Gmail Gets New Side Menu on Android Tablets

Google's Gmail app is rolling out a new navigation menu specifically designed for Android tablets. Dubbed the “navigation rail”, this vertical bar attaches itself to the left edge of the interface.


The navigation rail features an always-visible hamburger button for accessing more options, plus a prominent compose button for starting new emails.

Below sits up to four tab buttons – Gmail, Chat, Spaces, and Meet – which let users quickly switch views. When active, tabs display a circular indicator instead of a highlighted background.

Importantly, the new navigation rail persists while scrolling vertically through emails, providing constant access to key functions.

This contrasts the previous bottom navigation bar that would hide from sight. The side layout does marginally reduce inbox width. However, open email content remains unaffected in terms of width.

Gmail adopts a bottom bar for portrait orientation to match Google's own Play Store app. But other apps like Photos, Drive and TV retain the vertical rail even when flipped.

Google began gradually enabling the navigation rail in Gmail version 2023.11.12 and above. Pixel Tablet reviewers were among the first to demonstrate the refreshed interface. Yet a server-side component means users must wait for the redesign to reach their particular device.

When enabled, the slimmer rail brings ergonomic and usability improvements. Quick compose and view switching reduce finger travel and taps compared to the older centered bottom bar.

While subtle, this should boost productivity over longer email triaging and composing sessions. Whether Google extends this tablet-optimized navigation to other form factors remains to be seen.

– Jim Miller