Google Is Giving Gmail a Makeover

Google has taken the launch of Google+ earlier this week as an opportunity to make small design changes on its search page and across various brand extensions. As they're rolled out slowly over the next couple of months, though -- with enough time for users to understand and respond to the tweaks -- the design changes will accumulate until many of Google's most popular products are barely recognizable. In the aggregate, this is a major shift. Many of Google's products, from Google Calendar to Gmail are getting a complete makeover.

And Gmail will be one of the first. On the Official Gmail Blog, user experience designer Jason Cornwell wrote that the upcoming changes are meant to "strip out unnecessary clutter and make Gmail as beautiful as it is powerful." Two new themes are available now (if you can't see them yet, they're coming: It always takes a while for Google to roll out its changes to its millions of users) and they provide a sneak peek at what is coming. A quick glance at the new themes, "Preview" and "Preview (Dense)," is displayed below, but to give them a test drive, navigate to your 'Themes' tab in 'Gmail Settings' and select one or the other.

"If you poke around you'll hopefully find a lot to like and a much cleaner, modern look but also few rough edges," Cornwell wrote. "In particular, some Labs features may look a little strange in the new themes. We plan to fix these issues as we roll out changes in the coming months. You can also expect some updated themes to embody the same design principles but are better suited to working in a dark environment, use a different color palette, or include the illustrations that we know many of you love to see around your inbox."

Regular Gmail users will notice that a few of the changes have already been made in their inbox. Now, for example, when you scroll down the page, the option bar will follow you, allowing you to archive, delete and label your individual messages. When reading a specific email, you'll also notice that the back button, the one that returns you to your full inbox without having to select 'Inbox,' has also changed. It now displays a bold black arrow, as seen in the second image embedded below.

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Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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