What is Gmail Labs? It is a set of small addins to the Gmail web interface that provide extra functionality. Offerings include everything from the ability to add Google Docs files directly to e-mail, to an inline viewer for you tube, to the much anticipated offline functionality, to a rather pointless little snake game. Most of the items in Labs are quite useful and as of this morning I have enabled 26 of the addins. I should mention that Labs is optional, you don't need to use it, and each of the different options is optional. You can pick and choose which labs features you want to use.
Yesterday, Google released a new search box for Gmail that not only lets you search inside the UI, but also lets you easily attach search results to e-mail messages or chat windows. Fairly awesome way to share with your fellow internet buddies. The UI is fairly slick, although I think it could be a bit nicer. The search dialog pops up on top of your Window similar to how the Gmail Tasks window does. It can be popped out as well to get a bigger view.
All of these Gmail options are awesome, but the one bad thing is that once you have added a dozen or so your sidebars in Gmail get a bit junked up. There are actually a few lab features that can be moved to the right hand side, but everything else stays on the left. Right now I have Search, Links, My RTM gadget, Calendar, Google Docs, and the Twitter Gadget on the left side. Even if I collapse a few it still takes a bit of scrolling (or un-collapsing) to see the information I want to see. I would really like to see Google release a labs feature that lets me put items where I want. Something should be able to be done to clean things up a bit.
Still Gmail is a very nice centralized control system for my day with all of my (personal) e-mail as well as my calendar and tasks in a single area. I also use Google Chat directly from within Gmail which puts that communication there as well. If you are not using Gmail I sugest you try it out. If you are not taking advantage of the labs click on this icon at the top of your Gmail screen and take a look.