Gmail undo button a step in the right direction

Monday, March 30, 2009 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

What if you had just enough time to undo one single mistake. How could that change your life? No, this is not a bad quote from a good Tim Allen movie. Google is giving you a gift: an undo button on life.

Well not really life, more like your e-mail box.


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Have you ever sent a message only to realize seconds later that you forgot to attach a file and were forced to send an embarrassing second letter? Have you ever “replied to all” when you really wish you hadn’t? Have you ever just regretted what you said? On its official Gmail blog, Google recently announced the “Undo Send” for its e-mail service.

The button, which has to be activated by going to Gmail Labs, gives you five seconds to change your mind. For those few fleeting seconds after you hit the send button, you have the chance to take back what you just did. The button reads “undo” and appears to the right of the beige message box that says, “Your message has been sent.”

Google calls the feature a “panic button.” Although it cannot pull back a message that has already been sent, what Google has done is take a rare step toward making technology less likely to complicate our lives.

Every single time I am asked to use technology, my life becomes more complicated. The U.S. Army feels that my password needs to be so complex and secure that it must contain numbers, capital and lower-case letters, symbols and shouldn't have any words found in the English language. The only way I can craft such a password that I can actually remember is to hold shift and draw designs on my keyboard. If a hacker wanted to gain access to a soldier's Army Knowledge Online, I would suggest trying 1qaz2wsx!QAZ@WSX.

In a world where I spend half an hour crafting a sensitive and thoughtful e-mail only to find that the university’s e-mail server has logged me off because of inactivity while I was typing and that the e-mail is gone forever, in a life where I face endless remorse because the text message that was intended for my buddy Dan was sent instead to Dad, Google has offered us one glimmer of hope that there is still a chance technology will live up to its promise of actually making our lives easier, not more complicated.

For those of you, like my roommate, whose endless remorse comes from the intoxicated use of technology, Gmail Labs also offers Mail Goggles, which on its default setting forces you to do math problems to prove your sobriety when sending a message late at night on weekends.

I was skeptical of the technology at first, since Google is notorious for pranking its users. In 2007 Google tried to fool us with Gmail Paper, an option that would let users click to order a free paper copy of their e-mails. Google even claimed it would print out glossy pictures that were sent as attachments and that the whole thing would be free, supported by targeted ads printed on the back of the e-mails. In 2008 Google announced Gmail Custom Time, which allowed your e-mail to be delivered whenever you saw fit, including six hours ago.

While installing the features to verify that they were in fact real, I learned that to activate the features you must go to the settings section in the right hand corner of your Gmail inbox screen then select Labs. Going to Google Labs will not yield results.

Gmail Labs also offers a forgotten attachment detector among other useful programs.

Thank you Google … for saving me from myself.

Michael Amantea is a graduate student at the Missouri School of Journalism, a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army Reserve with the 428th Transportation Company in Jefferson City and an enterprise reporter for the Columbia Missourian who frequently covers the environment.


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Michael Amantea March 24, 2010 | 4:20 p.m.

Update... Just used "Undo" to save myself from a flawed job application...

Thank you Google!

(Report Comment)
Rob Weir March 24, 2010 | 6:01 p.m.


You might want to look into leet-speak for your passwords. There are good and valid reasons why passwords need to be mixed case, alphanumeric and include symbols. But you can replace a lot of letters with numbers or symbols, be safe from hacking and still remember them. For example:


and so on

(Report Comment)

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