It's getting hard to keep up with Google's Gmail engineers these days. Every week, the team seems to pump out two announcements worthy of blog posts.
The latest, from Gmail Labs, lets users add Google Calendar and Docs gadgets, or small applications also known as widgets to the left-navigation bar next to Chat and Labels.
Users can now view their Google Calendar agenda and get alerts, and see recently accessed Google Docs that let you search your documents from within Gmail.
Google's Gmail team also created a third lab that to let users add gadgets by pasting in the URL of its XML spec file, but Google is waving Gmail users with no coding experience off this feature because it is a sandbox aimed at developers who want to play around with gadgets in Gmail.
While today's gadgets, created with the Apache Shindig project infrastructure Google used to create OpenSocial, get plopped down in the left navigation bar of Gmail, Gmail Enginbeer Dan Pupius noted:
"We're not tied to the left-nav as a primary way to extend Gmail -- in fact we think it is relatively limited and doesn't offer scalable real estate. There are also some downsides to the iframe-style Gadgets we're using today -- they can sometimes slow down the page. We're fanatical about speed, so we'll be keeping a close eye on performance."
Google in encouraging users to comment on the gadgets, or post a gadget they've created for Gmail in the Labs forum here.
The addition of gadgets to boost Gmail's current functionality point to the modern direction e-mail inboxes are heading.
Inboxes are moving beyond the traditional compose/send/receive activities we associate with early Microsoft Outlook, Eudora and Lotus e-mail applications, and even early Web mail apps such as Hotmail and Yahoo Mail, to more intuitive applications that incorporate collaboration.
Why? Simple. Most knowledge workers live in their inboxes. Adding Google Calendar and Docs widgets to Gmail is just part of a long journey Google is on; expect the company to make all of its Google Apps accessible via Gmail with gadgets.