Tech Tips for the Day: Gmail Fix,

If you really hate the new Gmail compose interface ...

1) Gmail de-lobotomization. The Gmail design team is constantly coming up with fritterware "improvements" to the system's look and feel. In the face of most of the changes, all you can do is sigh and adapt. Or switch to a more formal email front-end, like Outlook, Thunderbird, Entourage, Apple Mail, and so on.

But there does seem to be some recourse against the latest Gmail change, the shrinking and dumbing-down of the Compose window that became mandatory not long ago. You can follow the instructions shown at Ghacks, a German site run by Martin Brinkmann. The site tells you how to download and install a Chrome extension that restores the previous Gmail look. (The fix works only in Chrome.) Follow the instructions on this site exactly, since there are tricks involved for both downloading and then installing the extension. It's conceivable that the extension has some undesirable side effect, but in using it for a while I haven't run into any problems, and Brinkmann has a track record of sound advice. Take a look, and thanks to reader DS for the lead. 

2) The unusual This is turning out to be German-software day. A new indexing and retrieval system called Doo has come out from a small startup company based in Bonn. It works on five major platforms -- the latest versions of Windows and Mac, plus iPhone, iPad, and Android -- and at the moment is free.  

Doo is designed to parse, categorize, organize, and retrieve documents of all sorts in a more intelligent way than existing indexers. A minor example: it automatically comes up with a list of all duplicate files on your computer or your cloud storage areas, with the option to delete all the redundant ones. (Hundreds of them, in my case.) 

Like other "interesting" programs in their nascent phase, I find this one both intriguing and somewhat puzzling. But I have installed it on my MacBook Air (which is now my standard workplace computer -- I connect it to a big display and nice keyboard when I'm at home) and on my iPad and Android phone as well. I find myself using it a little more each day. Give it a look too. 

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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