Google made two big features of Google Workspace (the paid tier of business Google accounts) free for all consumer Google accounts. The features are Google Chat, the latest messaging app from the company as well as the merger of Gmail and Google Chat, Docs, and Meet. All are coming to consumer accounts so everyone can use them.
About a year ago, Google announced a significant change for Gmail that would transform it from a simple email app into an integrated experience where users can send an email, chat, work on Docs, make video calls, and more.
The ‘unified Gmail’ experience
Given that this integration produces a powerful browser-based, unified experience, it is safe to say that Google is pushing to attract users to its wider suite of products, by making them free for everyone. The unified Gmail User Interface mostly appears as a segmented sidebar design with all kinds of Google apps on it. There has been a segmented sidebar for some time now, featuring Google Talk (since 2005), Google Hangouts (since 2013), and Google Chat (since 2018).
With the Monday changes, there are new sections added with a spot for Google Chat featuring group chats (now separate from regular contacts) and another section for Google Meet (to make video calls).
Although this is not included in the sidebar, Google Docs have Gmail integration now. Users can open Docs in a new, multi-pane interface inside Gmail. However, Chat has to be shown in a full-screen interface for the ‘Open in Chat’ button to show up when you hover over the document’s thumbnail.
There are more features included, which all Google users can try out, including a new Gmail interface called ‘Spaces’ among other interesting and useful additions.