Add a preview pane to Gmail

Google Mail is not like other email services and people either love it hate it. One of the ways in which it is different is that it does not have a preview pane. Do you miss it? do you wish Gmail had one? You can add it!


Many email programs and online web mail services show the inbox as a list showing the sender, subject and date/time, and either below or on the right is the currently selected message. Google shows either the inbox or a message, but not both. A simple tweak is all it takes to add a preview pane.

Here is how Google normally looks and selecting the Inbox on the left shows the table view. You can see all the emails with 50 to a page. You can see the messages with the subject, sender, date/time and so on, but you cannot read any of them.

Google Mail inbox

To actually read an email you have to click it and then you can only see that one message. The inbox is hidden. Reading emails means constantly going back and forth between the inbox and a message. It is a bit of a pain somethings. Here is how many email programs and web services show your inbox and messages.

Add a preview pane to Gmail

This is still Gmail, but the view is now like the one you get in traditional email programs and you may prefer this way of working. It certainly fits today’s widescreen monitors and laptops much better because screens are wide, but not very tall.

You can easily show an inbox column with a preview pane on the right. Now you can select a message and read it without losing your place in the inbox. You can scroll up and down through the messages and select any you want to read and it is much more convenient this way.

So how is Gmail configured to show this preview pane? Click the gear icon in the top right corner and select Settings. Select Labs in the menu bar near the top of the page and select Enable next to Preview Pane. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the Save Changes button.

Add Gmail Labs experiments

Return to the inbox and a new button is added to the toolbar and there are options to split the screen vertically, horizontally or not at all.

Choose the Gmail view

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Try all three settings and see which you prefer the best.

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