Old Compose for Chrome restores Gmail's old compose interface

Martin Brinkmann
Sep 14, 2013
Updated • Jul 4, 2019
Email, Gmail

Google back in April 2013 changed the Gmail compose interface in a significant matter. Instead of opening it in its own page on the Gmail website, it now opened as a small window attached as an overlay on the page you were on. The window was a lot smaller, and while there have been options to enlarge it or center it on the screen, it was still disliked by Gmail users who wanted the old interface back.

This was possible for some time, as Google displayed an option to return to the old compose interface on the Gmail website. Eventually though, the company removed the link leaving users with nothing but the new interface to compose emails on.

Update: We have removed the link to the extension as it is no longer working correctly. You can try an extension like Gmail Classic/Old Theme instead.

Old Compose is a Google Chrome extension that restores the old interface on Gmail.

Note: The extension is not listed in the Chrome Web store, and the developers of it have put in place several hurdles that you have to jump over before you can download it. They require you to enter an email address first, and then make a post on Twitter or Facebook about it, before you get access to the download. Someone did however upload the latest version of the Old Compose extension here, so that you can download it directly.

gmail old compose

To install Old Compose in Google Chrome, click on the settings button in the main toolbar and select Tools > Extensions from the options. You can alternatively load chrome://extensions/ directly.

Drag and drop the downloaded file to the page to get the installation dialog and install it in the browser.

The developer has created an instructional video that walks you through the installation.

When you visit Gmail afterwards and click on compose there on the page, you will notice that the compose interface opens up like it did before Google made the change.


If you want Gmail's old compose window back, this is your chance to to do. While limited to Chrome, it is the best solution so far to achieve just that.

There are a couple of things to not like about the extension and they are all linked to how it is offered and distributed. First, it is not offered in the official Chrome store which may raise some alarm bells as it has not been checked for security issues or malicious contents.

Second, forcing users to provide the makers with an email address and to make a post on Twitter or Facebook  before they can download and install the extension makes it look like an email harvesting and link bait extension more than anything else.

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  1. Michael said on November 23, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    I’ve LOVED old compose. Did it stop Chrome “extending” the morning of 11/23/2013? No longer works and can’t be downloaded/installed.

    Thanks for a wonderful extension!

  2. Marvin said on October 3, 2013 at 10:15 pm

    There is another extension “Classic Gmail Compose”. It brings back the old Compose mail window and the best part, you don’t have to provide your email address or tweet about. Check this for how to install the extension – http://www.fixnowsupport.com/3/post/2013/10/how-to-switch-back-to-old-gmail-compose-mail-screen.html
    This is a direct link for the extension on the Chrome Webstore – https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/classic-gmail-compose/cbmmejeeogjpfmdlcdkolobdlohjkmjn

  3. Edgar said on October 3, 2013 at 5:30 pm

    Thanks for the info

  4. Julia said on September 26, 2013 at 8:20 am

    I with Firefox use UAControl addon, works with Chrome, too. Info here: http://lifehacker.com/gmail-compose-windows-noisy-environments-and-progress-1373808205

  5. Sylvio Haas said on September 18, 2013 at 3:06 am

    I have the same IE, my O.S. is Win7x32 Home but I believe that these bit differences are meaningless.
    I tried with Chrome again and it did not work. May be I’m doing something wrong. IE did not install the referred KB, it stated that “the script is too long” and freezed IE. I tried it three times. Chesscanoe, thank you for your kind help, but I’ll keep on with my extension, it provides me with what I need. I’m not such a good pilot!!! lol Thank you, again.

  6. Sylvio Haas said on September 17, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    Yesterday I downloaded a new Chrome extension called “Fix GMail Compose” and it is doing very well. No additional steps required, just download it from Google Store and start using.

    1. chesscanoe said on September 17, 2013 at 6:29 pm

      Just before installing, the “Fix Gmail Compose” extension says “It can access your data on all websites as well as tabs and browsing activity” if my memory is correct. I’ll pass and just use the shortcut Shift-d to get a full Gmail Compose window on all browsers I care about.

      1. chesscanoe said on September 18, 2013 at 1:34 am

        The Shift-d shortcut for Gmail does work for me in IE 10.0.9200.16686 level with KB2870699 installed (Win7x64 Home). You may have to disable popup blocking in IE for the shortcut to work to get a full screen Compose window. I also confirmed the shortcut works well using Chrome Version 30.0.1599.37 beta-m, my default browser.

      2. Sylvio Haas said on September 17, 2013 at 10:03 pm

        The majority -if not all- extensions state that (“It can access your data on all websites as well as tabs and browsing activity”), it is a risk for sure. I tried to use shift-d with IE and it did not work! May be other keys… ? Thank you for the tip, anyway.

