Google Inc. released its long-awaited Gmail update on Wednesday, finally giving desktop users access to the mobile version’s smart reply feature and giving users everywhere control over what others can do with their messages.

Google product manager Matthew Izatt runs down the new features, which were programmed by the search giant’s Canadian engineering headquarters in Kitchener, Ont., in an April 25 blog post: in addition to automatic replies and “confidential mode,” which allows users to remove the ability of recipients to forward, copy, download or print messages, the new Gmail allows users to access attachments without leaving their inbox and even incorporates artificial intelligence (AI) into features such as a nudge that reminds users they have forgotten to reply to an important-sounding message, or a prompt that invites users to unsubscribe to email newsletters they aren’t reading.

The update also applies to the 4 million-plus G Suite users whose companies use the Gmail platform.

In an April 25 blog post separate from Izatt’s G Suite vice-president of product management David Thacker emphasized the importance of Confidential Mode for business users, calling data security the company’s top priority.

“With confidential mode, it’s possible to protect sensitive content in your emails,” Thacker wrote, noting that the updated Gmail allows users to create expiration dates, require recipients to authenticate themselves via text message, or even delete previously sent emails.

“Because you can require additional authentication via text message to view an email, it’s also possible to protect data even if a recipient’s email account has been hijacked while the message is active,” Thacker wrote.

Gmail’s new confidential mode in action. Courtesy Google.

Also worth mentioning is Gmail’s redesigned security warnings, which Thacker called easier to understand, with a clear call to action for employees.

Gmail’s new bigger, bolder security warnings. Courtesy Google.

The security warnings are powered by new phishing protections that Google introduced last month to help businesses protect themselves against phishing or spoofing – hackers impersonating a coworker or the company in order to access sensitive information. According to Google, the new protections have helped block 99.9 per cent of phishing or spoofing threats by warning users or automatically moving messages to the spam folder for them.

And in addition to allowing users to download attachments directly from their inbox, the new Gmail allows users to RSVP to meeting invitations, archive a thread, or snooze an email without clicking on messages too.

Gmail’s new time-saving features in action. Courtesy Google.

The news that Google was updating Gmail was leaked a week and a half ago by tech site The Verge.

The new Gmail features are available to businesses enrolled in Google’s G Suite Early Adopter Program, while non-business users need only click on settings (the cog wheel in the top right corner of your Gmail inbox) and select “Try the new Gmail” to use them.

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