Chances are that you have seen extremely long links when you receive an e-mail that contains a Google Maps address or driving instructions. This gets annoying, especially on mobile devices, because not only do the links take up a lot of space, but they also make it hard to find out the important information, such as the address, hidden within it.
Now that has just changed for Gmail users who use the iPhone or Android-powered devices to read their e-mail.
On Tuesday, GoogleMobile announced the Smart Links feature, a mechanism that automatically shortens a raw link and converts it into a meaningful phrase with the link embedded. Click on the phrase and the link will open just like with the original raw link.
For example, when you receive a Google Maps link of CBSi's address via Gmail using the iPhone's browser, instead of seeing a long string of characters, you will see the actual like this 235 2nd St, San Francisco, CA 94105. The address is hyper-linked and when clicked on will launch Google Maps showing the location of our HQ office.
Smart Links is part of GoogleMobile's Interative Webapp series that focus on developing and enhancing Gmail features specifically for the iPhone and Android-powered devices.
Currently, Smart Links supports four types of links: Google Maps address queries, Google Maps directional queries (with one destination), Google Sites Web pages, and links to YouTube videos. It's available only in English and, for now, only works with e-mails composed in plain text format.
In the future, Smart Links will also work with more link types, such as Google Docs, according to GoogleMobile.
There's nothing you have to do to use this feature other than checking your Gmail account via the Web browser on an iPhone/iPod Touch (running OS 2.2.1 or later) or an Android-powered device.
Note that you need to use the mobile browser to take advantage of this feature, other mail clients, such as the iPhones Mail app, don't support it.
I tried the new feature with on my iPhone 3GS and it worked very well. However, I wish it also supported e-mails formatted in rich text or HTML formats. That would make it more useful as most e-mails are sent using these formats.