Google has unveiled the biggest revamp of Gmail in years with features like email snoozing, nudging, and confidential mode making their debut alongside a substantial visual redesign for Gmail on the web. Gmail is the world’s most popular email service with over 1.4 billion monthly active users. The redesign and new features are being rolled out in a phased manner which means they won’t be available to all 1.4 billion users at once and the first to get it will be invited to opt-in rather than being able to just turn it on themselves.

A lot of the features are designed to make Gmail a little more ‘business-friendly’ and all these new features will be available as part of the G-Suite premium service for businesses. What is interesting is that the new Gmail features are designed to treat all of its users as business customers and if that means everyone is being offered better security and privacy that’s certainly, not a bad thing.

The big changes

Here is a breakdown of the key new features:

Confidential mode Gmail

Gmail’s new Confidential Mode in action.

One of the marquee additions is the new Confidential Mode. This feature allows the sender to set an expiration date for a sensitive email or revoke it entirely. This works by not directly sending an email with the confidential information rather you’re only sending a link to the content, which lives in your mailbox and is accessed by the recipient either via their Gmail account or if they use another email service, https. In both cases, the sender is in charge of how long the recipient can access the message.

Within Confidential Mode users will be able to implement Two-factor authentication on a per-message basis. You can request that the recipient authenticates with a passcode (like an OTP) received via SMS before they’re able to open a confidential email.

Integrated rights management is a business-centric feature that will be available to all Gmail users, this is also a part of the Confidential Mode umbrella. This feature will allow you to block the forwarding, copying, downloading, or printing of particular messages. It will not prevent a deliberate attempt at data extraction from such emails and Google is aware of that but the company believes this will prevent accidental sharing of confidential information with the wrong people.

All the above features under the Confidential Mode umbrella will not be available right now but Google is promising that users will be able to access these features in the coming weeks.

Google has also built a native offline mode, which was apparently a highly requested feature. Users can now access their email while they are offline from the standard Gmail tab. This is something that has been a feature for a long time on email clients like Outlook, but according to the Verge this feature took such a long time coming because the company had to do “a rewrite of the entire technical stack of Gmail was required to make this possible.”

Additional features

Some other ancillary features that have been added include:

  • Email snoozing which is now a common feature among third-party email apps and even Google’s own Inbox has made its way to Gmail. With this feature users can snooze the notification of an email to appear later, it essentially serves as a reminder for an important email that a user plans to open later.
  • There is a new hover menu that shows the most common interactions you might want with an email — archive, delete, mark as read, or snooze for later — as you hover your mouse cursor above each message in your inbox.
  • There’s also a new feature called nudging of emails, which resurfaces old emails that the system recognises as needing a time-sensitive action or response. So this could be paying an important bill or meeting a submission deadline. This will raise a few privacy concerns though.
  • Another feature that will be migrating over from Google’s Inbox is the smart reply feature which offers a set of replies in context of a mail that the users can choose. This is useful on mobiles as it will be faster than typing out a short reply.