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The Problem With Gmail’s New Look – A Lack Of Color

November 11, 2011 2 comments

I know a bunch of people have written about the new look to Gmail since it was officially launched in the beginning of November (Google blogged about it here). Some people are complaining about the way it was reorganized or certain specific changes like losing text labels and turning them to graphics – most of which I agree with – but no one that I have seen has discussed the lack of color in the new Gmail and how that affects efficiency when composing an email.

What do I mean by this? Well take a look at the old Compose Email interface from Gmail previous to their change at the beginning of this month. When I am referring to the color I am not talking about the overall light blue coloring because while that’s nice and all, it seems to be a simple theme change that can still, I think, be achieved within Gmail. What I am referring to is the way that the highlight color icon has a ‘T’ with a yellow background and a small highlighter with a bright yellow tip. At a glance, I can immediately find this when I am composing an email because my eyes are immediately drawn to the bright yellow. Similarly, to the highlight option’s left is the Text Color option which has the same ‘T’ only next to it is a color palette of six different colors. Again, that makes sense logically and conveys the message of what the button does without any words AND the user’s eyes can quickly and easily find it. There is almost no learning curve or memorization required here – it just makes sense.

Now let’s look at the new Compose Email interface and look at those same exact buttons. You’ll notice that everything is in the exact same order as it used to be but the loss of color on the buttons makes a huge difference when trying to find specific options at a glance.

For some reason, someone at Gmail/Google decided that instead of having a ‘T’ on a yellow background it would make more sense to just put the T on a gray field. Next to it, is a picture of an ‘A’ which is underlined which somehow is supposed to tell me that it is the text color option. The only reason I can think of to switch the symbols themselves – never mind the lack of color – was to make it match the Microsoft Word buttons for the same option but even here Gmail’s designers did a halfway job.

Above, you can see the same buttons taken from Microsoft Word 2010 and while the Gmail Text Color option does match Word 2010′s in terms of formatting it only does so if we assume that everyone who is using Gmail/Word 2010 only sees in black and white. As well, if the point here was to copy the Microsoft buttons why did they only copy some of them and not go whole hog and copy them all? However, I must reiterate that the most important issue for me here is the complete lack of color. I am well aware that it is only taking me an extra couple of seconds per email to format things the way I want them formatted but the reasoning for just getting rid of all the colors – which are helpful visual cues – just eludes me.

Has anyone else found this to be annoying as well? Did I just bring something to your attention I shouldn’t have because now I’ve ruined it for you too? (If so sorry.) Or am I totally alone on this? Let me know!

As for Gmail – do you think you could give us the option to turn colors in the Compose Screen back on? That’d be swell!

WordPress, Blogging, & Archiving – BlogBooker FTW!

June 27, 2011 Leave a comment

I have mentioned before how I temporarily lost a post I wrote for another, now defunct, blog and then found it in a random file on my computer so I was able to re-post it here. It was when that happened that I realized the importance of archiving my work that I post on this blog and any other blog on my computer or on some form of removable media. Not that I don’t love The Cloud, I do. In fact, my personal Microsoft Word has the Google Docs plugin installed which syncs all my Word documents to my Google Docs account.

So you can be sure that before I hit the “Publish” button on this post I am going to be saving it in Word as a separate document for future reference. In fact, I have decided to move the bulk of my blog writing to Microsoft Word and then copy/pasting the words in to a “New Blog Post” in WordPress. It is then fairly simple to add in all the pictures and go from there.

But what about all the posts I (or you) have already done? Can you get those off of your WordPress account easily and with no hassle? If you google “wordpress export” you will be given as the first hit the WordPress tutorial on how to export your blog. Seems simple right? The problem with the Export tool that WordPress provides is that it assumes that you are going to be using the exported data as part of a new blog. As such, it only spits out an XML file of ALL of your blog’s content. Useless to someone who wants to be able to show all the writing they have done or be able to recover a post later if it gets deleted for one reason or another.

Of course there is the option of manually going through each and every post you have ever written, highlighting all the text, copying it, and pasting it into individual Word documents (or whatever word processing program you use). That is quite the arduous task so I figured there HAD TO BE a better way. Thankfully, I know the awesome tweeps Laura aka @lmmandell and her husband Sam aka @SamTitle. I was randomly speaking about this quandary of mine with Laura when she mentioned that Sam had faced a similar issue a little while back and she remembered he had found a way to resolve it. I got in touch with Sam via the interwebs and he pointed me to an amazing website called BlogBooker at http://www.blogbooker.com/. The best part about this site? It is completely FREE! (Although they always appreciate donations!)

Crowdsourcing FOR THE WIN!

What BlogBooker does is it takes the content from a WordPress, Blogger, or LiveJournal blog and turns it into a “PDF Blog Book”. Originally, what I wanted was each of my posts to be individual Word documents but this works just as well in my honest opinion and I can always separate them into individual files later quite easily. For my WordPress blog all that BlogBooker required me to do was download the aformentioned XML file (a whopping 2.46 MB) from WordPress and upload it into BlogBooker. Once that finished, BlogBooker started processing it and within a few short minutes it spat out an 18.6 MB PDF file for my saving pleasure. Fantastic!

The file comes complete with a Table of Contents which is clickable to jump to each post.

It makes each year’s worth of posts into a chapter and each month’s worth of posts into a sub-chapter. Because it is a PDF you also have the option of – if using Adobe Reader – jumping easily between posts with the lists in the sidebar. Truly amazing if I do say so myself.

If you are a blogger and are reading this and realizing that you too never backed anything up from your blog and feel that now might be a good time to start I highly recommend checking out BlogBooker. This blog’s BlogBooker blog turned out to be a whopping 503 pages (even I am amazed by that) and I could only imagine the horror that I would have felt if I ever lost all of that hard work writing. I feel like a broken record here but I really cannot stress enough how much I endorse checking this site out and backing up your blog to a BlogBooker PDF file.

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