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Last month we kicked off “Faces of Gmail,” a series where we’ll introduce you to some of the members of the Gmail team. For our first post, we spoke with Manu Cornet, an engineer in Paris who made some of our favorite themes. This month we’re back in Mountain View with Petra Cross, a globe-trotting gal who builds tools to help make the Gmail engineering team more efficient.


What do you do on the Gmail team and how long have you been at Google?
I have been a software engineer at Google for over six years. I spent my first three and a half years with the search team developing a framework for evaluating the relevance of search results. Since then, I’ve been focusing on internal Gmail infrastructure and building tools that help make other Gmail engineers more productive.

What did you do before joining Google?
After I got my computer science degree from Santa Clara University, I worked for a year at a small Silicon Valley semiconductor start-up. Before I came to California, I studied CS in Slovakia. I’m always doing many things at the same time. While I was in school, I created and sold little black and white drawings, taught English classes at a local elementary school, worked as a talk-show host at a local TV station, modeled, and also sang competitively in a choir. I miss singing the most. Today, besides working on Gmail, I’m focusing on photography and my husband Bradford.

What are the three Gmail features you wouldn’t be able to live without?
Ah, there are so many features I would miss if they went away:
  1. Priority Inbox helps me point my attention to emails I might want to respond to first.
  2. I use chat a lot to communicate with my co-workers and friends. I also love Gmail’s ability to call phones.
  3. I like how Gmail organizes emails into conversation view, instead of putting each email into a separate line in the inbox. It makes it a lot easier to see the entire context of the discussion.

What do you do when you’re not working on Gmail?
I visit my parents in Europe few times a year. To trick my husband into joining me on every trip to visit his in-laws, I try to wrap the trip into a fun package that includes more countries. And so, in the last three years, we’ve visited Belgium, Netherlands, U.K., Czech Republic, Spain, Italy, Austria, Jordan (we visited Petra!), Lebanon, Egypt, and we also got married in a 13th century castle in Slovakia.

Besides traveling, I’m quite domesticated and I’m constantly decorating our San Francisco home. To my mom’s disappointment, I almost stopped cooking since I joined Google (blame the free Google food!) and started spending most of my days on a computer. I’ve been blogging a lot lately and also spending a lot of time photographing people. I can’t imagine what my life would look like without technology. I can’t even sit still on a beach for five minutes. Seriously.

How do you procrastinate?
I don’t procrastinate. I make conscious decisions to not do certain things at this very moment. Like right now, I am responding to your questions instead of coding. :)

What would your last meal be?
Crepes with Nutella and chestnut puree, and a lot of whipped cream. The whipped cream has to be hand-whipped, not from a can. Crepes need to be perfectly browned on both sides. I’m up for a crepe-off any time!

Photos by Cody Bratt, Google Talk team

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Google Calendar sync started supporting the 32-bit version of Outlook 2010 back in August. Outlook sync has continued to be a top feature request, which is why we’ve continued to improve upon it and are pleased to announce that Calendar Sync now supports the 64-bit version too.

To start syncing your calendar with the 64-bit version of Outlook 2010, download Google Calendar Sync version 0.9.4.1. When the Settings window appears, enter your email address and password, choose your sync option and frequency, and you’ll be all set. Note that if you’re already using Google Calendar Sync, you’ll need to download and install this new version in order to be able to sync with 64-bit Outlook (we’re in the process of auto-updating everyone but reinstalling will ensure it works for you). For more info, take a look at our getting started guide.

We want you to be able to access Google Calendar anywhere, anytime. If you have any feedback please drop us a line on Twitter (@googlecalendar) or in the Google Calendar Help Forum.

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We’re always looking for ways to make Gmail faster. One of the most common delays happens after you hit that “Send” button, when you’re waiting patiently for a couple seconds for Gmail to send your message. If you send a lot of email, that can add up to a lot of lost time.

To help give you that time back, there’s a new feature in Gmail Labs called Background Send. Once you turn it on from the Labs tab in Settings, you can get on with what you’re doing while Gmail quietly sends off your mail in the background. You can keep reading your inbox, compose new messages, chat with people — all the things you’d usually do. You can even send more than one message in the background at the same time.



