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Six Labs features now standard for Gmail users

Better search, customizable label colors, YouTube previews, and other features have 'graduated' from Gmail Labs into the mainstream version of the Google's e-mail service.

Google has released six technologies tested in its Gmail Labs for use in the mainstream product, including a forgotten attachment detector, previews of YouTube videos, and an autoresponder to send automatic replies while on vacation.

The search company uses Gmail Labs to test the popularity and utility of new technologies, but so far it's been rare that labs features such as Gmail tasks "graduate" into Gmail proper. Google has put 60 features through public testing at Gmail Labs, but on Wednesday picked some winners and losers.

The ability to choose custom colors for Gmail labels is now a standard feature.
The ability to choose custom colors for Gmail labels is now a standard feature. Google

Built into Gmail for all users now are the following, according to a blog post by Google programmer Mark Knichel:

• Search autocomplete, which starts filling in search results with e-mail addresses or other matching data when a person starts typing in Gmail's search field--though only for English Gmail users at this stage. This feature also has incorporated another Labs technology, go to label, which enables a keyboard shortcut sequence of G, then L, to initiate a search restricted to a particular Gmail label. (For those not familiar with Gmail's label concept, think of it in this case as searching within a folder.)

• Forgotten attachment detector, which looks for phrases such as "I've attached" in your e-mail, if there's no attachment actually there, and prompts you to see if you neglected to include one.

• YouTube previews, which converts a YouTube Web address into a small video player. Two related Labs features, though, which similarly provide thumbnail preview images based on Flickr and Picasa Web Albums Web addresses, are still in Labs. I've found the Flickr viewer to work inconsistently, though I appreciate it when it does work. Gmail provides lots of storage space, but in general I support sending URLs rather than actual images.

• Vacation responder, which lets people set up Gmail to send automatic replies when they're away from the computer.

• And custom label colors, which provide more options for the small tags that show in Gmail's inbox indicating which labels a message sports.

On this occasion, Google also expelled Labs features: fixed-width font; muzzle, which trimmed chat contacts' status messages; e-mail addict, which imposed a 15-minute screen block to get people to take a break; random signature, which dropped quotations into your e-mail; and location in signature, which would add your computer-detected city and country to e-mail.

Some of the goof-offs in the Labs classroom still are around, though: Back to Beta, which restores the much-derided beta label that Gmail sported for years; Mail Goggles, which makes you jump through some math hoops before you can send late-night e-mails; and Old Snakey, the classic video game with an ever-lengthening snake gobbling up bait.