Google has launched a new feature through its Gmail Labs called Search Autocomplete, which brings to e-mail what already exists for the company's generalized search: the ability to see a real-time list of possible target terms after typing just a few letters in Gmail's search bar.
"One of the most popular searches in Gmail is for names or e-mail addresses, so the first kind of suggestions you'll see are contacts," Google Software Engineer Ibrahim Bokharouss wrote on a corporate blog April 2. "With this new Labs feature you can just type a couple letters and select the desired contact from the drop-down list. Easy and quick as that."
In addition, Search Autocomplete now fills in advanced search operators for the Gmail user, allowing a higher degree of specificity without the user needing to insert traditional search query terminology.
For example, if a user with Search Autocomplete enabled wants to search for attachments or photos sent by a client, typing the client's name and the term "photos" into the search bar will produce a drop-down option list that says "has photos" or "has attachments." If the user selects it, the search query terminology (in the case of "has photos," it would be "filename: (jpg or png),") will appear in the Gmail search bar.
Google has been rolling out features for Gmail Labs, a holding pen for more experimental features such as the ability to preview YouTube videos in e-mail, at a steady clip the week of March 30. Some 43 Gmail Labs applications currently exist.
On March 30, Google announced that Gmail Labs would be available in 49 languages; previously, that aspect of its service had only been available in English.
Gmail has become increasingly competitive against Microsoft, Yahoo and other e-mail providers, even as it adds more features designed to make it more appealing for business and enterprise use. The number of monthly unique Gmail visitors rose to 29.6 million in 2008.
To make its cloud-based services more vigorous, Google has also allowed Gmail and applications such as Google Calendar to be used offline.