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Gmail's biggest redesign in years puts pressure on Slack, Microsoft Teams

(Image credit: Google)

Gmail is getting its biggest redesign in years, merging various communication tools into the email service. No longer just an email app, Gmail will integrate with Google's other work-focused tools, including Chat, Rooms and Meet, to deliver a unified experience that is more similar to Slack and Microsoft Teams.

Spurred by changing work environments caused by COVID-19, Google's goal is to combine the "three core pillars of communication:" email, chat and video. 

The company has already laid the groundwork for its so-called "integrated workspace" by bringing Meet to Gmail (web, Android and iOS) so users can join a video meeting straight from an inbox for free. And last month, Google added Google Chat to Gmail on the web so you can seamlessly switch between email to chat. Also, the Meet video chat service was brought to Gmail on iOS and Android last month.

Gmail gets new collaboration tools

Google wants Gmail to be a one-stop-shop for enterprise users so it's adding collaboration tools that allow employees to work together on projects. Chat rooms will now let you share files and tasks, so you can organize long-term projects. 

Groups and organizational teams will have quicker access to a shared chat, important documents and to-do lists, which will all be housed in one place. Chat will also let you create rooms with people outside of your company so contractors, consultants and freelancers can be included.

(Image credit: Google)

Most of the changes coming to Gmail are about making it easier to access tools so you can jump between services without a disruption in your work. To that end, you'll soon be able to work on projects directly in Gmail, without having to open a separate Google Docs or Sheets window. Other examples of this tighter integration include the ability to join a video call from chat, forward a chat message to your inbox, or create a task from a chat message. 

Other abilities being added to the updated Gmail include:

  • Pin important rooms so they’re easier to find and access
  • Set your availability to “Do Not Disturb”
  • Better protect your time with status notices like “Out of office” 

The new Gmail will arrive as an "early access preview" to G Suite customers this week before becoming widely available later in the year. Not much will change in the short term for everyday Gmail users, although Google said it's “actively thinking through how and when to bring this experience to the consumers who might want it.”