Google offers Gmail users a window into Calendar and Docs

Gmail users will be able to look at Google Calendar and Google Docs data without having to open the hosted applications.

Google this week unveiled gadgets created by its Google Labs project that allow Gmail users to look at Google Calendar and Google Docs data without having to open the hosted applications.

For example, Gmail users can use one of the gadgets to see their Calendar agenda and get alerted when a meeting is scheduled, Google said. Another gadget could show users a list of recently accessed Google Docs and let them search across all documents from within Gmail.

Google Labs, which solicits user feedback as it develops products, also created the ability to add any gadget to Gmail by pasting in the URL of its XML file, noted Google engineer Dan Pupius in a blog post.

The new products are the latest in a series of offerings to come out of Google Labs in recent months.

Earlier this month Google Labs rolled out Mail Goggles aimed at preventing Gmail users from sending email that they might later regret. Last month Google Labs rolled out a test version of an audio search indexing system that's designed to find specific words in videos and let users jump to the portion of the video where the words are used. And In August, the company unveiled Google Labs-developed Google Suggest, which suggests search queries as users type words or letters.

Pupius said he hopes to get more feedback from users on the new gadgets. "We realize this isn't very user friendly right now; it's a sandbox mainly aimed at developers who want to play around with gadgets in Gmail. There are also some downsides to the iframe-style Gadgets we're using today -- they can sometimes slow down the page. We're fanatical about speed, so we'll be keeping a close eye on performance," he added.

He went on to note that not all of the new gadgets are fully compatible to Hypertext Transfer Protocol over Secure Socket Layer (HTTPS), so users connecting to Gmail via an HTTPS connection may see content warnings caused by parts of the gadgets being served over Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP.)

Rick Turoczy, a blogger at Read Write Web, noted that many users of Google Apps spend a lot of their time in Gmail, where the majority of activity happens. However, he noted that they likely are still interested in keeping tabs on their schedule and what is happening with their work.

"The new Gmail gadgets are designed to make your Gmail interface more inclusive by providing views into your other Google apps - without having to leave your Gmail inbox," he added. "While the real estate is constrained, the view manages to provide just enough detail, giving you access to upcoming meetings and appointments and a glimpse of the latest documents on file.

Turoczy went on to note that the Google Labs likely holds the key to future Gmail features.

"It will be interesting to see what users choose to install and adopt from Labs - and equally interesting what they choose to ignore - because that will determine what Google decides to bake into future features of Gmail, itself," he said. "I think it's safe to assume that these two latest gadgets from Labs are leading candidates for core Gmail functionality, especially given how simply and effectively they combine access to the most popular Google apps in the place where most users live and breathe - their inbox.

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Heather Havenstein

Computerworld
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