Google is always testing new features for its apps. One of the first stages of the testing period is with employees. Google employees regularly get access to upcoming products and changes still in beta. Once in a while, some of the changes leak out through screenshots and videos employees post about something completely unrelated. This was the case this time around when a screenshot found on the Google Chrome OS bug tracker showed an upcoming version of Gmail with quite a lot of changes.
The screenshot indicates a significant visual revamp for Gmail. The theme colors are slightly different, there are no more rounded corners and so on, but the changes are subtle. However, some of the changes are deeper in nature.
One of the first things you’ll notice are the three new links at the top of the left sidebar labeled “Mail,” “Contacts” and “Tasks.” These links are already present in Gmail but they will be better grouped together to highlight the different ‘modes’ of the app.
Below the three links, Compose Mail is now a button making it stand out from the other menu entries. Another change seems to be the move towards drop-down menus to replace links. The idea is to clean up the interface and bring the things that are related together. For example the ‘select’ options, all, none, unread and so on, are now a drop-down menu rather than individual links. There is also drop-down button to allow you to select between different Google accounts.
Finally, one of the biggest revelations is the “Call phone” button available in the Chat area. This is clearly related to the Google Voice integration the team has been working on. There is a move to create a soft-phone for Google Voice to make it a complete communications tool. There have been rumors of a dedicated app, based on Gizmo5 technology, but the plan is now to have it integrated with Gmail.