I extensively use GMail, GCal, GChat, Notebook, Reader, and Google Docs. However, I always felt the need for a central application that provides access to all these different Google products. Recently, I figured out that there are two options to turn GMail into such a central Google application. As shown in top image, the first option is to add Gadgets in the left column of GMail. Most Google products have corresponding Gadgets which can be placed in iGoolge or Desktop. Using some of the new features, now it is possible to put some of these Gadgets in GMail. The second option is to use Firefox extension “Integrated GMail“. As shown in bottom image, it essentially add internal frames, each containing different Google product.
Both the options have their own advantages and issues. The first option (Gadget based) is browser and machine independent, i.e., it works for all the browsers and, once set, can be accessed from any machine. However, the down side is that Gadgets provide limited access, i.e., you wont have all the features of an application. In contrast, the second option is browser and machine dependent, i.e., it only works on Firefox and only on those machines that have “Integrated GMail” extension installed. However, the good thing is that it provides full access to other Google application.
Below are the steps that are needed in order to turn GMail into a central Google application.
1. Move Labels and Chat to right side: You don’t want a big left column that keeps scrolling down and down. In order to create space for other gadgets, move “Labels” and “GChat” to the right side. In order to do this, click on “settings” > “labs” tab and then enable “Right-side chat” and “Right-side Labels”. Make sure you click on “Save” after enabling above options.
2. Add other Gadgets: After above step, you will have more space in the left column to put other gadgets. Again go to the “Labs” tab and now enable “Google Calendar Gadget”, “Google Docs Gadget”, “Task List”, and other gadgets, depending on your need.
3. ToDo List (Optional, for users who want a todo list): One of features/products that Google is currently lacking is a todo list. Although, there are signs indicating that Google will soon include todo list with GCal, for now, I use “Remeber The Milk” todo application. Its has been around for quite some time. It is simple to use and has all the necessary features of a todo list. One of the good thing about “Rember The Milk” is that it can be access from phone and also when you are offline. In order to add “Remember The Milk” as a gadget in GMail, follow directions given here.
Update: Google released its own Task List Gadget. To find more about it checkout this link
4. Increase screen space (Optional, only for Google Chrome Users): Since, now there are so many things in GMail, we need to maximize screen space. It means getting rid of all the uncessary things such as addressbar, statusbar, tools, etc. Luckily it is quite simple to do with Google Chrome. Simply open your GMail in Google chrome and save it as an application shortcut.
5. Integrated Gmail Extension (Optional, only for Firefox Users): Download “Integrated GMail” firefox extension to have a central google application as shown in second image.