Google modifies compose in Gmail

Martin Brinkmann
Oct 30, 2012
Email, Gmail

Google a few minutes ago announced a change affecting their popular email service Gmail. The change affects how you compose emails when you use the interface on the Google Mail website. Previously, when you wanted to compose an email, the compose interface opened up directly on the page making it difficulty to quickly open another email while composing or running a search to find a particular email that you wanted to reference. Most Gmail users probably opened the service in two tabs or two browser windows if they needed to compose and work with the interface at the same time.

The new Gmail compose opens in a window on the screen, much like chat does, only larger. Since it only takes up part of the browser window, it is possible to use all the underlying controls of the Gmail page. You can take a look at new emails that just came in, run a search or perform any other kind of action that is available while using Gmail.

gmail new compose

You can minimize compose windows at anytime to write multiple messages at once on the same screen. That's not the only change coming to the compose feature. When you add recipients to emails you will now see profile snapshots - when available - in the suggestion list so that you can identify recipients by that and not only by email or user name.

You are probably asking yourself where all the formatting options went. They are still available but not displayed by default. Just click on the A icon to access them in the compose window. Here is a quick rundown of all features of the compose window right now:

  • Recipients: Enter one or multiple recipients. Use CC or BCC links to add recipients to these.
  • Text Formating: Click on the A icon
  • Attachments: Click on the attachment icon
  • Insert Options: Click on the + icon to add photos, links, emoticons and Google Calendar events.
  • Discard: The trash icon discards the draft.
  • More Options: Opens a menu with tools such as spell check, plain text format emails, printing and adding labels.

Emails are automatically saved while you are writing them. The save now button has been removed and is no longer available because of it. Drafts are also automatically saved when you close the compose window.

Changes have also been made when you are replying or forwarding emails:

  • Click into the recipient field to see all recipients when you are replying to an email.
  • Click on the arrow to check and change the type of response between reply, reply all or forward.
  • To change the subject, click on the arrow next to the recipient's name and select start separate conversation
  • To see the previous message in the reply, click on the Show trimmed content icon to display it.

Some features are not yet available:

  • Insert emoticons and event invitations
  • Print drafts from the More menu
  • Add labels to outgoing messages from the More menu
  • Send read receipts (Google Apps users only)
  • Canned responses

The new compose window is currently only available as a preview. This preview is rolled out later today. To switch to the new compose window, you need to click on the new compose window experience link after you have clicked on the compose button on the Gmail website. To go back click Compose to open the new compose window, there the More Menu under the down arrow icon and there on Switch back to old compose.

It is likely that the new Gmail compose window will make it simpler for the bulk of users. Advanced users on the other hand who often use features that were readily available directly on the compose screen may now notice that they have to click more often to use some of the features.


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  1. Phil said on April 23, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    Unlike most of the folks posting here, I could live with the user interface changes, if they worked. Unfortunately now my gmail doesn’t work almost at all (whether with the new compose or back with the old). It hangs up repeatedly, won’t switch back to the In folder once a message is opened, won’t let me input into the To, Cc or even the message field sometimes. Dang I’m screwed. Our entire school uses gmail. Lately I’ve been cutting and pasting stuff over to my personal (non-gmail) email service to correspond with colleagues. Not cool!

  2. SL said on April 14, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    WORST update to Google EVER.

    Do those complete morons actually USE the product before foisting it upon millions of users.

  3. jas said on April 3, 2013 at 9:13 am

    @Google mail.Sorry your new mail pop feature is not good enough.Even after clicking the ARROW full screen feature is not as good as present (old) gmail feature.Let it be optional feature only and not permanent .When pop window opens it should ask ”if we would like to use new feature” .You may be surprised to see the response,give it a try.

  4. CArlos said on April 2, 2013 at 12:17 am

    I think exactly the same,
    what a full shit of interface.
    It a big piece of shit coming from google:
    una “puta mierda”.

    I do not want to see this stupid silly window to write a mail,
    what stupid brains are working now at google, this people has a 0 sinapsis working I think … what a disaster.
    That can be good for a 160×120 pixel devices, it is not serious for my PC. It is horrible, all out of place, difficult to do.

    I will change gmail by other, or install a client, when I can not use old interface.
    What stupid people.
    If you change something, make a better thing, how can you come with this shit … with not option to use the old … brains go down in microsoft, and in google the same … what disaster, this is a gmail windows Vista style.
    All for your mother my friend, or for the dog.

  5. Dan said on March 29, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    This new method of composing e-mails bothers me. Give me the full view to compose the message. I don’t want to “temporarily” switch back to how it was I want it to stay that way forever.

  6. anon said on March 29, 2013 at 11:21 am

    Gmail sucks now!! Now I have to click more buttons to compose an email! What the Faaaaack???!! I thought upgrades and modifications should make life easier?! No more Gmail for me!

  7. cipher_nemo said on March 29, 2013 at 8:42 am

    This New Compose SUCKS! Why does Google keep trying to force “new” designs on us.

    I DON’T want my compose to open in a new window.
    I DON’T want my compose to be stuck to the far right of my screen.
    I DON’T want a new compose.

    I switched back to the old style. This sort of thing drives away more customers than it brings in. Haven’t they learned their lesson yet from everything else they floundered on?

    To respond to the article: I can do other things in Gmail while having a compose mail open by simply opening Gmail in a new tab. There’s no point in the “new compose”.

    1. BRIAN said on April 10, 2013 at 3:13 pm

      Can you let me know how to change back to the old “compose”

      I dont like the new one either.

