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Editorial: Hey Google, What's On the Menu?

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(Image credit: SCN )

I’m very fortunate that my favorite pizza in the world is in Royal Palm Beach, FL, just a short drive from my home. For more than 20 years, Mario the Baker has been delighting me with its pepperoni pizza, whether fresh out of the oven or cold out of the fridge the next day.

Now, I realize that some New Yorkers will take issue with my pizza choice. They are wrong. For you folks from Chicago, that whole deep-dish argument is a non-starter. And anybody out there who wants to talk up cauliflower crust just needs to move along.

The point here is that I love pizza from Mario the Baker. It’s the best. To me.

Which brings me to email.

Here at Future, we are all about Google—and that means using Gmail as our email program. For those of you who don’t use it, Gmail is a pretty lousy, browser-based email interface. It is far too reliant on search as a workflow tool and has limited customization. 

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When it comes to email programs, Eudora still holds a special place in my heart. Of course, that program was popular back when AOL Instant Messenger was all the rage. These days, I tend to use Thunderbird for personal email, mostly because it has much of the same functionality as Eudora. Basically, Thunderbird lets me organize my inbox based on dates (I prefer to work with my newest emails at the bottom) or quickly reorganize my messages based on sender, which is helpful when you have far too many emails. (Microsoft Outlook offers similar flexibility.)

Gmail isn't all bad; it doesn’t let me organize my way, but it does have some redeeming qualities. My favorite feature is its side column. In one small section of screen real estate, I have access to my various mailboxes and chats with fellow employees, and there’s even a section that lets me quickly start a Google Meet for videoconferencing.

Until it didn't.

Not long ago, Gmail made a change. I opened my web browser and there it was, the “new Gmail view.” My chats had been moved to another small column, along with access to Google Meet. What a horrible, horrible idea. The new view took what is arguably the only good parts of the Gmail interface and made them more difficult to access.

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Thankfully, the damage wasn’t permanent. A quick visit to the settings cog in the upper right-hand corner of my screen provided me with the option to return to the “original Gmail view.”

For some people, probably the same ones who prefer cauliflower crust, the new view may have been a welcome change. Maybe they don’t “chat” as much as we do in our company, or maybe they’ve never needed to start a Google Meet.

The point is that we all have our own personal preferences—and we’re all correct. Rarely is there a one-size-fits-all solution for a user interface. There has to be a consistent foundation, of course, but what sort of customization do you offer? From email to multiviewers to digital signage (opens in new tab) layouts, end users want what they want. Make sure you’ve got plenty of choices for them on the menu.

Mark J. Pescatore
Content Director

Mark J. Pescatore, Ph.D., is the content director of Systems Contractor News. He has been writing about Pro AV industry for more than 20 years. Previously, he spent more than eight years as the editor of Government Video magazine. During his career, he's produced and hosted two podcasts focused on the professional video marketplace, taught more than a dozen college communication courses, co-authored the book Working with HDV, and co-edited two editions of The Guide to Digital Television