Labs Love At Last

Google Labs in GApps

In early November 2008, I wrote about the lack of Google Labs in many people’s Google Apps (GApps) accounts. The Google Labs feature allows users to enable new features and fixes, including great improvements to IMAP functionality, like better folder (aka label) management, auto-expunge control, and more. Labs has been available almost across the board for Gmail users for some time. And while many GApps users were able to enable Labs for their accounts without issue, the large majority were still waiting for the functionality to appear.

Google knew about the problem, and indicated it would take 2 to 3 weeks to work in a fix, explaining that “the whole code which is responsible for enabling Labs needs to be re-written so it can be integrated into the current backend code
structure.”

Although it took a bit longer than expected, I’m happy to report that throughout this week (today, for me), Labs has started to appear for GApps users across the board.

How to Enable Labs in Google Apps

If you’re the GApps administrator, you need to enable a two features for your account:

  1. Go to https://www.google.com/a/your_domain.com (just replace your_domain.com with your Google Apps-hosted domain name)
  2. Click the Domain Settings tab
  3. Under the New Services and Features section, check both the Automatically add new Google service and Turn on new features checkboxes
  4. Click the Save Changes button

Google Labs in GApps

I’m not sure how long it will take for Labs to appear, but assuming that Google has fixed their issues, and according to the New Services and Features document, it should take 24 hours or less.

If you’ve already enabled these settings and you’ve been waiting for Labs to appear, there’s a good chance it’s already there. Go to the next step, below.

Checking for Labs in Your GApps or Gmail Account

In Gmail, and for each GApps account, you’ll know if Labs is enabled if you see a Labs link under the Settings section. You may also see a little beaker adjacent to the Settings link at the top (which is just a shortcut to the Labs tab under the Settings section).

Google Labs in GApps

Tweaking IMAP

Although there are many cool features available in Google Labs, the killer feature for those of us who use IMAP with GApps or Gmail is the Advanced IMAP Controls feature. The Advanced IMAP Controls feature lets you choose which labels show up in IMAP, turn off message auto-expunging, and control if and how messages are trashed when they’re deleted from IMAP. As I’d detailed in my previous article (and this sentiment was echoed in the comments section), having the ability to control which IMAP folders (called labels in Gmail/GApps) appear in your mail application is a great boon for those of us with thousands of archived emails living in Gmail’s ominous All Mail folder.

Google Labs in GApps

To enabled the Advanced IMAP Controls feature, just click the Enable radio button and click the Save Changes button at the bottom of the list of Labs features.

Now, and hiding All Mail, Starred, or any other folder is just a checkbox away. Click the Labels tab under the Settings section, and you’ll see a clean list of your current Labels. You can use the Show in IMAP checkboxes on the right to disable any of the Labels you’d like to hide from your mail client. Although your GMail interface won’t be affected by this change, your mail client (e.g. Mail.app or Entourage) will now only display the folders you want.

Google Labs in GApps

As evidenced by the comments in my last article on this subject, many people like the All Mail folder, and find their email using search. I prefer to sort the messages I save into Folders in my mail application (I use Mail.app on Mac OS X). I can still use search to find email messages, or I can browse using my own organizational structure. And with Advanced IMAP Controls enabled, when I delete an email, I can control what actually happens to it.

Of course there are many more cool Labs features worth checking out … all finally available to those of us using Google Apps.

Will these features change how you’re using GApps/Gmail? Are you using it as a solution for yourself or your company? What other Labs features would you say are also killer features?

More articles in the Archive →