprises. So expect it to turn up in your inbox sooner or later. Till then, keep a watch out for a bold, red link that says New! Gmail Labs right beside the Settings link.

And what’s cooking in the Gmail Labs?

From what I figured, the Gmail Labs will act as the stage for the introduction of a bunch of useful as well as fun plug-ins coded by Google’s staff and/or independent developers. These plug-ins will add extra functionality to various aspects of the Gmail interface. Provided along with each plug-in are feedback links. Those which receive the highest votes will probably be integrated into Gmail in future, while the poor performers will be taken off-air immediately.

Examples

Gmail Labs Settings Screen

Quick Links: This will provide a bookmarking container for your most frequently accessed links and fit in smugly in the leftmost column of the Gmail interface. You can use it for saving frequent searches, important individual messages, and more.

Superstars: Tired of the STAR icon that helps you mark important messages? Superstars will add in a bunch of multi-coloured icons (exclamation marks, check marks etc.) with which you can clearly demarcate mails of varying degree of importance.

Pictures in chat: This will help is displaying your and your friends’ Gmail profile pic. in the embedded GTalk window while you chat.

Others include Fixed-Width Font, Custom Keyboard Shortcuts, Mouse Gestures, Random Signatures etc. The whole list can be found in the Gmail Labs Settings page – which appears as a separate tab under the Settings link.

What if the plug-ins mess-up my Gmail interface?

Google’s kept an escape hatch ready for you in case any of these plug-ins behave abnormally. Simply follow this link to temporarily disable the Gmail Labs feature » http://mail.google.com/mail/?labs=0

I found the first two in the list particularly useful. How about you?

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