How To Use Gmail’s Attractive New Tablet-Friendly Interface On Your Regular Old Computer

How To Use Gmail’s Attractive New Tablet-Friendly Interface On Your Regular Old Computer

Google just rolled out an excellent new two-pane Gmail interface for tablets like the iPad, and whether or not you’re thinking of buying one, it’s a cool big-screen version of Gmail some people may want to use on their desktops. Here’s how you can.

Using the tablet-friendly, two-pane Gmail on your regular old computer is pretty simple, and it employs the same user agent tricks that we’ve used for all kinds of things in the past. So first, a quick rundown:

Every browser you use has an associated “user agent” that it transmits to servers when it requests a page. This user agent allows the server to return customised layouts for different browser types. In the case of Gmail, it looks for the iPad’s user agent, then returns the specialised tablet-friendly interface. If you want to use that interface on your non-iPad, the solution is simple: You need to change the user agent in your browser.

Here’s how it works in Firefox:

  1. Install the User Agent Switcher Firefox extension
  2. Once installed, go to Tools -> Default User Agent -> Edit user agents.
  3. Click New -> User agent, then put together your iPad-spoofing user agent. It should look like the screenshot below:

    The most important text goes in the User Agent field, which you can copy and paste from the text below (found via Stack Overflow:

    Mozilla/5.0(iPad; U; CPU iPhone OS 3_2 like Mac OS X; en-us) AppleWebKit/531.21.10 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/4.0.4 Mobile/7B314 Safari/531.21.10

  4. Now that you’ve added the new user agent, select it as your active user agent. (Tools -> Default User Agent -> iPad)
  5. Now navigate to and log into Gmail. When it loads the Gmail interface, you should see the tablet-friendly interface you see in the screenshot above.

You can switch the user agent in nearly any browser, but that’s one way to do it in Firefox. You can also change Chrome’s user agent string.

If you love Gmail’s awesome keyboard shortcuts, it’s probably not the interface for you, but if you like a good two-paned email interface, it might be right up your alley.

Google services on the iPad and tablet computers [Google Mobile Blog]


  • Other google apps seem to have tablet interfaces too, accessible by this. If only google let you set this in the prefs – we’re using fujitsu tablet PCs on which these features would rock (in tablet mode at least), but this hack will be too complicated for most of my users.

  • I’m guessing it’s using some iPad-local resources, since there’s a lot of hovering text with backgrounds missing etc… interesting but unfortunately less usable than it would appear at first.

  • For those using chrome, you can start chrome spoofing any user agent – just add –user-agent=”foo bar” to the command line arguments.

    I just tried this, but it doesn’t let me scroll to see the complete message. Must be using some specific apple API. I wonder how different this is to other mobile versions (e.g. Android) – what APIs exist on mobile devices that web sites have access to?

  • this did not work in FireFox 3.6.3 … the messages are cut off and there is no scrolling option… also replying to messages the links for SEND are not hyperlink and so it is simply “SEND” and u have to click that hoping it will work … not a fine tuned spoof but still good for a change of gmail’s interface

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