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It's been another busy year for the Gmail elves, trying to find places to store all these emails (don't you people ever sleep?)... If you're finding it hard to keep track of all the new things we've added to Gmail over the last few months, here are some of our favorites to check out while you're sipping your eggnog this week:

  • Catch up with distant friends and family with Gmail voice and video chat, or send them a text message with SMS chat.
  • When you're having trouble putting your feelings into words, try an emoticon. (There's nothing quite like a virtual emoticon hug...)
  • Pick a Gmail theme and spice up your inbox.
  • Turn on Tasks and keep track of your holiday shopping.
  • See your calendar, documents, and email all at once with Calendar and Docs gadgets.
  • Get a new, faster Gmail app on your mobile phone.
  • Use Mail Goggles to avoid sending out that embarrassing email after the company holiday party.
  • Send in your self-addressed stamped envelope and get yourself some Gmail stickers.
  • And there's more in Gmail Labs – forgotten attachment detector, superstars, and advanced IMAP controls – check out all the new stuff in the Labs tab under Settings.

On behalf of the entire Gmail team, happy holidays! We'll see you in 2009.

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More than once, I've had a conversation over email and later realized that the information contained in the messages would make a great starting point for a document. So I built an experimental feature for Gmail Labs that does just that: with one simple click, "Create a document" converts an email into a Google Docs document.

No more copying and pasting the text from your email -- just open the message you wish to convert, click the "Create a document" link on the right side of the page, and voila, you have a brand new document which you can then modify and share!



Even if you're not interested in converting any of your current messages into documents, you can easily open up a blank doc by hitting g and then w (just make sure you have keyboard shortcuts on).


To turn on this feature, go to the Gmail Labs tab under Settings, select "Enable" next to "Create a document" and hit "Save Changes" at the bottom. Though we're temporarily missing the "Send feedback" link for this feature on the Labs page (oops!), we're still anxious to hear what you think.

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When I get sent a PDF, sometimes I just want to view it -- I don't always need to download and save it right then. So starting today, you'll see a new "View" link next to PDF attachments you get in Gmail:


Clicking "View" quickly opens the PDF inside your browser, complete with the graphics and formatting you expect to see in a PDF. You may have seen this feature before, in Google Docs. It's the way that we did uploading and viewing of PDFs online. Here's a screen shot:



If you want, you can still view in plain HTML from a link at the top of the new viewer. And if you want to download, save, and view your PDFs later while offline using client software, you can still do that by hitting the "Download" link.

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How often do you try to chat with somebody and they don't respond because they just walked away from their computer? Or maybe you're in the middle of chatting with them just as they need to leave. But you still need to tell them something -- something really important like you've moved where you're meeting...or ice cream! We need ice cream! This is why we built a way to chat with your friends even when they're away from their computers. Now you can keep the conversations going with a new Labs feature that lets you send SMS text messages right from Gmail. It combines the best parts of IM and texting: you chat from the comfort of your computer, and your friends can peck out replies on their little keyboards.

A few weeks back, we ran into a few snags when we first started rolling this out, but starting today you can turn on text messaging for chat. Just click on Settings, and go to the Labs tab. Scroll down until you see "Text Messaging (SMS) in Chat" and select Enable and Save Changes.

We're just trying it out for cell phones in the United States right now, but you can send texts to your friends with US phone numbers from anywhere in the world. You can start by just typing a phone number into the search box in the chat window on the left, then select "Send SMS." You can also select the contact you want to SMS first and then add their phone number.



Once you give us a name for that phone number, you'll be able to start chatting.



We'll save your friends' numbers in your Contacts, so next time you can just type their name in the chat box and select Send SMS.

On the receiving end, when you get a text message from Gmail on your phone, it will come from a number in the 406 area code. (The l33t folks in the crowd will note that this spells G0O.) You can reply to this text on your phone just like you'd reply to any other text. The reply gets routed back to our Gmail servers and shows up in your friend's Gmail chat window. Each of your friends' messages will come from a different 406 number so you can reply to any message and it will get back to the right person. Messages from the same person will always come from the same number, so you can even bookmark it in your phone.

