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A lot of people want to see their labels in order to see which ones have unread messages, but they don't want a long list of label names cluttering up the left hand side of their inboxes. To help out with this, we've made a Gmail Labs feature called "Hide read labels." Turn it on from the Labs tab under Settings and all your labels without unread messages will be hidden under the "More" menu. Labels with unread messages will automatically show up, unless you've explicitly chosen to keep them hidden.

This is particularly handy if you use your inbox as a to-do list where unread messages are the outstanding things you need to take care of. If you use that method along with labels like "Home" and "Project X," it's easy to see all your to-dos in context. With this Labs feature on, labels with outstanding to-dos will be bold and have a number next to them; everything else will be hidden in the "11 more" section:








We think this is a nice addition to the new labels navigation bar and hope you like it. Tell us what you think in the Gmail Labs forum.

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Those of you who live in your Gmail inboxes usually want to know what's happening with your email more instantly than standard fetch mail on your phone allows. Sure, using Gmail in your mobile browser gives you all the benefits of conversation threading and starring, but you still have to refresh every time you want to check for new mail.

When we launched Google Sync for Contacts and Google Calendar earlier this year, an over-the-air, always-on connection to sync mail was noticeably absent. We heard your requests loud and clear, and starting today you can use Google Sync to get your Gmail messages pushed directly to your iPhone, iPod Touch, or Windows Mobile device.

You can set up push Gmail by itself or choose to sync your Contacts and/or Calendar as well. If you're using an iPhone, make sure you're running iPhone OS version 3.0 or above (on your device, click Settings > General > About and scroll down until you see Version). If your software is out of date, follow Apple's upgrade instructions. Then, visit m.google.com/sync from your computer for set up instructions. If you're already using Google Sync, you can just enable push mail.

Once you're set up, new messages are normally pushed to your phone within seconds. While this type of speed is pretty awesome, push connections tend to use more power than fetching at intervals, so don't be surprised if your battery life isn't quite what it used to be. We've done a lot of work to optimize power usage, but if you prefer to save battery life, you can always turn off push in your phone's settings and fetch mail every 30 or 60 minutes instead.

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Google Voice helps you manage your communications with a unique phone number that rings all your existing phones, a single voicemail inbox with online access and automated transcription, and lots of handy features like the ability to block spammy calls and easily record personalized greetings for your callers. Think of it as Gmail for your phone calls and text messages (watch this video to learn more). Google Voice is currently available via invitation, which you can request here.

For those of you who already use Google Voice, you're probably used to receiving voicemail notifications via email. A couple of minutes after someone leaves a voicemail on your Google Voice number, you'll receive an email showing who called, an automated transcript of the voicemail, and a link to play the message. You can click the link to listen to the message right from your computer.

Previously, clicking "Play message" opened a new page in your browser, but starting today, you can play voicemails right in Gmail. Just turn on the Google Voice player from the Gmail Labs tab under Settings and whenever you get a voicemail notification, the player will appear right below the message itself.


Best of all, your message status will stay synced: messages played from Gmail will appear as read in your Google Voice inbox and won't be played again when you check new messages via your phone. If you already use Google Voice, try it out and let us know what you think. If you don't have a Google Voice account yet, sign up for an invitation and we'll get you one ASAP.

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Manu: Hey Jake, you still using that same old theme?
Jake: Well, yeah. I mean, I like it -- but I don't know... I guess it just doesn't feel as new as it used to.
Manu: I hear ya. Well, good news! Today four new themes are out there for everybody. Just go to the Themes tab under Settings...and ta da!
Jake: (click, click) There we go!
Manu: Should we tell people about why we created these four themes?
Jake: We should.
Manu: Assuming they're still reading.
Jake: Right. Okay, well, Gmail themes have been out since November, and I know we were ready for some new ones.
Manu: And we heard some of you asking for new ones too. So we thought about what we wanted to stare at all day long, since we work on Gmail.
Jake: I've been living in Zurich for the last year, and I missed Washington State, where I grew up. The Orcas Island theme definitely takes away a little bit of that homesickness with a new image each day of the week.


Manu: Homesickness eh? What about timesickness?
Jake: There's such a thing?
Manu: Totally. Sometimes I find myself timesick.
Jake: For when?
Manu: For a simpler time. For a time when processors weren't too fast. When graphics weren't too realistic.
Jake: Sounds like a real bummer. Too bad there's no cure for timesickness.
Manu: That's where you're dead wrong, my friend. Take a look at High Score. It's like being in a time machine isn't it?


Jake: (click, click) Aren't these colors a little bright?
Manu: Aren't you supposed to be a designer?
Jake: We'll have to agree to disagree, my friend. This one just isn't for me. I need something soothing. Something like laying face down in the grass.
Manu: I suppose you're talking about Turf now. What's the story behind that one?