If anything goes wrong (maybe you got that email address wrong, or maybe your connection had a hiccup), you’ll see a warning message that prompts you to go back and fix the issue or try again later.



The “Send errror” message will stay around until you decide to fix things, so you don’t have to stop whatever you’re doing right away. The only catch is that you should wait for your mail to finish sending before you close Gmail or shut down your computer. If messages are still being sent in the background when you shut down, your messages are probably going to be lost. You’ll know you’re good to go when you see a message like this:



We’ve been trying out Background Send for a while here at Google, and we like it a lot. We hope you like it too, and we hope it gives you back a little bit of your day!

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Today we’re making a small change that makes it easier to handle long label names: you can now add and edit label names up to 225 characters. The old limit was 40 characters, which wasn’t enough for some people who had switched from Outlook or accessed Gmail through IMAP.



Label names can get really long, especially when you use Nested Labels. When that happens, Gmail will shorten them if necessary to avoid cluttering your view.



You can always mouse over to see the full label name and use colors to better distinguish your labels from each other.

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(Cross-posted from the Google Mobile blog)

Sometimes when I’m using Gmail on my phone, I delete a message by mistake or label it incorrectly. Sure I can fish the message out of my Trash or remove the label and apply the correct one, but that takes several steps. Even just a few seconds is usually enough time to catch those annoying mistakes.

Now when you use the Gmail mobile web app, you’ll have a small window of opportunity to undo four key actions: archive, delete, add or remove a label, or move a message/conversation.

When you take one of these actions, Gmail displays a yellow bar that recaps what you just did and allows you to undo it:




This bar stays in position even if you move to another screen (e.g. moving to ‘Menu’ from ‘Inbox’). If you don’t happen to catch your mistake in time, not to worry: all four actions can still be undone through other means (e.g. you can move a message from Trash back into your Inbox).

Try it out at gmail.com in the browser of your Android or iOS device.

Update (10:00 am, 4/19/11): This update is available for phones running Android or iOS, but not tablet devices with the two-pane Gmail interface. It is also now available for BlackBerry OS 6.0 phones.

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Themes in Gmail are great — there are tons to choose from and they give your inbox a personalized look. But we’ve heard from many of you who thought it would be even better if you could give Gmail an even more personalized look and create themes completely on your own.

For a while, you’ve been able to set your own colors, and starting today you can customize your inbox with your own background image too.



Just go to the Themes tab in Settings and choose “Create your own theme.” There, you can select background images for the main area and the footer.


You can pick from any of your Picasa images or upload a new one. Enjoy!

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Posted by Assaf Ben-David, Software Engineering Intern, Israel

Don’t forget Bob” and “Got the wrong Bob?” are two Gmail Labs features that help prevent you from making two common mistakes: forgetting to include someone on an email, and sending a message to the wrong person with a similar name to the person you meant to email — like emailing Bob (your boss) instead of Bob (your friend).

We’ve received quite a bit of positive feedback from people who avoided some embarrassing situations thanks to these features. And today, we’re excited to graduate them from Gmail Labs and start turning them on for everyone (they should start working in all Gmail accounts over the next day or so). Once that happens, as you type in your recipients, Gmail will automatically make suggestions based on the groups of people you email most often. When you see a suggestion to add a person you’ve forgotten, all you have to do is click on their name to add them.



Similarly, if you click on a suggestion to replace a mistakenly added recipient, the proverbial “wrong Bob” will be replaced by the right one.



We hope these suggestions help you avoid some sticky situations — before you hit send. As you compose messages and see these features in actions, let us know what you think by tweeting @gmail with your ideas and impressions or leaving a message in the Gmail Help forum.

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On April 13th, 2006 we released Google Calendar to the world. What started as an experimental project by several Googlers has grown to become a service that millions of people rely on every day. From photography studios to schools to airlines to supermarkets, we discover new ways people are using Calendar all the time.

