Gmail's 'peek' mode is good for Netbook screens

A new message preview feature in Gmail's labs ends up being a handy productivity tool for Netbook users.

Early adopters of Netbooks have a nice new option in Gmail, courtesy of a labs update that went out Thursday. The feature, called "message sneak peek" is a simple pop-up preview of the message. It's not a full version of the message, but in most cases it's enough to read the entire thing without having to leave your in-box.

The peek feature must first be turned on in labs. It can then can be summoned by hitting the "H" key on your keyboard (if you have a message selected), or by right-clicking on a message.

Message peek lets you read most of an e-mail message without actually having to open it in Gmail. Screenshot by Josh Lowensohn / CNET

What does this have to do with Netbooks you ask? Well, if you're one of those users who bought a model with a small screen resolution, you're probably spending more time reading messages individually than leaving your in-box open, since you can only see so much text in the in-box message preview.

With peek enabled, you can just cruise through your e-mail (even with the normal "J" and "K" keyboard shortcuts) and never have to open up individual messages--that is, unless they extend outside of the sneak peek area. This gives you a better idea of when the message was sent, and its relation to other messages in your in-box. This change also brings use one step closer to having a real two-pane view, as iPad owners can now enjoy .

The one slight drawback with this system, is that message peeks are not counted as a read, so you'll have to go back and check off each message as read in order to drop your in-box counter closer to zero. There is however, a "mark as read" button within each peek, which can be clicked without having to open up the full message.

Along with the message peek, Gmail also introduced a nested labels option to labs, which gives users a way to add hierarchical order to their labels. This actually gives labels a folder-like feel, while remaining within the confines of Gmail's labeling system. You can see an example of it over on the Gmail blog.

About the author

Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.


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