NOTE (16 September 2013): The below article was written in March of 2013, soon after Google changed (ruined, some would say) its GMAIL "compose" window. In the below article, I suggested that someone should create a Chrome extension that restores GMAIL's "compose" window back to the way it was. Now, in September of 2013, six months after the below article was written, someone finally has. It's called "Old Compose." However, Google is obviously not interested in the extension being in its Chrome store, so one must install it by another means, which is documented on the extension's website. The site suggests that it carries a $19.95 pricetag, but that price has a line through it; and apparently it may be obtained for free to those who help its developers "spread the word," which means posting about it on Facebook and/or Twitter. I'm guessing that my posting about it here will do, as well. It's unclear, though, if that's really a deal, or if it will always be free. Time will tell. Read what the Ghacks website wrote about it by clicking here.
Starting immediately below is my original article from March of 2013...
Google just imposed a new "compose" window on all its GMAIL users; and from the articles and forum comments in the past 24 hours, they're none too happy about it. Though everyone hates change, this particular one seems more troublesome than usual. In this article, seasoned IT veteran Gregg DesElms both comments on, and makes some suggestions regarding, the new change; and also invites the reader to join-in the discussion thread he has started about it in Google's GMAIL product support forum.
by Gregg L. DesElms
NOTE: I'm adding this note a day or so after first writing this article so I can ask the reader to, yes, please go make a comment in the GMAIL discussion thread I started, as I request herein; but please also comment here, and also remember to vote-up this article, using the green button, above, so that more people will see it. A bunch of people have viewed this article, but they've taken too literally my request that they go post in the GMAIL support forum thread that I started. Yes, post there, but post here -- and vote it up -- too! Thanks! So, then, here's the original article...
If you Google the phrase "gmail's new compose window" today, you'll find all kinds of articles advising that Google's forcing everyone to now use its new "compose" window which rises-up from the lower-right corner of the main browser window. It's really awful, but there's probably no point in fighting it. Google tends not to ever withdraw these kinds of things which it classicaly shoves them down its users' throats. Read what Google wants you to think/believe about it, here. Immediately below is an image (screenshot) of it which, if clicked-on, will take you to a larger and easier-to-view one. You may also click here to see that larger one.
Many GMAIL users are threatening to move over to Microsoft's new, free, browser-based, direct GMAIL competitor: Outlook
Even I, in what I posted in Google's GMAIL support forum just now (a copy of which is below, for your reference) made mention of how Microsoft has now made abandoning GMAIL and moving over to Outlook easier and more attractive than ever; and so, then, Google's "moving the cheese," as that term has come to be understood, is a pretty dumb move. I anticipate that no small number of at least consumers will jump to Outlook over it. Business end-users, though, tend to be different; and tend, studies have shown, to, yes, complain, but soon thereafter they just adjust to where the cheese got moved to, and then move on. But consumers are different. Move their cheese, and they'll go find new cheese somewhere else.
NOTE: For those who don't know, my cheese movement language, here, refers to the phrase that's now part of popular culture which got started back in 1998 when Spencer Johnson wrote the book "Who Moved My Cheese?" The now-part-of-the-American-lexicon phrase pops-up in articles whenever anything large in popular culture changes... especially with regard to technology. For example, new Windows 8, and its removal of the "Start" button in the lower-left corner of the Windows desktop (and several other changes, as well) has(have) generated all manner of articles on the tech websites which incorporate the cheese moving metaphore. Click here to see some Google search results that include a few. So, having read a bunch of those kinds of articles lately, I guess I just went ahead and used the metaphore here, too. Sorry if it has already become tired and worn... yet again.
Back to GMAIL's new compose window...
Temporarily, Google's allowing GMAIL users to revert back to the old compose window method, but that will be short-lived. Very soon, everyone will be forced to the new interface, and that will be that. I used to rail against such abject disregard for what the user has come to know and love, in favor of something ultimately self-serving wrought by big companies like Google and Microsoft. But living for over half a century on this spinning rock, and spending most of that in the world of high-tech, will eventually disabuse a person of such silly notions. The constant change, and the moving of it all at a blinding speed, can also help keep at least this old man's mind flexible and in-shape, on top of his craft, and open to new ideas... the very definition of "liberal," which I am, and have always been. Whenever I see a high-tech person who's a Republican, then, I know, in my heart, that s/he's not really serious about high-tech; and whenever I work either with or for one of them, or they work for me, it shows itself fairly quickly. I've never been wrong about it. And it's always the Republicans in high-tech who have no hesitation to run, roughshod, over the end users. Mark my words, whomever made the decision to implement GMAIL's new compose window is a Republican. Mark my words.
