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How a “Temporary Error” Encouraged Me to Meet the GMail Standard View Challenge

October 14, 2021 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

It was one of those Mondays… No, wait. It was actually Tuesday morning. I opened my work GMail and pressed the button to switch to Basic HTML view only to encounter a temporary error that stopped me in my tracks!

I had dabbled in GMail’s Standard view from time to time, but I always returned to the old, faithful basic HTML to get work done. But, now it was time to take Standard view more seriously, at least until Google got around to fixing the problem. I reviewed Vispero’s Using JAWS with Gmail in Standard View webinar before diving right in and I was pleasantly surprised.

I discovered that Standard view had become quite accessible and actually works well with both the JAWS and NVDA screen readers! The list of emails can be easily navigated with the Virtual PC Cursor turned on or off (Vispero recommends keeping it off for this purpose), there is plenty of underlying structure for navigating the user interface and lots of keyboard shortcuts for accomplishing critical tasks such as deleting, replying to and sending emails.

Change can be challenging, especially when it involves something as fundamental as the way we access email. In this case, making the leap to Standard view is well worth the learning curve. Some settings, including the ability to schedule out-of-office responses, are only available in Standard view. Calendar and Chat integration also work only in the Standard view, along with other features such as autocompletion of email addresses, the spell checker and the ability to add or import contacts. Google’s article, See Gmail in standard or basic HTML version, outlines the differences between the two views and provides direct links for quickly switching back and forth.

As of Wednesday, Oct. 13, Google fixed the “temporary error” and it is, once again, possible to easily switch between Basic HTML and Standard views at will. But, will I go back? My answer is an unequivocal “no”, not for anything except an easier way to work with labels, which are GMail’s way of organizing email messages in to folders. Standard is the modern view, and it is the view where all new features will be developed, tested and implemented moving forward. If you are still in Basic HTML view, I hope I have encouraged you to try, and stick with, Standard view. Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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