Gmail’s New AI
In late April, Google gave its email service a significant overhaul. Besides getting a new look that includes a slightly different font style and differently shaped buttons, the interface has artificial intelligence features built into it.
Available Around the World
Every week, 1.4 billion people use Gmail. Individuals only have to click on the Try the New Gmail link in Settings in the personal version.
In G Suite, people with administrative privileges can turn on the new interface under the admin console as part of the Early Adopter Program.
Choose From Several Inbox Types
When envisioning a Gmail inbox, many people recall the tabs at the top labeled Primary, Social, Promotions and so on depending on specific settings. It’s still possible to work with that inbox — which is now called Default — but the new Gmail provides several other inbox types. People will notice some of the AI components when they explore them.
A user chooses a new type of inbox by hovering the cursor over the inbox link and waiting to see the drop-down arrow. When it appears, clicking the arrow shows the new kinds of inboxes. There are two with AI components.
The Important First option puts messages from the people interacted with most often at the top of the inbox, making an individual more likely to see it.
There’s also a Priority inbox that combines all the emails from the tabs that are part of the Default inbox and displays them in order of importance based on past habits.
Try the Smart Compose and Reply Features
There are numerous ways to automate an inbox, and in the case of the new Gmail, automation is arguably one of the most time-consuming parts of email management. Figuring out responses or composing emails from scratch can be tedious.
A new feature called Smart Compose gives suggested words and phrases as people type. They can accept the prompted content by hitting the Tab key. Those who want to give it a try can click on the gear icon at the top right of their inboxes.
It’s then necessary to click Settings and scroll down to the section for Experimental Access. Then, select the option to turn it on. After saving the change, individuals see an option in the main settings panel to turn Smart Compose on or off.
People using Gmail on mobile devices have likely already seen the Smart Reply buttons appearing at the bottom of a received email. AI technology analyzes the message content, then offers buttons with short replies such as “That’s great, thank you!” or “I appreciate it!” based on the message content.
Google reports that the Smart Reply feature processes hundreds of millions of messages by the day and generates 10 percent of replies on mobile devices. Now, Smart Reply is a part of the desktop version of Gmail, too. The potential responses show up directly below the message body.
Get Prompted to Respond to Emails or Unsubscribe From Them
One feature within Gmail’s extensive new redesign caters to people who say, “I meant to reply to you, but never got around to it.” The system learns which emails seem most important, plus keeps track of those that go unanswered.
Then, it generates pop-up boxes in the Gmail interface that remind a user they haven’t responded yet, including a Reply button to urge them to do it.
It’s also possible to go into the Settings section of Gmail, then scroll down to the Nudges section to specify the type of nudges the system gives. People can choose to get nudged about initial replies, follow-up responses or both by selecting the respective checkboxes.
Similarly, another AI component recognizes subscription-based content, such as newsletters or sales announcements. When people repeatedly don’t click on those emails to see what they contain, Gmail asks if they want to unsubscribe.
Select to Only Receive High-Priority Notifications
People using Gmail on their mobile devices can use a new feature that only sends them notifications about high-priority messages instead of alerting them about every bit of incoming content.
Not all users have the feature active within the mobile version of Gmail. However, if it is available, turning it on is as easy as going to the Notifications settings for the Gmail app and choosing the High Priority Only option.
Some people might understandably be wary about activating the setting, wondering if the AI might get it wrong and cause genuinely important emails to fall through the cracks.
They may want to get in the habit of checking their inboxes every couple of hours to see if anything essential came through but didn’t get treated as such by the technology.
What Does the Future Hold?
Gmail is one of the most popular email services, and its decision to incorporate so many AI features into the interface represents a significant amount of progress.
If the features work as intended and earn praise from users, it may not be long before we see other email providers following Gmail’s lead — as Gmail rolls out even more AI features to remain competitive.
By Kayla Matthews
Kayla Matthews is a technology writer dedicated to exploring issues related to the Cloud, Cybersecurity, IoT and the use of tech in daily life.
Her work can be seen on such sites as The Huffington Post, MakeUseOf, and VMBlog. You can read more from Kayla on her personal website.