  8. Roman ShaRP said on November 10, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    Got this update and reverted to the old Compose almost immediately. As new Gmail interface and theming, for me the new Compose sucks. Too bad there is no button like “Punch the creators of this crap in the head to make them feel what the crap they are doing”.

    They could be less annoying if leaving to users something very like old behavior. Theme very like old Gmail, for example, and more cleare and usable interface to switch off the freaking innovations, like separate tab “Set me free from your creative madness” in settings, with checkboxes to turn off what you don’t like.

  9. Greg said on November 7, 2012 at 5:51 am


    Except the TAB key does not work as expected (by me) within the new compose window. Once you type the destination address TAB should take me to the subject and then to the body. But instead it takes me back up to the main portion of the window.

    Very annoying.



  10. Jo said on November 3, 2012 at 1:22 am

    That explains why its broken. This company doesnt test anymore nor do they listen to their customers…

    I wont even get into what is wrong with it as I dont get paid enough to test googles products AND have to live with their advertising on my “free” products.

  11. Merav said on November 2, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    Ah ha! I found a way to fix it. Click the tiny ‘Tasks’ button on the left hand side above the inbox, and it will pull up the suppressed attempts to compose. On the left hand side of one of the composition boxes (at least on Firefox) it will then offer you a non-obvious drop down menu. You can then revert to the old compose.

    I feel like I have managed to dodge a bullet with this, so I hope it’s helpful to all of you as well.

    1. Dominik said on March 30, 2013 at 12:53 pm

      Unfortunately this change back is only temporary.

  12. Merav said on November 2, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    Add me to the list of unhappy customers. I can’t use my e-mail to send either. I don’t see the reversion button when I hit reply and moreover if I try to reply to someone it freezes that e-mail and then I can’t view it. In fact, I can’t view anything in my draft folder.

    This breaks a very useful tool that I used multiple times a day. I am in the middle of an e-mail intensive week what with Hurricane Sandy and the need to coordinate people who are stranded in various places, so I am really not thrilled with Google’s choice to roll this out now.

    1. Jo said on November 3, 2012 at 1:23 am

      Google doesnt give a damn about your needs and wants. Dont be fooled.

  13. greg said on November 2, 2012 at 12:26 am

    terrible user experience for me – I don’t like having to shift my gaze to the bottom of the screen. Maybe I’ll get used to that, but for the first few times it seems like a deal breaker that will shift me to another mail app.

  14. BrokenGmail said on November 1, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    I can no longer compose an email either. Tried removing extensions (even if this is the solution – GREAT! Now I can’t have my extensions if I want to use email?!?!) – no avail… Very VERY unhappy.

  15. keyboardguy said on November 1, 2012 at 7:24 am

    great, but I can’t write an email in the new feature. A lot of static on the web on this. There’s no way to turn it off. Obviously gmail did not test this thoroughtly. Now I can’t use gmail except to receive mail. Think before you click to try now

  16. ruudster101 said on October 31, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    sry …something did go wrong…

    Recently I came across a bookmarlet thats very handy indeed.

  17. M. said on October 31, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    Yes, I definitely want to revert to the functional (“old”) compose window. How can I do that?

  18. ruudster101 said on October 31, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    Recently I came across a bookmarlet thats very ha

  19. Peter said on October 31, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    Wah!!! It’s broken for me too in IE with a javascript error.

  20. E said on October 31, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    Jim, LinLin, et al:

    Click an email in your inbox to open it and hit reply. In the lower right corner of the “new” reply box is an arrow with a dropdown where you can disable the new compose.

    Horrible, horrible, awful, horrible. Gmail why do you continue to suck more and more.

  21. Jim Carter said on October 31, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    Thanks Google….now when I click Compose, NOTHING HAPPENS. I can’t compose ANY EMAILS!

  22. LinLin said on October 31, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    Sorry to rain on everyone’s parade, but the change really does not work for me.
    I don’t get the compose window coming up at all, so I cannot send any emails or even change back to the old system.

    Does anybody know how I can change back? I would really, really like to be able to send emails again!

    Repeat — the compose window does NOT come up at all.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on October 31, 2012 at 3:29 pm

      There does not appear to be a direct link to undo the change, only the – JavaScript I presume – when you can access the compose window. My suggestion, try a different web browser to see if it resolves the issue. If you are using extensions, check if they may interfere with the compose window.

  23. ondiz said on October 31, 2012 at 11:58 am

    Very nice but: “Insert emoticons” = inutilities

  24. Yoav said on October 31, 2012 at 11:00 am

    Pretty good. I especially like that previous replies to the same mail are automatically hidden but easily and clearly available by hitting the 3 dots button. However, apparently there is no way to turn this view on and off. Too bad.

  25. SB said on October 31, 2012 at 7:48 am

    What they should be upgrading is their corporate culture. It has likely tanked so much that it would take superhuman effort to fish it from the figurative toilet. That actually brings an old SuperNews! episode to mind; however, no puns were intended. All concerned citizens and upstanding public servants should see the content at the below url:

    Those who view that content and follow the directions–and are not yet jaded beyond the point of no return–will likely be appalled and p.o.’d to the nth degree.

  26. SuilAmhain said on October 30, 2012 at 11:59 pm

    Genius. Simple but very helpful.

  27. ilev said on October 30, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    Even today you can open Compose in a new window using the “open in a new window” icon
    to the right to the recipient field.

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