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Google polishes Gmail with new compose and reply features

Google this week took the lid off a "completely redesigned compose and reply experience" for Gmail, the company announced.

The new format lets you compose messages right from your inbox, allowing you to keep an eye on incoming messages and reference other emails without ever having to close the draft on which you're working. When you hit the "Compose" button, the message template will pop up in a window on the lower right-hand side of the screen just like Gchat messages, only larger.

This way, you can view the messages in your inbox, and even do a search as you write an email. Since the new compose window works the same way as chats, you can work on multiple messages at once, and minimise a message if you want to finish it later.

"How many times have you been writing an email and had to reference something in another message?" Gmail product manager Phil Sharp, wrote in a blog post Tuesday. "Saving a draft, opening the old email, and then reopening your draft wastes valuable minutes.

"Even better - you'll see the same changes when you respond to a message as well. The new reply window will take up much less space on your screen, and expand to fit your content. It will always show the message recipients, no matter how long your message gets.

Google has already rolled out a preview of the new compose and reply format. You can test it out by clicking the link that says "new compose experience" next to the Labels button when composing an email. Google said it will launch the new format for everyone over the coming months. Until then, you can choose whether to use the new or current format.

For more information about the new compose and reply format, check out Google's Gmail Help page.

Google is also adding some other new features to the compose experience, like the ability to insert inline images in a message on which you're working. In addition, when you add recipients to your message, you'll see their profile photo next to their email address in autocomplete. This should help you find the intended recipient even faster.

The web giant is also working to add a number of other familiar features to Gmail like emoticons, event invitations, read receipts, and canned responses. Google said those features should be available soon.