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Gmail add-ons could help make your inbox interesting again

Tools from companies like Dialpad and Trello make it possible to turn emails into to-do lists, invoices and entries in your contacts list.

Gmail add-ons let you get more work done without leaving Google's email service.

Gmail add-ons let you get more work done without leaving Google's email service.

Google

In the era of WhatsApp, Snapchat and Slack, email seems like last century's technology revolution. But Google wants to inject new life -- and new usefulness -- into its Gmail service.

On Tuesday, the company announced the arrival of an add-ons system that lets a Gmail message serve as the jumping-off point for many online tasks like tracking job candidates, creating to-do lists and keeping contact lists fresh.

With more than a billion of us using it, Gmail is a powerful force on the internet. But other tools are elbowing in to pull information out of our inboxes and into someplace more useful. Companies like Slack, Salesforce.com and Evernote all rely on integration with other services to be useful. With Gmail's new add-ons, Google's email service could be more of a hub for your life online and less in the periphery.

An add-on lets you turn a Gmail message into an Asana task.

Google

Third-party developers offer add-ons through Google's G Suite marketplace for people using Gmail for the web or Android. When running, they present panels called cards that let you:

  • Generate an invoice in a response email that's integrated with Intuit QuickBooks.
  • Turn an email into to-do list entries tracked with Asana, Trello and Wrike.
  • Capture customer information for use in ProsperWorks service.
  • Link directly to communication services like Dialpad and RingCentral.

For anyone signing lots of PDF paperwork, a Gmail add-on for the DocuSign service is coming soon, Gmail product manager Aakash Sahney said in a blog post.

"With Gmail add-ons, your inbox can contextually surface your go-to app based on messages you receive to help you get things done faster," Sahney said. "Because add-ons work the same across web and Android, you only need to install them once to access them on all of your devices."

For now at least, though, add-ons don't work in Google's Gmail app for iPhones and iPads. "We're working with Apple to bring Add-ons to iOS Gmail users," Google said in a statement, but the company didn't say when that would be done.

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