Caveat: I was inspired by this UX.SE question, and have reused an image from it.

Recently, gmail has switched its "reply" function to use an "on-page-docked" window. Responses to this new UI have been varied. Some users really like it, and other users have serious problems with it.

Gmail Style Interface

One problem it has is that it provides a poor experience for writing/editing long emails (2,000+ words). Some activities that characterise this style of interaction include:

  • Writing for extended periods of time (30 minutes - 2 hours)
  • Reviewing previously written sections of the email before continuing
  • Moving text between different paragraphs
  • Greater time and attention spent on formatting than in short emails

How can the new interface be improved to facilitate this use case?

1 Answer 1


For longer emails you want a bigger window. There doesn't seem to be any way around that.

What Google has done here is trade the convenience of seeing a lot of text for the convenience of being able to navigate the rest of your email while composing. In my opinion, this is a huge benefit. The vast majority of emails are short. I have never found the small size to be a problem, but there are many cases when I want to search through my email while composing.

Note that it is one click to convert to a larger window, and you can also default to that mode. Update: but, yes, the large window is kind of stupid since it isn't actually full screen. You can shift click to open in a new window that is truly full-screened, but you might not want it in a new window.

I'm not a fan of all the GMail compose changes, but the small compose window is great, in my opinion. The only thing that should be changed is making the "large window" mode into something more like the old compose.

  • For what it's worth, I haven't found that button which converts it into a bigger window, (and I've been looking). Is there any chance you could screenshot it?
    – Racheet
    Commented Sep 5, 2013 at 15:01
  • sorry, I went back to the interface to take a look, I assume you mean the button that turns it into a modal and deactivates the rest of the interface. I can only guess that I tried that once, decided that it wasn't useful because it made it impossible to use the window to refer to other information and then forgot all about it.
    – Racheet
    Commented Sep 5, 2013 at 15:07
  • If you shift+click the arrow icon in the compose dialog or modal it will open in a new window, full screen. If you shift+click the "Compose" button, it will open in a new window Commented Sep 5, 2013 at 15:38
  • 1
    I updated the answer to reflect this, because the more I think about it, the dumber the "large window" mode is.
    – user31143
    Commented Sep 5, 2013 at 15:40

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