In the middle of its annual developers conference, the Google unveiled updates to its popular Gmail service.
Google Thursday announced that it's adding what it calls Quick Action buttons to the free, cloud-based Gmail email service.
The buttons, unveiled during Google I/O, are geared to making email tasks -- responding, organizing, planning -- a bit easier and more efficient, the company said.
"Email is an important part of how we get things done -- from planning an event with friends to organizing that family vacation to Costa Rica," wrote Shalini Agarwal, a Google product manager, in a blog post Wednesday night. "Today, getting those things done is getting a little easier with new quick action buttons in Gmail, designed to help you tackle your digital to-do's as quickly as possible."
The Action Buttons appear next to messages in the inbox and enable users to take an action without opening it the email.
Agarwal noted, for example, that a user might RSVP to a party invitation or rate the restaurant he went to the night before from the inbox.
Google said the updates can also help travelers.
For instance, Gmail will post important information about a user's flight, such as delays, connections and time of departure, in a box at the top of the email. The system will know of the flight from a flight confirmation email.
Ezra Gottheil, an analyst at Technology Business Research, said he's impressed with the update to Gmail.
"This makes sense. Email is almost everybody's core application. It is where both action and reaction start," he said. "When you want to do something, say, ask for something, order something or make an appointment, you often start with an email. Giving you a shortcut to recording the appointment or responding to the email saves time and effort."
Gottheil added that keeping Gmail users happy is critical for Google.
"Gmail is a core application for Google," he said. "Email is the stickiest application there is, and the more consumers Google can attract to Gmail, the more assured is its long-term revenue stream. It's also a real threat to Microsoft Office, and an entree to the corporate world."
Google said Action Buttons will roll out over the next few weeks. The company said it will add more of them down the road.
Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is email@example.com.
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