Dang, Gmail really is stepping it up these days. First IMAP support, and now a new version's rolling out which includes message pre-fetching for speedier performance, a new contacts manager, and more keyboard shortcuts. The Official Gmail Blog writes:
Even on a fast Internet connection, it can take a second to request and render a new web page, and when you read a lot of mail, these seconds can accumulate to hours waiting for email to load. We've spent a lot of time profiling all parts of the application, shaving milliseconds off wherever we can.
Some of the most common actions should be faster now. For instance, we prefetch messages in the current view, so when you open an email your browser doesn't have to talk to Google's server; it just displays the message. These techniques really shine on newer browsers and computers. Using an alpha version of Safari 3 on a MacBook, we're seeing sub-200ms times when opening messages—pretty quick.
While Gmail itself doesn't look too different, the revamped contacts manager does. Here's a screenshot of the new, much more usable layout:
It's got search as you type:
You can also easily add a filter based on a message's sender using the Reply dropdown on the upper right hand side of a message, as shown.
Overall the new Gmail is most definitely faster and got some much-needed improvements that you'll see over the coming weeks too. However....
The Better Gmail Firefox extension developed here at Lifehacker is not yet compatible with the new version of Gmail, but we are working on it. Thanks for your patience while we work on getting the upgrade out the door. In the meantime, if you've got the new Gmail UI enabled on your account, you may have to disable the Better Gmail extension.
For more screenshots and information, check out the Google Blogoscoped link below.