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June 11, 2010

Better Gmail Multitasking in Google Chrome

This is the second Chrome-only feature in Gmail, after inserting images using drag and drop. If you open the compose page or a conversation in a new window, Gmail uses some tricks to load the new page fast. The downside is that you can't close the initial Gmail tab without also closing the pop-up window.

Here's what happens if you open the compose page in a new window when you use Firefox:



When you try to close the original Gmail tab, a dialog informs you that the compose window will also be closed: "Are you sure you want to navigate away from this page?".


Gmail's blog says that Google Chrome added some code that makes the pop-up windows "long lived".

"If you're using the latest version of Google Chrome, you can now continue to work in popped out windows after you close your main window (especially handy for those of us who always like to keep an eye on our tasks). For the technically curious among you, our friends on the Chrome team made it possible to transfer the code that runs Gmail from one window to another as the window closes. When the window that hosts the code fires an unload event, we move the iframe with the code to a surviving window. Everything continues to run, including timers and outstanding requests."

The enhancement is great, but I'm wary of non-standard features that only work in a browser. The feature is part of HTML5, so it should be implemented in other browsers. Google Chrome happened to be the first browser that implemented it.

Gmail doesn't have tabs, but you can open many views in a new window by shift-clicking on a link, by clicking on the "new window" icon or link. This way, you can keep a conversation open while composing a message (shift-click on "Compose mail" or Shift+c), open Gmail search results in new windows (shift-click on the results), reply to a message in a new window (shift-click on "Reply" or Shift+r).

16 comments:

  1. It's actually not a non-standard feature, it's what HTML5 requires.

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  2. I see. Can you link to the spec?

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  3. Dude, if you're going to make a post about chrome how about you do the screenshots in chrome, or at least don't put the firefox favicon in the picture. kthxbai

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  4. Google Chrome OS is seeming to be the future of OS, with access to the web within a few seconds, remote-access to Windows App, and set of features that it will sport , its surely going to be rocking, read everything on my post :

    http://www.worldshotcake.com/google/chrome-os-can-run-pc-applications/

    Take Care !

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  5. Back in the days Microsoft made certain things work on in IE, i guess this is a improved version of Microsoft tactics.

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  6. i don't really understand, and neither understood with the drag'n'drop-thing: if this is an html5-feature, how can it be limited to one browser? if it is limited to one browser on purpose, and what explanation is there, how is google then better than microsoft in their ie-monopoly-attitude?
    i believe, after web2.0 bandwaggonhopping with buzz, this "chrome is the better browser because we censor our features on other browsers"-attitude is googles second big software mistake. let's just hope this isn't the giant tripping over his shoes.

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  7. People who think that Google has developed this specifically for Chrome have missed the point. Google has utilized a standard HTML5 technique to make this work.

    "if this is an html5-feature, how can it be limited to one browser?"

    That's simple. Not every browser supports all HTML5 features. Browsers have been rolling out support for HTML5 over time... a few elements at a time. Not even Chrome is 100% HTML5 compliant, but it has at least managed to support this particular feature used in Gmail. As soon as Safari supports this HTML5 feature, this Gmail function will work in Safari. The same goes for Firefox and for IE.

    On a side note, as Moiz Saleem Varind alluded to... Chrome OS *is* looking to be a more viable future for computing. With HTML5 support for online/offline web application status... a super-fast JavaScript rendering engine... Native Client for applications which require massive use of CPU and GPU... and with Microsoft working feverishly to get Office to work in Chrome OS... the future is looking bright for the web.

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  8. This is NOTHING NEW! I have used this before.

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  9. Alex: Have you tried this new feature with chat windows? Lifehacker has a post that mentions chat windows, but when I tried it, the chat window closed, too, when I closed Gmail.

    My compose window stay open, but I don't remember if it did that before or not.

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  10. It doesn't work for chat windows.

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  11. Thanks. I wonder why that LH post mentioned chat when it doesn't work.

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  12. Do these improvements apply exclusively to Chrome, or is Firefox affected too?

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  13. Well, Hixie is the spec and the spec is Hixie, so this link will be sufficient.

    More seriously, I see references to auxiliary browsing contexts, opener browsing contexts, and creator browsing contexts, as well as to garbage collection, but I don't see that auxiliary browsing contexts should have a strong reference to their parent.

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  14. (and by parent I meant opener browsing context)

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  15. There's not really anything specific to point to... it's just a side-effect of the way the garbage collection and unloading of child browsing contexts is defined, a result of the combined requirements of many unrelated sentences in multiple sections. It's not even really an HTML5 feature so much as a DOM Level 1 feature that has finally been defined in enough detail to be unambiguous.

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  16. There is no such thing as "a standard HTML5 technique", because HTML5 itself isn't a standard yet.

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