  7. Matt said on September 15, 2013 at 11:13 pm

    The author of this extension is going to great lengths to obfuscate his code and methods which makes me nervous. I’ve pulled apart the .crx and have de-obfuscated the code for your perusal.


    1. David Murphy said on September 15, 2013 at 11:30 pm

      Frankly, I’d be more nervous about what Google does to your data. Far more insidious, and entirely at the whim of US gov/their commercial interests. The latter I can tolerate – I signed up for it after all.

      The oldcompose.com web site has privacy / T&C’s available. It turns out someone ripped them off with the chromestore link, so it’s been taken down. You are safer getting it through the actual site.

  8. Robert Palmar said on September 15, 2013 at 5:01 am

    My guess is this extension should work in Opera 15+ as well.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on September 15, 2013 at 10:07 am

      That’s very likely, yes.

      1. Robert Palmar said on September 16, 2013 at 2:59 am

        Finally made time to try it and indeed it works
        using the same drag and drop method into Opera 16.
        Oddly enough Gmail seems snappier in Opera vs Chrome.

  9. RedMtl said on September 14, 2013 at 8:26 pm

    Nice article, and the link to the non-insert-your-e-mail-here version is appreciated.

    As I don’t like Chrome I’ll hope for a FireFox version. That said, however, I applaud these gents for taking a helpful step. More than Google has done.

    I also disagree with the entering an e-mail, and/or the Twitter and FaceBook angle. I certainly understand why the guys who came up with this would like to get the word out there, but by demanding that someone use FaceBook or Twitter to spread the word they are cutting off a lot of users who might otherwise speak favourably of their efforts.

    I’m more than willing to encourage and support them, and spread the word, but I (and quite a lot of others, actually) do not make any use whatsoever of social networking. Period.

    So, limiting me from downloading because I don’t have such access it actually defeating their purpose.

    1. Kata said on September 21, 2013 at 11:03 am

      There’s finally a firefox version of the plub-in to get the old compose back:


      1. Martin Brinkmann said on September 21, 2013 at 11:19 am

        Great find, thanks!

  10. David Murphy said on September 14, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    You can get the extension without having to tweet etc here:


    I confess, I wasn’t overly keen on a required FB post. I installed it, and then raved about it under my own steam (on FB…. I don’t tweet). Otherwise, works perfectly for me :-)

  11. tommy said on September 14, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    Thanks, you can also get the old Gmail compose in IE8 or IE with compatibility mode. Google recently implemented the “Edit Subject” feature in the old Gmail compose, I hope they won’t change more things in the old one and they will change many in the new one.

  12. Peter said on September 14, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    The new Gmail Compose is tolerable if you pop it out to a new, full-page tab by shift-left-clicking either the Compose button or (if you forgot) the little Compose pop-up window’s “full-screen” (sic) button. But I really mean that it’s merely tolerable. I’ve been getting some very annoying cursor behavior in Compose and Reply windows.

    Other Gmail Tidbits

    Text highlighting didn’t disappear; it’s now subsumed in the “Text Color” button, which has two side-by-side panels, “Background color” (highlighting) and “Text Color” (font color).

    Last I checked, when a Gmail message is sent to a Hotmail account, plain paragraph indents (unnumbered, unbulleted) disappear on the recipient’s end.

    Other Google “Improvements”

    Has anyone tried the “new” Google Maps? It takes forever to load and I can’t for the life of me find most of the controls I routinely use. (Want to create a link to the map you’re viewing? I wish you better luck than I had.) I went back to the old Google Maps after a few days and am dreading the prospect of Google dropping them and making new Maps the only option.

  13. clas said on September 14, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    hi martin. another good tip, thanks……yeah, gmail is that love-hate relationship. its a really good email service but then they continue making changes that no one but their developers like. i have tried them all: gmail, yahoo, hotmail, earthlink, hushmail, aol and more. My latest favorite for a really nice writing interface is Inbox.com … as with any of the others, it takes some settings and there are always things you dont like. but overall, inbox is really standing tall in my book.

  14. chesscanoe said on September 14, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    If Google blessed this extension, I’d use it if there were no hoops to traverse. For now, I’ll just use the easy “Shift-d” shortcut to get a full screen compose window.

    1. Blue.bsod said on September 15, 2013 at 9:27 pm

      “Shift d” ?? is this with a lab like Keyboard shortcuts turned on?

      1. chesscanoe said on September 16, 2013 at 7:28 am

        No Lab trick involved. When Gmail has focus, hold the shift key down and tap the d key for a new full screen compose window to appear. This works not only when using Chrome, but probably other browsers like IE and Opera as well. It has full Google support.

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