Monday, October 27, 2008
Gmail Labs has been a really fun way to easily try out new ideas and get some of our pet feature requests implemented quickly. We wanted to take this to the next level and let you start adding your own stuff to Gmail. Today we're launching a few Labs experiments that let you add gadgets to the left-nav, next to Chat and Labels.
To get you started, we've worked with the engineers from the Calendar and Docs teams on two highly requested features: a simple way to see your Google Calendar agenda and get an alert when you have a meeting, and a gadget that shows a list of your recently accessed Google Docs and lets you search across all of your documents right from within Gmail.
There's a third Lab that allows you to add any gadget by pasting in the URL of its XML spec file (e.g. http://www.google.com/ig/modules/youtube_videos.xml). We realize this isn't very user friendly right now; it's a sandbox mainly aimed at developers who want to play around with gadgets in Gmail. We're not tied to the left-nav as a primary way to extend Gmail -- in fact we think it is relatively limited and doesn't offer scalable real estate. There are also some downsides to the iframe-style Gadgets we're using today -- they can sometimes slow down the page. We're fanatical about speed, so we'll be keeping a close eye on performance.
This is also a chance for us to test the developer infrastructure involved. We're using common gadget infrastructure, such as the Apache Shindig project, and working with other gadget containers to make gadgets more portable.
We're looking forward to your comments in the Labs forum, so send us your ideas, let us know how you like the Calendar and Docs gadgets, and if you've written a gadget that you think works well in Gmail, post it and let us and other users try it out.
A couple of notes:
(1) Try out Anatol's Navbar drag and drop Labs feature so you can easily re-order all the boxes on Gmail's left hand side.
(2) Not all gadgets are fully compatible with https, so if you're connecting to Gmail via https, you may see mixed content warnings caused by parts of the gadgets being served over http. We're working on fixing this where we can.
Update: To turn on these gadgets, click Settings, then visit the Labs tab. Scroll to the bottom, select "Enable" next to the features you want to turn on, and then click "Save Changes."