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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).

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