Google has refreshed the look of its Gmail webmail service, making its interface more customisable and boosting the system's search functionality.
The refresh became available on Tuesday. Gmail customers can opt into making the switch from the old look, and are also able to switch back for a short while if they do not like it. However, everyone will be automatically moved onto the new interface within a few days.
In a post on the Gmail blog — which is itself trying out a radical refresh of the now-ageing Blogger templates — Google user experience designer Jason Cornwell said the redesign of the conversation view would help people read through their email threads more easily.
"You'll now see profiles pictures for your contacts, so it's easier to keep track of who said what," Cornwell said. "We also stripped out as much as possible so you can focus on communicating with your friends and colleagues."
The search box at the top of the screen has a new drop-down menu that allow more specific email search. People can now easily, for example, search for emails that have or do not have specific keywords in their text.
Users can now adjust the spacing between elements on the Gmail interface, to suit different screen sizes. The label and chat navigation panel on the left of the screen is now also more customisable and Google has also introduced new themes based on high-resolution images from iStockphoto.