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New 'quick actions' slicken Gmail experience

Google this week started rolling out "quick action" buttons on Gmail, which are intended to help you get things done quicker right within the inbox.

The buttons will show up next to certain types of activity on Gmail, like "RSVP" for an event invite.

"You can RSVP to your friend's party invitation or rate that restaurant you went to last night all right from the inbox. You'll be checking things off that to-do list in no time," Google said in a blog post.

Google said it will also provide flight information front and center. "When you open a flight confirmation email in Gmail, all the important information about your flight will be displayed right at the top," the company said.

The buttons will roll out to Gmail in the next few weeks, and Google promised more in the near future. Developers with ideas for new buttons can find more info on Google's developer website.

In related news, Google unveiled a standalone version of Hangouts at its I/O conference this week that combines text, photos, and live video across Android, iOS and the PC.

On Gmail, this means users can now opt to ditch Gchat for the new Hangouts. Click "Try it out" on your chat list to make the switch; it's rolling out now.

"You'll now see the profile photos in the order of your most recent conversations," Google said in a separate blog post. "With Hangouts, you'll also be able to quickly send messages, have video calls with up to ten people at once, and share photos. You can start a conversation with just one friend or even a whole group."

Like Apple's iMessage across iOS, users can start a Hangout on the phone and pick it up on Gmail, for example. Hangouts, however, are accessible in Gmail, Google+, Android phones and tablets, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and a Chrome extension on the PC, Mac, and Linux.

Also this week, Google integrated Google Wallet into Gmail, allowing users to send money via email. Earlier this month, Google made it easier for Gmail users to schedule their lives. Dates and times within emails are now lightly underlined, encouraging the user to click them to schedule a dinner date or birthday party, without leaving the comfort of Gmail.