Keeping-up with high-tech, and adjusting to its occasional oppression, which this new GMAIL change incontrovertibly is, requires a kind of both thinking an outlook (no pun inte... er... oh, alright... pun intended) on life that is fleet of foot, and open to change. It also helps me to figuratively bitch-slap youngsters who get too entirely full of themselves, and who think they know emerging technologies better than oldsters like me. I always enjoy moments when I can detect that some young punk thinks that just because, to him (and maybe in actuality, too), I'm ancient, then so, too, must be my ideas and understanding of high-tech. So, just for fun, I've been known, once he's done showing-off, to ask him how he feels about some high-tech thing or trend that so new that it's unlikely he's ever even heard about yet, much less formed an opinion regarding it... and then watch him squirm.
There's a bigger and better upside to having learned to keep in perspective, and to learning to adjust to the blistering speed of change in high tech, and that's that I no longer get ulcers from it anymore. I've finally learned how to fully implement, in life, the advice given to me by an old mentor, Ed Walsh (godresthissoul), to wit: Learn to give ulcers, in life, not get them. Sage wisdom, indeed; and making flesh of it requires the kind of openness and willingness to adjust to change that allowed me, recently, to just go ahead and bite the bullet on Windows 8 pre-installed on the new Dell "desktop-replacement" notebook computer that I just bought. I could have gotten it with Windows 7 pre-installed on it (though the numbers of those in Dell's inventory is down to almost nothing now); but my life's experience has taught me that there's just no point in fighting it, as I wrote in my GMAIL support forum's thread-starting post (a copy of which is below) today. When you visit that forum, using the link I provide to it beneath the copy, herein, of the thread-starting post I made there, just look at all the others who've posted such anger and vitriol over the GMAIL composition window change foist upon them today. Yes, they're right to hate it, and to express that outrage; but just look at all the ulcers they're giving themselves!
[sigh] Now, if I could just exhibit such calm and seeming wisdom regarding conservatives. Maybe I'm not so like Buddha as I'd like to believe. [grin]
Of course, one easy fix for the new GMAIL composition window problem is to use a desktop email client (such as Windows Live Mail) or something like that which isn't in a browser window. If so, however, one would need to configure it to interact with GMAIL in "IMAP" mode in order to keep one's messages up on the GMAIL servers so that one could still reply to emails and whatnot whenever they're away from their desktop computer, and need to do it in a browser window on someone else's machine, or on a machine at work. There are other methods, though, such as using an email interface that one actually likes -- even if it's web-based and in a browser -- and then having all GMAIL messages forwarded to it. Of course, in order to keep one's email address for outgoing messages, one would need to do some fancy configuring of the new email client. Oy. It's a pain in the rear, by any measure.
There's also an excellent probability that someone -- and likely quite soon, if history is any indicator -- will come-up with a free browser extension or plug-in for Chrome and Firefox, and a Browser Helper Object (BHO) for Internet Explorer, which restores GMAIL, when it's in a composition window, to its previous state. In fact, whenever developers do that, they tend to even add a few enhancements, so it's usually win-win all around. Google, however, has been known to intentionally mess with those, though; and to make changes which disable them in some way so that said plug-in/extension/BHO author ends-up getting worn-out trying to keep-up. Shame on Google for that.
One potential silver lining, though, is that Google has been known listen, sometimes; to update and change things when its users post good suggestions in the Google product support forums. For example, when Google changed the way its search now generally both looks and works, not that long ago, I got into the forums and made some very constructive and well-thought-out (and some angry, too) suggestions for why they needed to fix this, or change that; and over a period of about six months, I'll be darned if most of it got implemented, by hook or by crook. I'm not saying that Google did it the way I would have done it, but it's nevertheless mostly there. So, then, Google's not deaf, and will -- at least sometimes -- listen to reason, even if it sometimes seems it's not.
And so, to that end, here's what I just posted in the GMAIL support forum, today...
Posted by user "Gregg L. DesElms" on Fri 29 Mar 2013 at 1:07 PM PDT
Personally, I think the new compose method is a bad move; but I know there's no point in fighting it. So I'm making these observations about issues, and some suggestions, so that, hopefully, someone at Google, in the GMAIL group, will see them and implement them.
First, the new compose window, as it pops-up from the lower right of the browser window, isn't wide enough. Through trial and error I've determined that Google imposes a hard carriage-return/line-feed at around 62 or 63 characters; and so I've made my signature (which includes a copyright and privacy notice) so that it's just a character or two narrower than the aforementioned carriage-return/line-feed. That way, the line is never broken in the recipient's email viewing window. However, the new compose window, as it pops-up from the lower-right of the browser window isn't even that wide, and so, now, my signature is all messed-up. Please, then, make the compose window, as it pops-up from the lower right corner of the browser window, at least wide enough to accommodate GMAIL's own 62 or 63 (or whatever it is) character hard carriage-return/line-feed. Please.
