Google has clearly been hard at work improving its Gmail services this week. Following the update to its web app for the iPhone yesterday — which adds a pull to refresh feature and a high resolution interface — Google has now issued an update to Gmail for standard web browsers too.

Gmail Preview Pane update

Users now have the ability to preview messages in their inbox using a three pane preview view — similar to that of OS X Lion’s new Mail application or Microsoft’s Outlook. You can customize the layout so that your preview pane is horizontal and sat to the right of your messages, or you can choose to have it located vertically below them. However, The Next Web notes that there currently seems to be some issues with the vertical split that leads to “odd width and scrolling.” We’d expect these to be ironed out by Google fairly soon, though.

Don’t expect to be greeted by this view next time you login to Gmail — you’ll have to enable it first in your mail settings. To do this, login to your account and click on the little cog in the top right corner of your window, then click ‘mail settings’. Click on the ‘Labs’ tab and scroll down until you see the ‘Preview Pane’ option. Click enable and then save your settings.

When you go back to your inbox, you’ll have a new button to toggle between the horizontal and vertical preview views. When you click on a conversation, by default, Gmail will wait three seconds before marking your email as read. This will ensure you don’t miss emails when you click on them accidentally. You can change this delay to one second, or remove it completely within your general settings if you don’t like it.

I think you’ll agree that the preview pane is a great update to Gmail, and one that has been a long time coming. Gmail’s web app on certain devices, such as the iPad, has boasted this feature for some time, so I’m not sure why it took so long for it to appear in desktop browsers.

What do you think of the update to Gmail?

[via The Next Web]