The new desktop Gmail design debuts later this week. If you use the default theme, you’ll know it’s on when your entire Gmail interface turns blue. Gmail’s new design first entered an opt-in preview in February, and after gathering feedback and fixing a few things, Google is rolling out the design to everyone. The changes to Gmail are not to everyone’s liking, so let’s talk about what’s different and how to revert it.
A few things have changed between now and the February preview. The most significant change is the all-blue color scheme. Google’s blog post stated: “You’ll notice that the new navigation now brings you, our updated, fresh look and feel for content for your Google apps.” “Material You” launched with Android 12 as a color-coordinated theming system that matches your OS color scheme to your wallpaper. There’s no color-match with Gmail’s “Material U,” however, only the blue color scheme.
Gmail still has a theme system, so you can change the colors to whatever you want. Click the Settings gear in the top right, and then under the “Themes” section, click “See All.” The background closest to the old Gmail is the solid “soft gray” background option. To truly match the old Gmail background, you’ll want “white,” but that’s not an option. (You can also select from your Google Photos collection via the “My Photos” link below, and I tried uploading a solid-white background, but attempting to apply it only brings up an error message). This “Theme” screen is also where you can apply Gmail’s weirdly hidden dark mode: just choose the black background option, and everything will switch to light text on a dark background.
The second change you’ll want to make involves fixing our biggest complaint with the new Gmail: that new, huge sidebar. Google has long had a strategy for promoting whatever new products it takes to promote in Gmail, and the new Gmail design comes with a large, full-height sidebar that holds just four icons: one for Gmail. , two for Google Chat (Google’s latest messaging app), and one for Google Meet (Google’s version of Zoom Meeting). Gmail Already Has a Sidebar, But This New Design Adds One another Sidebar, which looks like a big banner ad for Google’s other communication apps. Thankfully, between the February preview and this on-by-default rollout, Google apparently listened to feedback and added the option to turn off the sidebar.
This new “no-sidebar” option isn’t very obvious, but you can kill the Gmail sidebar by turning off Google Chat and Google Meet. Simply go to the Settings gear, then under “Chat & Meet” go to the “Customize” link. Un-tick both checkboxes, and the sidebar will disappear, allowing you to reclaim a lot of screen real estate. It’s strange that the new Gmail works this way when the old Gmail keeps Gmail controls, Google Chat, and Google Meet all in a single, adjustable sidebar, but that’s what Google chose to do.
Turning off the two-sidebar layout not only makes the new Gmail look like the old Gmail – it also makes the regular Gmail sidebar work the same way it used to. With the two-sidebar layout, clicking the hamburger button to collapse the sidebar only shows the app switcher and no Gmail controls—you get Google Chat and Google Chat instead of “Inbox,” “Stars,” “Spam.” Meet links appear. “etc. When you close Google Chat and Meet, however, dropping the Gmail sidebar once again shows the Gmail controls inside Gmail. Huzzah.
If you really don’t like the new Gmail, you can still opt out of the new design, at least for a while. Click the Settings gear, and you should still see the option “Revert to original view”. However, this won’t last forever, and you’ll have to get used to the new Gmail eventually. The original version was rough, but Google seems to have listened to complaints about the second sidebar. If you tick the correct setting box, you will see that there is no longer any difference between the new and old versions of Gmail.
Image listed by Google