In the neverending quest to improve what I think of as Google's real social network, the company has released a couple of new features in Gmail Labs that can be integrated into the regular Gmail experience when activated.
The first feature is the Sender Time Zone lab. This lets users see little green phone icons next to people who are "probably awake" (between 9am and 6pm in their local time zone), and red ones next to the others.
"Let's say your girlfriend sends you an angry email," says Marcin Brodziak at the Gmail Blog. "It's mostly about how you behaved at the party last night and then left for a business trip without saying goodbye. You read it from the other side of the globe, jet-lagged after a 12 hour flight. You want to call and sort things out, but forget that it's now almost 3:00 am her time. After waking her up, things only get worse."
You can click "show details" to see when a message was sent in the sender's time zone and what time it is for them at any given moment. Message headers also include the time sent and time zone info.
The second new feature is the ability to simply insert images into messages instead of having to attach them. To do so, turn on the "inserting images" lab and an icon for image insertion will show up in your toolbar.
"Make sure you're in rich formatting mode, or it won't show up," notes Google's Kent Tamura. "Click the little image icon, and you can insert images in two ways: by uploading image files from your computer or providing image URLs."
These are two more features that many users will likely find incredibly useful, especially the image insertion. I would not be surprised if this eventually becomes a standard feature in Gmail.