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We all know the scenario. You just typed an email. You may have been angry, absent-minded or in an altered state of consciousness for a brief moment (or hour).

The minute you hit 'Send', you realize that you made a huge mistake. Your email contained a horrible typo, said something you wouldn't tell your mother or was just plain unintelligible.

If only you could 'undo' the email and take it all back. Well, if you're a Gmail user, you now can. Sort of.

Thanks to Gmail's new 'undo' feature, email messages are held for 5 seconds after you click send. In that 5 second window of opportunity, you can click on an 'Undo' button that will prevent the email from actually being sent out.

Why 5 seconds? According to Google user experience designer Michael Leggett, "My theory (which others shared) was that even just five seconds would be enough time to catch most of those regrettable emails."

If that's really the case, Gmail's new feature may be very useful to those who have a tendency to send out regrettable emails.

Of course, Gmail isn't the only email platform that offers such a feature, as others are pointing out. Nonetheless, everything Google does attract attention and I wouldn't be surprised if other popular webmail providers considered adding a similar feature.

That said, I'm not so sure that the biggest problem with regrettable emails comes in the form of an email with a missing attachment or a typo; it usually comes in the form of an email that was put together without any thought.

Which means that there's a better solution to the problem that Gmail is trying to solve: be careful and thoughtful when typing emails. Spell-check them. Read them at least twice. Take a break before sending an important one out.

In my experience, I don't have the impression that the people who send emails worthy of inclusion of the Email Hall of Shame are the kind of people who are going to realize that they sent a crime against humanity in email form within 5 seconds.

So while some may appreciate Gmail's new feature, let's not forget that the best cure for the email faux pas is still an ounce of prevention.

Photo credit: shawncampbell via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 20 March, 2009 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2391 more posts from this author

Comments (1)

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Dan

This is much more useful for the more often observed (for me anyway) occasion when autocomplete is the cause of an erroneous recipient to an email.

Especially annoying if you were gossiping about others, or if you sent an email to 5 people internal to your organisation and 1 person who is not, and is very likely a contact at one of your biggest clients.

In any case, 5 seconds seems a little tight - 10 seconds hardly causes the world to slow down but gives you a few more breaths to realise your mistake.

over 7 years ago

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