Jake: Well, who doesn't like the color green?
Manu: And it doesn't change every day, so it was easier for us to make.
Jake: Are you suggesting we're lazy?
Manu: Prove that we're not.
Jake: We just made four new themes. How about that?
Manu: It took us ten months. And the fourth theme (Random) merely cycles through all the others.
Jake: Well, enjoy these themes for now. And, of course, let us know what you think. Maybe we'll have some more for you in the next ten months ;)

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When we published the Gmail tips guide in July, we promised it would help you become a Gmail ninja. Now, if you want to become a Gmail ниндзя or 忍者, you can do that too: these tips are now available in Spanish, French, Brazilian Portuguese, Japanese, Russian, and UK English.

We've also added a handful of new tips to the English site, culled from suggestions you submitted. Some of the new tricks to help manage your email efficiently include sending and receiving mail from multiple addresses, adding formatting to chat messages, and selecting multiple messages at once using shift-select. Thanks to everyone who submitted ideas, and please keep them coming.

Update (1/12): The Gmail tips guide is also now available in German, Italian, Polish, Dutch, Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese.

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People keep track of lots of things in their Google Calendars — meetings, business trips, due dates and conference calls. But when I started my summer internship at Google, I wondered why it wasn't easier to add calendar events for the fun stuff in life, like birthdays and sports schedules.

Now, when you look under "Other Calendars," click "Add," then "Browse Interesting Calendars" (or use this link to the Calendar directory), you'll find calendars for hundreds of teams in dozens of sports leagues — everything from the National Football League to the Korean FA Cup.


When you subscribe to your favorite team's calendar, you'll see every game listed, updated in real time with the score as the game progresses.


You can also subscribe to a "Contacts' Birthdays and Events" calendar, which will add all of your contacts' birthdays to Google Calendar. Data is pulled from your Gmail contacts and your friends' Google profiles.

Finally, we also have two new Calendar Labs features for you to check out: "Dim future repeating events" makes recurring meetings more transparent over time, helping more important meetings pop out, and "Add any gadget by URL" gives you the flexibility put any gadget you'd like in your calendar.

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Gmail's web interface had a widespread outage earlier today, lasting about 100 minutes. We know how many people rely on Gmail for personal and professional communications, and we take it very seriously when there's a problem with the service. Thus, right up front, I'd like to apologize to all of you — today's outage was a Big Deal, and we're treating it as such. We've already thoroughly investigated what happened, and we're currently compiling a list of things we intend to fix or improve as a result of the investigation.

Here's what happened: This morning (Pacific Time) we took a small fraction of Gmail's servers offline to perform routine upgrades. This isn't in itself a problem — we do this all the time, and Gmail's web interface runs in many locations and just sends traffic to other locations when one is offline.

However, as we now know, we had slightly underestimated the load which some recent changes (ironically, some designed to improve service availability) placed on the request routers — servers which direct web queries to the appropriate Gmail server for response. At about 12:30 pm Pacific a few of the request routers became overloaded and in effect told the rest of the system "stop sending us traffic, we're too slow!". This transferred the load onto the remaining request routers, causing a few more of them to also become overloaded, and within minutes nearly all of the request routers were overloaded. As a result, people couldn't access Gmail via the web interface because their requests couldn't be routed to a Gmail server. IMAP/POP access and mail processing continued to work normally because these requests don't use the same routers.

The Gmail engineering team was alerted to the failures within seconds (we take monitoring very seriously). After establishing that the core problem was insufficient available capacity, the team brought a LOT of additional request routers online (flexible capacity is one of the advantages of Google's architecture), distributed the traffic across the request routers, and the Gmail web interface came back online.

What's next: We've turned our full attention to helping ensure this kind of event doesn't happen again. Some of the actions are straightforward and are already done — for example, increasing request router capacity well beyond peak demand to provide headroom. Some of the actions are more subtle — for example, we have concluded that request routers don't have sufficient failure isolation (i.e. if there's a problem in one datacenter, it shouldn't affect servers in another datacenter) and do not degrade gracefully (e.g. if many request routers are overloaded simultaneously, they all should just get slower instead of refusing to accept traffic and shifting their load). We'll be hard at work over the next few weeks implementing these and other Gmail reliability improvements — Gmail remains more than 99.9% available to all users, and we're committed to keeping events like today's notable for their rarity.

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Update (2:37 pm): We've fixed the issue, and Gmail should be back up and running as usual. We're still investigating the root cause of this outage, and we'll share more information soon. Thanks for bearing with us.

We know many of you are having trouble accessing Gmail right now — we are too, and we definitely feel your pain. We don't usually post about minor issues here (the Apps status dashboard and the Gmail Help Center are usually where this kind of information goes). Because this is impacting so many of you, we wanted to let you know we're currently looking into the issue and hope to have more info to share here shortly. If you have IMAP or POP set up already, you should be able to access your mail that way in the meantime. We're terribly sorry for the inconvenience and will get Gmail back up and running as soon as possible.