Google debuts Gmail's new design

After an extended preview, Google has started to push the new, simplified Gmail design to users, finally bringing the entire Google Apps suite under one GUI umbrella.

After offering users an early preview back in July, Google is finally ready to start switching users over to the totally new Gmail interface. With this update, the entire Google Apps suite has received its promised redesign, giving everything from Google Reader to Google Calendar a unified look that ties it all together visually with the Google+ social platform.

For the most part, the final version of the new Gmail interface looks a lot like that preview, with a focus on simplification and flexibility. But here's the laundry list of what's different, as per the Official Google Blog entry:

  • A new, streamlined conversation view that displays Google profile pictures for your contacts - making an e-mail thread look a little more like an instant messaging conversation.
  • Elastic density, which means that the spacing between items on the screen will automatically adjust based on the screen size and device you're viewing it on. There's also a manual density setting, for those so inclined.
  • New HD Gmail themes, with background imagery taken from iStockphoto. And more than a few old themes have been updated to match the new, higher resolution.
  • A better navigation sidebar (as seen to the right), with resizable labels and chat bars - and the ability to hide the chat bar altogether.
  • Advanced search, including the ability to make a Gmail filter on the fly from a search bar dropdown.

Over the next several days, waves of users will be prompted to switch to the new Gmail design with a link in the lower-right corner of their inbox. Eventually, it's going to become the default.
Personally, I've been loving the Gmail preview design for months now, and I'm excited to get the final version. But there's always a blowback when a service as popular as this makes a change, and I'm curious as to what form the inevitable criticisms will take.