A birthday wouldn’t be a birthday without a little present, so today we’re happy to announce our latest tiny addition: the up-to-date favicon. When you look at the Google Calendar icon at the top of your browser window, it will no longer always display “31” but will instead change to reflect the current day of the month. Today’s date is now always a short glance away.

If you don’t see the new up-to-date favicon already, you should within the next couple of days. To keep up-to-date on all things Google Calendar, check out our Twitter account (and feel free to tell us how you’re using Calendar too).

The Google Calendar team celebrating our 5th birthday at Google Zurich

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Ever since I joined the Gmail team, my friends have been eager to tell me, "I love Gmail! Except for this one thing..." And every day, Gmail users share their "one thing" that would make Gmail better for them through our suggestions page. While we enjoy creating new solutions to old problems with features like Priority Inbox, those little annoyances and missing pieces are important, too. Recently, we've rolled out several small tweaks to Gmail to show it a little extra love.


Here’s a rundown:
  • Auto-save contacts setting: Most people like that Gmail automatically saves every email address you send messages to; it can help recover forgotten addresses of former teachers, bosses, and people you contacted once but never thought you'd need to contact again. For some people, though, this feature can cause too much contacts clutter. Today, we're rolling out a new setting to let you turn off the auto-save option. You’ll see it on the General tab of Gmail Settings.

  • Better warnings for typos in email addresses: We all make typos, even when addressing email. In the old days, when you accidentally left out the "." in your ".com", Gmail would tell you there was an error but not point it out. Now, it’ll let you know which address has the problem -- much easier when sorting through a long “To:” list.

  • Fewer annoying error pop-ups: Gmail's filters are really useful for organizing your messages automatically, but sometimes those filters can have unintended consequences, like sending mail you'd like to keep to the trash. When you replied to a message in the Trash, Gmail would show an error message you'd have to click through to continue working. Now, you’ll still see the error, but it's no longer a pop up and it gives you an easy way to move the conversation out of Trash right from there.

  • Easier transitions between certain actions: You can create filters quickly from the "Filter messages like this" option that shows up on some messages. Now, after you've saved your filter, Gmail will send you right back to the message you were reading so you can go right back to what you were doing before.

  • Keyboard shortcut guide for everyone: Keyboard shortcuts can be a huge productivity boosters. If you've never tried them, try hitting Shift+? -- that's one keyboard shortcut that's now automatically turned on and gives you a peek into the rest of them and a quick link to enable from there.

  • Refresh button: For a long time, people have pointed out the inconsistency of having "Refresh" as a link in the menu bar, next to all of the buttons. We changed it to a button to match.

If any of these small fixes were your "one thing," we hope you've noticed the changes as they rolled out. When you find the next little tweak that would make you love Gmail even more, let us know.

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In 1874 the QWERTY keyboard was invented. In 1963, the world was introduced to the mouse. Some 50 years later, we’ve seen the advent of microprocessors, high resolution webcams, and spatial tracking technology. But all the while we’ve continued to use outdated technology to interact with devices. Why?

This is a question that we’ve been thinking about a lot at Google, and we’re excited to introduce our first attempts at next generation human computer interaction: Gmail Motion. Gmail Motion allows you to control Gmail — composing and replying to messages — using your body.



To use Gmail Motion, you’ll need a computer with a built-in webcam. Once you enable Gmail Motion from the Settings page, Gmail will enable your webcam when you sign in and automatically recognize any one of the detected movements via a spatial tracking algorithm. We designed the movements to be easy and intuitive to perform and consulted with top experts in kinestetics and body movement in devising them.



We’ve been testing Gmail Motion with Googlers over the last few months and have been really excited about the feedback we’ve been hearing. We’ve also done some internal tests to measure productivity improvements and found an average 14% increase in email composition speed and 12% reduction in average time in inbox. With Gmail Motion, Googlers were able to get more done and get in and out of their inboxes more quickly.


To use Gmail Motion, you’ll need the latest version of Google Chrome or Firefox 3.5+ and a built-in webcam. If it’s not already enabled on your account, sit tight — we’ll be making it available to everyone over the next day or so.

For more information, visit gmail.com/motion.