Open letter to Google: 10 Steps to Fix “New” Gmail Compose/Reply


Dear Google and Jason Cornwell,

Jason I understand you worked on the new ‘look’ for Compose/Reply. If I’m mistaken please let me know to whom I may address this letter.

I’d first like to say that for years I have loved using Gmail. It has been an incredible interface, one that provided the necessary tools for effective communication and an outstanding service for millions of users. However with the new change to compose/reply, you are alienating thousands, if not millions of these very users. Why?

The uproar over new gmail compose/reply is growing. Here are 10 steps to improve compose/reply and restore it’s functionality.

It’s simple: Provide options to customize our compose, reply and forward screens and to move/resize them as needed.

I thought the current mantra was making gmail ‘more relevant’ for the user. Great! Here’s how you can do just that: Make gmail more relevant by providing options for features from the original compose/reply.

Want to be really relevant? Add SORT. (but that’s a different discussion, I know.)

Writing an email (or a reply) now, in the new ‘improved’ compose, feels like, looks like and is as diminishing as a chat window. It makes writing long emails extremely difficult. (Is that the point?) As many have already pointed out, for those of us who use gmail for work, in a variety of settings, the current reply is unuseable.

10 Steps To Improve New Gmail Compose/Reply

1) COMPOSE Window: Provide options for the compose window to be
– moveable
– resizable and
= NOT attached to the gmail page.

shift+Compose is great. happy I can move/resize the compose screen. just give us an option to make that the default and give reply/forward the same option.

Question – because I’m curious: Why would you think cementing the writing window and keeping it one size only is an improvement? Before we could move/resize the compose window as needed, as well as popout if we wanted and move/resize that. Why take these options away?

2) COMPOSE Fields: I want to see everything in my email as I compose it. That means to/from/cc/subject/formatting. EVERYTHING.

2a) Show to/from/cc/subject fields. (bcc, rarely used, could remain a clickable option)
2b) Make it an option to show all fields constantly, without fields disappearing when you click away.

1) Now it’s an extra click to cc/bcc, two clicks to edit subject.
2) It’s distracting to have the top fields appear and disappear.
3) I need to be able to visually verify this information at a glance.
4) I use several different email accounts and need to be able to switch them – and see which one I am sending from – in a glance

2c) remove the grey ‘subject’ and ‘recipients’ that pre-fill those fields and put back To: From: Subject: . With those fields pre-filled it looks like there already IS a subject header. Useless and again, distracting. Again, I want to see at a glance everything I need to. I do NOT want to click hither and yon to verify information that should be (and once was) at my fingertips.

3) COMPOSE Formatting: Give us an option to put the formatting bar at the top. Leave it showing so we can simply click on what we need, when we need it. It is counter-intuitive, less efficient and farther to reach at the bottom of the page.

Why? for those of us who write business letters on email, we use formatting a great deal. Formatting at the top is standard. All word processing software has tools at the top. No one places these tools at the bottom of the screen. At the very least it’s not ergonomic, not good for the eyes/shoulders/neck to hunch over & peer at the bottom of the page.

4) COMPOSE: Attachments: Place Attachments & the other tools at the top where they are easier to see and verify.

5) COMPOSE: Copy email address from ‘Recipient’: Why is the ability to copy a person’s email from the ‘to’ bar removed? Now the name is prefilled and address no longer visible. Something used constantly as a tool to quickly to copy and paste a person’s email address is now at least three steps longer to do. Please make this an option.

6) REPLY: Window: Make reply window moveable, resizeable and not stuck at the bottom of the page. It’s simple. All you need to do is add the equivalent of shift+compose to reply – and give us an option to make THAT the default. The tiny, unchangeble reply window is extremely limiting – not to mention annoying beyond belief. The current popout reply to the lower right is equally limiting.

update: 23 Aug 2013, I discovered that a stand-alone Reply window exists, but it takes two clicks and two mouse movements to get there: shift+Reply and then shift+Popup. Happy this window exists. Please make it an option to set it as a default.

