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New Looks for Gmail and Google Calendar

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By John Fano and Eric Curts

Google recently announced that all new interfaces for Gmail and Calendar are in the pipe. The new interfaces are quite different from the current look, but they are definitely a step in the right direction. It would be a good idea to play around with these new looks while they are still an option for Apps users to help head off any questions or confusions your users may encounter when these roll out for good.

For those Apps users on the Rapid Release Track (as well as people with personal Gmail accounts), the changes to Gmail and Calendar are available now:
  • To enable the new look in Google Calendar, click on the gears icon and then choose "Try the new look". 
  • To enable the new look in Gmail, click on the gears icon and choose "Mail settings". On the Settings page click on the "Themes" tab and select the "Preview" or "Preview (Dense)" theme. 
The new Calendar interface is clean and simplified. It tries to focus your attention right on the calendar events rather than being lost in the navigation and options down the left and right hand sides. Most old text links have been replaced with attractive icons, and many items on the page can be collapsed such as the mini month view and the "My Calendars" list.  However, one complaint is that the current day is now highlighted with a light gray background instead of yellow as in the old look. The light gray seems to blend in too much with everything else, so the current day does not jump out well.

The new Gmail interface is very similar to the Calendar look and tries to make reading and navigating email easy and distraction free. However, the Gmail interface preview feels unfinished because of the near colorless look. While definitely a cleaner interface, it currently feels more cluttered because there are not clear break points between information sections. The official Gmail blog indicates that additional themes will be coming soon with other color palettes.

Another oddity with the new Gmail themes is the increased spacing between items. Even the "Dense" version of the preview template has items spread out much more than normal, so you see less on the screen at one time.  For those with lower screen resolutions, this could be frustrating.

It will be exciting to see these new interfaces evolve into their final products, and see how Google updates the looks of other Apps programs. You can read more about the interface changes in the links below. The last link is where you can provide feedback on Google’s new look.