Google's Gmail team May 18 launched a new Gmail API to let programs in the Google Apps Marketplace put more relevant info right into Gmail messages with contextual gadgets.
The Marketplace is an online store selling usiness applications that integrate with and extend Google Apps.
Contextual gadgets display previews of content from other apps, including Google Docs documents, YouTube videos, Picasa and Flickr photos, and even Yelp reviews.
The idea is that users needn't leave their Gmail inboxes to access other relevant content.
See how contextual gadgets work in this video:
Contextual gadgets can alleviate the pains of knowledge workers who constantly find themselves switching back and forth from e-mail to project management to sales apps, all for the sake of working on one project.
Now third-party developers can write their own contextual gadgets for Gmail and distribute them in the Google Apps Marketplace, Google said.
Some software startups have already created contextual gadget integrations for Gmail in the Marketplace.
For example, the Gist gadget brings together information from across the Web about people users correspond with and aggregates info from profiles, news and updates.
The gadget, which users can see demoed here, automatically retrieves information for anyone in the "From" or "CC" fields and places a profile at the bottom of an opened e-mail.
Xobni developed the Hoover's Gadget in Gmail to help users view company information about the users who e-mail them.
Users can search for other contextual gadget apps for Gmail by searching for apps that list mail integration as a feature in the Marketplace.