Google has announced that Gmail’s new layout, which changes how Google Chat, Meet, and Spaces are integrated, will be available to try starting in February; become default by April; and become the only option by the end of Q2 2022. The view makes it so Google’s other messaging tools, which are part of (but not necessarily limited to) its business-focused Workspace suite, are no longer just little windows floating alongside your emails, but get their own screens in Gmail that are accessible with large buttons on the left-hand side.
Google calls this the integrated view, and it’ll soon be familiar if you (or your employer) are a Workspace customer, or if you use Chat and Meet personally. Starting February 8th, Google says you’ll be able to start testing the layout for yourself. By April, anyone who hasn’t opted in (Google shows that there’ll be a prompt at some point, encouraging you to do so), will be switched over to the new layout, but will be able to switch back in settings. That option will go away by the end of the second quarter, according to Google, when the new layout becomes the “standard experience for Gmail.”
The new view could be polarizing — while managing chats and meetings can be a bit confusing in the current Gmail layout, it all happens on one screen, which is pleasing if you love data density. But for those looking to focus on one thing at a time, the new interface looks like it’ll give you easy access to other tools without having them always on the screen. There will, however, be ways to access your Chats from the email screen — a Google support page describing the new layout mentions that new notifications will show up as a bubble in the left corner of the screen, and that you’ll be able to create a mini pop-up window within the interface that you can use to reply.
The company says that there will also be notification bubbles to let you know if other tools need your attention, which could be less distracting than, say, having a list of all your Chats living to the left or right of your emails.
Google has shown that it wants to deeply integrate all its work-related products together, and this layout gives us a taste of what that could look like, with tools like Spaces letting you jump into a spreadsheet without leaving Gmail. While it does seem like you’re mostly already able to, as Google puts it when describing the new view, “easily switch between your inbox, important conversations, and join meetings without having to switch between tabs or open a new window,” it’s probably fair to argue that it all feels a little tacked-on. Google’s screenshots of the new layout do make it seem like the new interface will be more put-together.
The services will also be more integrated — Gmail’s search, for instance, will also turn up Chat messages in the coming months, according to the company (similar to how Hangouts messages also used to be searchable from within Gmail).
Google says that this new layout will be coming to anyone who uses Google Chat. According to Google spokesperson Amanda Lam, “the focus of the new integrated view is for users who use multiple apps. By the end of the year, this means users would get this experience if they opt-in to Google Chat or Google Meet.”
Update February 3rd, 2:55PM ET: Updated with information that Google has now decided that the layout will be available to anyone who uses Chat and Meet, instead of limiting it to a specific type of customer as was originally announced.