Now, regarding the above, if the user clicks on the little arrow up in the upper-right corner of the little compose window that pops-up from the lower right of the browser window, then an entirely new compose window -- in its own browser window occurance -- pops-up... and THAT window is, indeed wide enough. In fact, I rather like that compose window. And so that brings me to my second suggestion: Please make it so that we can
makego into "Settings" and make the entirely new browser occurance pop-up window the default whenever we click on the "Compose" or "Reply" or "Reply to all" buttons or links. Please. If users could just make their default what pops-up when one clicks on the right-angled-arrow in the upper-leftmost corner of the new compose window that pops-up from the lower right of the browser window, then I'll bet that most people's complaints about the new compose feature would go away. It needs to be wider, and that's all there is to it. Either make wider the compose window that pops-up from the lower right of the browser window, or allow us to make our default the separate browser occurance window that pops-up if we click on the little right-angled arrow in the upper-rightmost corner of the compose window that pops-up from the lower-right of the browser window. Please.
Back to the new compose window that pops-up from the lower right...
You're making users click too much. We shouldn't have to click on a menu which then lets us click on things that used to just be there, in the old compose window. I don't want to have to click on an option button just to get to the icons that let me bold and italic and whatnot. I don't want to have to click on a dropdown menu so that I can get to where I can insert a signature or something. You've made it far, far worse by removing things from the main editing window.
Also, usability studies show that people like working in the upper-left area of their screens. Go read the studies! No one wants to type an email down in the lower-right corner of the browser window... that's yet another reason why I'm using the separate browser occurance pop-open window that happens when I click on the right-angled arrow in the upper-rightmost corner of the new compose window that pops-up from the lower right corner of the browser. At least that window opens in the upper center of the main browser occurance... which is fine. But this business of relegating the compose area to a too-narrow and insignificant-looking (and -feeling) little pop-up window in the lower right corner of the browser... that's just wrong. And so that's yet another reason why you need to let your users pick either that, or the separate browser occurance pop-up window as their default... in "Settings"!
I'm sure that as I keep using it, I'll have more to add; but if Google would just do the things I've herein suggested, I'll bet dollars to donuts that most users' complaints would begin to slow down or even stop.
Yes, everyone hates change; and so Google or Microsoft or any of the others may expect at least some users to hate the new changes just because they're new changes, even if they're inherently better. However, this new compose window change, as currently implemented, is definitely not better. It decreases GMAIL's efficiency and usability by... well... by a lot. (I started to write "several orders of magnitude," but that would just be an exaggeration; and so I stifled myself.)
Please, Google... note these criticisms, and schedule the new "compose" window situation for accommodating changes/updates... and please do it fast. Microsoft's already got everyone's attention with the new Outlook; please don't so move the cheese that they take Microsoft up on its offer to move people away from GMAIL and over to Outlook.
Remember that a lot of GMAIL users don't really like it that much, but they've realized that if they're going to have an Android phone, then they really need to use GMAIL so that they can maximize their Android experience. However, many of them change phones every couple of years; and with the Windows 8 phones out there, and many of them moving to Windows 8 on their desktop computers, just going all-Windows, and dumping GMAIL and Android is a real temptation. With some of what's been going on with Google products, of late, I confess that I'm even tempted, myself... and, believe me, I've been solidly Google and GMAIL ever since I got my Android phone. Its two-year contract will end, soon, though. Please don't give me any more reasons to move back over solidly into Microsoft's house. Please.
Note these complaints that I've outlined, here; and please, please, please make appropriate changes.
Gregg L. DesElms
Napa, California USA
gregg at greggdeselms dot com
...to which, before I could even finish this article, someone chimed-in and responded saying that... well... here's his response:
Posted by user "bkc56" on Fri 29 Mar 2013 at 1:49 PM PDT
Thank you for a well thought out post with reasonable suggestions in it. I'll make sure Google sees this (but no promises as to their response).
Click here to see it, and the discussion thread that I started in the GMAIL product support forum. It's just one of many, there, though, which demand Google's reversal of the compose window change... most of which are very angry!
While I, of course, would like comments, below, please also go into that discussion thread and agree with me (Google notices stuff like that); and please also add any other suggestions that you'd like to add (just please keep it constructive, and not angry... which Google also notices).
It may seem like Google's not noticing (because sometimes, in fact, it isn't); but I happen to know (because I know people who work there) that there's a whole team of people at Google whose temporary job it is to read those forums, and all the complaints in them, because this is a new change, and Google wants to assess its reception. So if you post calmly and constructively in that thread, as I did, and not like a crazy and angry person, like most others are, I promise that what you write, there, will get noticed.
Thanks for reading!
See you, in a few weeks or months, after Google has ignored us, over on the Outlook site! (Ha! Just kidding... er... you know... at least I think.)
Gregg L. DesElms
Napa, California USA
gregg at greggdeselms dot com