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Ah 2009...turning five, finally shedding that beta label, and adding more than 40 new features. As we wind down after a busy year, here's a look back at a handful of our favorite additions to Gmail.  We hope you enjoy trying them out as much as we enjoyed building them.
On behalf of the entire Gmail team, happy holidays! See you next year.


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Managing a big address book can be a challenge, so it's no surprise that the top request for Google contacts is a fast, easy way to merge duplicate contacts. You've been able to merge contacts one-by-one for a while, but now we've added a single button that merges all your duplicate contacts at once. To clean up your contact list in one fell swoop, just click the "Find duplicates" button in the contact manager, review the merge suggestions (and uncheck any suggestions you don't want merged), and hit the "Merge" button.


If you've been considering getting all your contacts into Gmail or syncing your Gmail contacts to your phone, now's the time to do it. As we've written about previously, you can sync your contacts to a wide variety of devices (including Android, iPhone, Blackberry, SyncML, etc). So if you were dreading spending hours getting your contacts in order, now you can do it with a couple clicks.

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Recently, I reunited with some colleagues in our Moscow office (the same team that brought you this Gmail art video last year) on a set of animated videos showcasing some of Gmail's features: messages grouped into conversations, great spam protection, built-in video chat, offline access, and themes. Some of the humor in these videos may be uniquely Russian — they revolve around a character who imagines what the world would be like if everyday objects worked like Gmail, like this video that compares unthreaded conversations to a mess of laundry:


In case the Russian version is too confusing, we've translated all the videos into English here.

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I subscribe to a lot of really active mailing lists. Oftentimes, an email in my inbox will get dozens of replies before I get a chance to start reading it. If I only have a few moments to look at a particularly long and interesting discussion, I'd like to start reading it then; later, when I have some more time, I'll pick up where I left off. However, if I mark the thread as unread, it will return to its previously read state without updating to show what I just read. When I come back to it, I'll have to search for the last thing I remember reading. If I star the first message I still want to read instead, I might not remember that it needs to be read when I'm in my inbox later (and when I do read it, I'll have to expand lots of messages before I can read the conversation properly).

There's a new feature in Gmail Labs that will help with this. When you enable Mark Unread From Here from the Labs tab under Settings, you'll see a new "Mark unread from here" option in the drop down menu found in the upper right-hand corner of messages.


Clicking this option on a message tells Gmail that you want that message to be the first one you see when you reopen the thread later, with all messages after it open for easy reading. So, when you leave partway through reading a long thread, figuring out where to start reading again is easy. Give it a try and share your thoughts.

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Almost a year ago, we launched Offline Gmail in Gmail Labs. By installing Offline Gmail, you're able to use the normal Gmail interface to read and write mail, search, and organize, even when there's no internet connection. And Flaky Connection mode speeds up Gmail when your connection is slow or unreliable.

Since we first launched in Labs, we've heard from a lot of you who tried Offline Gmail, and your feedback helped us make a lot of improvements. Aside from fixing bugs and making the whole offline experience smoother, we recently added two frequently requested features: an option to choose which messages get downloaded for offline use and the ability to send attachments while offline. Offline Gmail has proven particularly useful for business and schools making the switch to Google Apps from traditional desktop mail clients -- they're used to being able to access their mail whether or not they're online, and Offline Gmail brings this functionality right to the browser.

Now, we're happy to announce that Offline Gmail is graduating from Labs and becoming a regular part of Gmail. If you're already using it, then you're all set. While you'll no longer see it on the Labs tab, you can tweak your settings and turn it on and off from the Offline tab under Settings. If you'd like to get started with Offline Gmail on your computer now, here's how:
  1. Click the "Settings" link in the top-right corner of Gmail.
  2. Click the "Offline" tab.
  3. Select "Enable Offline Mail for this computer."
  4. Click "Save Changes" and follow the directions from there.

Thanks for all of the feedback over the last year -- and for putting up with the occasional bug or two. We're going to have a little toast, and then get right back to working on more improvements for 2010.

P.S. We received some interesting pictures in response to our call for photos of people using Gmail offline in our last post. Our favorite so far came from Ugo, who is at a Saharawi refugee camp in south Algeria, where he uses Gmail offline most of the time and connects via a satellite phone to our servers just once a day.

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Three weeks ago we made extra storage for Gmail and Picasa Web Albums more affordable, and now we've partnered with Eye-Fi to make it even easier to get your photos into the cloud. Eye-Fi offers WiFi-enabled memory cards which make your existing camera wireless, so it's easy to upload photos and videos right to Picasa Web Albums or to your computer -- no cables required. For a limited time, when you buy 200 GB of Google paid storage for $50, you'll get a free Eye-Fi card (a $95 value).

Visit picasa.google.com/eyefi.html to get yours today, and happy holidays from the Picasa team!

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Update (12/6): We're all out of free cards, but if you're feeling crafty, you can still print and cut out your own.

Every year around this time I start thinking about the annual holiday email I send to friends and family members. I usually email my mom, dad, sister, friends and co-workers. But the one person who appreciates my season's greetings the most — my grandma — is stuck in the pre-digital age of snail mail. Of course, I could go to a store, aimlessly wander through the aisles, choose a card, wait in line to pay for it, go to the post office, pick up some stamps, etc., etc. — but wouldn't it be so much easier just to fill out a form and have Gmail handle the rest?

This holiday season, as a token of our appreciation to our most enthusiastic fans, we'll snail-mail a free holiday postcard on your behalf. Yes, through the mail and everything.


To send a card, visit gmail.com/holidaycard. We'll only be able to send cards to US addresses and to a limited number of people (due to limited Gmail elf availability), so be sure to request one soon.

And if you're headed home for the holidays, consider spending some "computer time" with loved ones who aren't as up-to-date with technology. With some luck, maybe this time next year you'll be able to email them a holiday card instead!

Wishing a happy holiday to you and yours!

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In the early days of email, messages were simple text meant to be read on a terminal. But with the growth of the web came the advent of HTML email, and overnight people began expressing themselves through bold and italics, colors and images, and whatever else their creativity inspired.

If you like to use a specific text style for your messages, you've had to change the font every time you're about to start typing out an email. Now, you can turn on default text styling from the Labs tab, then go to Settings and set your preferences just once.


Try it out and tell us what you think. If you live and breathe code, now you can set your default text style to a monospace font. If your life is purple, your email can be, too. But remember: whatever you see is what your recipients will see, so be nice to them and try not to clog the intertubes with ginormous bold italicized red script. ;)