7) REPLY: Quoted text: Provide an option to “Show quoted text”. If it’s quoted I want to see it. Right away. I don’t want to click an elipses when I am replying to someone’s email to see what they wrote. Quoted text is visible in forward – just make it visible in reply.

8) REPLY: SHOW THE SUBJECT FIELD. Make it visible. Why bury it under a menu? Need to confirm/review at a glance.

9) REPLY: Show all to/from information. Replying can involve replying to all, adding or removing people from a thread, in addition to changing a subject header or changing a sending address. We need to see all this information at a glance.

10) REPLY: Show all formatting information at the top of the page. same as compose.

That’s it! 10 simple steps.

All could be taken care of with one “Compose/Reply” tab in Gmail Settings, where users could select and set view preferences for window type (stand alone (ie moveable, resizable), popup, chat), formatting (top/bottom, show/hide), which fields to show (to/from/cc/subject) and quoted text (show text or show elipses).

Some of us actually WORK on email. The current ‘improvements’ actually make work more difficult.

Change is difficult, but there are many ways to smooth the path. I’d like to give Google the benefit of the doubt but this recent set of forced changes makes it hard.

Back to the beginning. You want to make gmail ‘more relevant’ for the user? Simple. Provide the options described above. This is a great opportunity to restore the support of your extensive user base.

Thank you,

Valerie Ghent
Feel the Music!

Songwriter’s Beat

Join the growing conversation about the “new” compose/reply on googlegroups HERE


  • August 21, 2013


    Well said! I feel exactly the same way about the new Gmail Compose- it makes what used to be simple complicated, and now takes way too many clicks to do what you want.

    I also love the way you expressed it as suggestions instead of ranting. Very well done and the right and reasonable approach.

    In the end, I call this ‘Regressive Technology”, and Google should admit as much. Perhaps this is better for new users, but for existing users and business users (where formatting is everything to make the email clear and concise), these new features are 5 steps backwards.


    ps- This is the very first time I have complained about a Gmail feature- in 4 years- so they must be feeling the heat! Good Luck with the letter!

  • August 24, 2013

    What you’re really asking for is easy and has been done already.
    All they need to do is have a selection for default.
    Choose “Classic”
    Choose “Hidden Windows”

    “Don’t worry about making money. Worry about getting customers and keeping them…that’s the way you make money”

  • September 1, 2013

    THIS NEW GMAIL COMPOSE IS AWFUL!!!!! Please fix!!!!! Don’t try to fix something that isn’t broken. Please!!

  • emoze
    September 4, 2013

    kudos! – this new reply-fwd is simply awful

    – i am going back yahoo as a primary acct

  • September 14, 2013

    Thanks for the shift + compose and shift + reply then shift + popout tips!!!!

    I’ve used gmail for years with considerable satisfaction until this came along. It annoys me so much that I occasionally trawl the web looking for alternatives, or news that google has decided to abandon this insanity!

  • Guruprem Singh ("GS") Khalsa
    November 11, 2013

    Dear Google and Jason Cornwell,

    I agree with Valerie Ghent completely. “The uproar over new gmail compose/reply is growing”…

    When it first apeared, I was appalled. You took a perfectly functional
    system, and made it both foreign in style and very, very awkward to use.

    Please put it back the way it was.

    This from a very grateful gmail/google user, who has been with you
    for nearly five years. I don’t want to go elsewhere to get my email
    work done, but I WILL go if I have to. Your have broken the good,
    and given use something less good.

    Don’t be evil!


    G.S. Khalsa
    Sr. Systems Administrator

    Unixity Systems Consulting
    604 McLaughlin St.
    Richmond, CA 94805-1949

  • Jodi
    April 7, 2016

    It is now April 2016, and I still agree with this post from Valerie Ghent regarding changes to Gmail. Does anyone know if there have been any updates or improvements to the 10 points above? I am now required to use gmail for business use and am running into the same frustrations you all mentioned 3 years ago.

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