Make Gmail Look More Like Outlook

One complaint I always get around the office is “Gmail sucks.  It doesn’t look like Outlook.”   For a lot of businesses, this statement would not matter or occur. However, my company is all in on the Google Apps bandwagon and we are not going to go to an Exchange/Outlook ecosystem to satisfy a few people.

I really like how Gmail displays most information.  It is meant to showcase tagging and search.  Needless to say, some “classic” email users are used to the folder views, preview panes and other such needs.  With the help of the almighty Google, I have figured out how to take some of the “hate” against of the Gmail and move the anger down to a low-simmer.

First off, these options require Chrome.  Using Chrome instead of IE is the first step.  After that, extensions can get us the rest of the way.

Option #1

One way, and possibly the easiest way is to use the Gmail Offline Chrome extension.

The bad news: It’s a bit different again from the original Gmail interface and requires a different link and shortcut (which is the biggest barrier).

The good news: It works without an internet connection.

Option #2

Enable the preview window in Gmail’s Labs.

Mashable has a good post on how to enable the preview window by:

  1. Go to the Gmail Gear settings menu
  2. Click on Labs
  3. Search for Preview Pane
  4. Click the Enable radio button
  5. Click Save
  6. Show your inbox with the pane by clicking the new button in the top right hand side

Yea!  You have a preview pane.  But wait!  There is a lot of annoying white space being used for a “Person Widget.”  Personally, I do not care how many circles a person is in.  I want to email them, not post to their wall.

Remove the Person Widget

You can remove the Person widget by going back into settings.

  1. Go to the Gmail Gear settings menu
  2. Click the disable radio button under People Widget
  3. Scroll to the bottom of the page and Click Save

There. It is gone.  But is it?  The white space is still there.  Gah!  The circles will never leave me alone!  Good news though.  This reduces page requests to Google and speeds up the Gmail experience slightly.

Get Rid of That White Space by Overriding Some CSS

Chrome to the rescue!  By using an extension, we can make everything go all the way to the end of the screen and give us what we’re really after.

The extension is Personalized Web.

The steps to destroy this blasphemy of circles interrupting our workflow are as follows:

  1. Install Personalized Web
  2. Go to your Chrome wrench and then go to Tools > Extensions
  3. Find Personalized Web and click options
  4. Now that it is in edit mode, add a new rule
  5. Name = Gmail
    Match URL = https://mail.google.com
    Add the following to the CSS field
        .Bu:nth-child(2) { display:none; }
        .Bu:nth-child(3) { display:none; } 
  6. Click Save
  7. Refresh Gmail
  8. Celebrate

Then the person widget is totally gone and everything looks great!

Whew!  That was a lot of work.  Now, just by logging into Gmail, you get the preview pane you want and not have to worry about different links or worry about clicking the wrong shortcut.   It works great and will hopefully make everyone a bit happier.

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