If you get a message from somebody you don't want to chat with from your phone, just reply with the word BLOCK. If you don't want to get texts from anybody using Gmail, reply with the word STOP and we'll leave you alone. Keep in mind that all these text messages count as part of your regular mobile messaging plan and might incur fees. So unless you know your friends have unlimited text message plans, please be sensitive to their phone bills.

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People use Gmail to get stuff done, so we've added a lightweight way to keep track of what you need to do, right from within Gmail.



Take entering a new task: just click in an empty part of your list and start typing. No buttons to click and it's saved automatically. Hit Return and you've got a new task right there.

You can also easily convert emails into tasks: select one or more messages and go to More Actions > Add to Tasks. (Or turn on keyboard shortcuts and use <shift> + t.)



We put your tasks in the same kind of window as chats, so they're visible while you're scanning your inbox, reading mail, or searching (and in Settings, too!). Just pop your list out into a new window to use Tasks outside of Gmail.

To enable Tasks, go to Settings, click the Labs tab (or just click here if you're signed in). Select "Enable" next to "Tasks" and then click "Save Changes" at the bottom. Then, after Gmail refreshes, on the left under the "Contacts" link, you'll see a "Tasks" link. Just click it to get started.

We have a list of things we'd like to do to make Tasks more useful, and we want to hear your ideas, too — drop us a line.

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Update 3/1/2009: Sorry, we're all out of free stickers. If you sent in a self-addressed stamped envelope postmarked by February 14, 2009, we hope you enjoy yours!

Not too long ago, one of the Gmail engineers broke out her vinyl cutter and made some Gmail m-velope stickers. Pretty soon, they were pasted to our desks, stuck on our laptops, and adorning the walls around the office. Then other people started asking us about them -- first it was just other Googlers. But when a guy I was sitting next to on an airplane asked where he could get a Gmail sticker, we realized other people might like them too.

So we designed some more, and printed up a whole bunch.



There's the standard Gmail m-velope -- dressed up in glitter. One of three bookplate style stickers you can stick on anything from the inside of a favorite book to your laptop or your skateboard. (Trading with friends is encouraged -- we realize the unicorn isn't for everyone.) And there's a sheet of keyboard shortcut stickers intended as a tool to help people learn Gmail's shortcuts. The adhesive is a bit more removable than standard stickiness, so you can take them off once you've trained your fingers.



So how do you get your stickers? We may be all about speedy electronic communication, but this time we're going old school with snail mail. Just send a self-addressed stamped envelope (along with a note if you're so inclined) to:

[removed address since we're out of stickers and no longer accepting requests]

Make sure to include enough postage to return a sticker pack via U.S. mail. It's less than one ounce, so a standard $0.42 stamp will do if you're in the United States; enclose an international reply coupon (IRC) if you're outside of the U.S. And be sure to send your envelope in soon -- one per person please.

*Our lawyers asked us to make sure it was clear that your contact information won't be maintained in any way and these stickers are "void where prohibited and only while supplies last."

(photos by Dustin Diaz)

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On the Google Desktop gadgets team, we've seen countless requests for a Gmail gadget over the years. That gadget is finally here, so if you've got Google Desktop for Windows, give it a try.

You'll see that it covers the basics such as reading, searching, and sending messages. You can star messages, use the same keyboard shortcuts, and we didn't forget about contact auto-complete. It doesn't take up much space in your sidebar or desktop, and you can also resize it to show as few or as many messages as you'd like.


When I'm at work, I keep two instances of the gadget open: one logged into my personal Gmail account and the other set to my Google Apps account for work related stuff. Instead of getting lost in a sea of tabs or browser windows, I can bring up the gadgets in an instant (hint: pressing the shift key twice brings up all your hidden Desktop gadgets).

The Gmail gadget currently works with the latest release of Google Desktop for Windows. Try it out and please let us know what you think.

Update: Changed title to clarify this is for Google Desktop.