Google has started rolling out a new feature in Gmail that lets users create Google Calendar entries from their email messages.
Gmail now detects dates and times in the text of email messages and highlights them. Users can click on the highlighted text and trigger a pop-up box for configuring a Calendar item.
The process of creating and modifying the Calendar item happens within Gmail. The Calendar entry will automatically contain a link back to the email from which it was created.
The new feature is being delivered over the coming week to all individual users of Gmail's English-language version, as well as to organizations that use Gmail as part of the broader Google Apps cloud suite. This rollout schedule excludes Google Apps customers who have opted to receive application updates at longer intervals.
Google plans to add the feature to non-English versions of Gmail later on, the company said in a blog post.
The feature is intended to increase the convenience of using Calendar, which has historically not been as well regarded by users as Gmail, by far the most popular of Google's communication and collaboration applications.
By more tightly tying Gmail and Calendar, Google is increasing its efforts to lure users of Microsoft Outlook, the ubiquitous email and calendar desktop application that is often used in conjunction with Gmail as a backend email server by Apps customers. Google would like all Apps customers to use the Gmail and Calendar web interfaces, instead of the Outlook client.
People's attachment to Outlook has been a stumbling block for Google as it pushes Apps as an alternative to the Microsoft Office productivity applications and servers, like Exchange and SharePoint. In some cases, employees' preference for Outlook has derailed efforts to implement Google Apps in organizations.
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