Boosted security and AI features: A guide to the new Gmail update

25 Apr 2018

Gmail app on laptop. Image: Alexey Boldin/Shutterstock

Google’s biggest redesign has lots of new features for both enterprise and personal users.

Gmail is the most popular email service in the world and it is getting a major makeover, with a heavy focus on security and productivity-boosting features.

The rumour mill has been swirling with talk of a massive overhaul of the service, and today (25 April) the company announced the alterations in full.

Security and privacy are top of the list

Product manager lead for Gmail, Jacob Bank, described the changes as “an entire rewrite” of its flagship product.

There is now a new feature called Confidential Mode, which allows users to protect sensitive information in emails by creating expiration dates or revoking previously sent messages. You can also request additional authentication via a text message, meaning it is possible to protect data even if a recipient’s email account has been hijacked while the message is active.

Built-in Information Rights Management (IRM) controls also allow users to remove options to forward, copy, download or print messages, reducing the risk of confidential information being shared with the wrong people. This mode will begin to roll out to consumer users and a limited number of G Suite customers in the next few weeks, with a broader roll-out to follow.

Security warnings have also been refreshed, making them easier to understand and providing a clear call to action to employees in enterprises. A risky email will be far easier to spot with these bolder warnings.

AI boosting Gmail capabilities

AI technology is providing a variety of new features in Gmail, including Nudging, which will remind you to follow up on priority messages; and Smart Reply, which will now be featured on Gmail for web after a successful introduction on Gmail mobile apps in 2017.

Other features include a setting for high-priority notifications, which alerts users to important messages, keeping interruptions to a minimum. Gmail will also recommend when to unsubscribe to mailing lists based on cues such as how many emails you get from a sender compared to how many of them you actually read.

New tweaks will make communication smoother

On the web app, users can now see and click attachments without opening messages and can also hover over messages to RSVP to a meeting or archive a thread. The redesign will see Gmail more integrated with other G Suite apps, such as Calendar, Keep and, later on, Docs and Sheets.

Working offline will also be a whole lot simpler. New offline capabilities on the web app will let you work without interruption if Wi-Fi is scarce. Up to 90 days of messages will be available to search, write, respond to, delete or archive, which is great news for offsite workers.

Tasks is another productivity booster being rolled out on the web and on brand new mobile apps. Due dates with notifications can also be added to tasks, and integration with G Suite means emails can be dragged and dropped into Tasks to make a to-do item.

Businesses in the G Suite Early Adopter Program can turn on the new Gmail in the Admin console, but not all features will be available at the same time. Personal Gmail users can opt in by going to Settings and selecting ‘Try the new Gmail’.

These new changes are a response to changing communication culture, both in work and in the personal lives of users. A more dynamic Gmail service will likely cement its popularity and possibly spook Microsoft, its enterprise email rival.

Gmail app on laptop. Image: Alexey Boldin/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects