Google’s Gmail Undo 14 Sep 2005

23 comments Latest by veronica


Kudos to Google for being one of the few companies offering at least some level of undo in their web-based apps.

Undo is all the more important in Ajax-heavy apps since things happen so fast. Take a checkbox for example: The old way was you’d click the box and then press a button. That gives you more time to change your mind. With Ajax you click the box and bam, the action is performed. If the change is small it’s easy to reverse it, but it’s nice of Gmail to allow you undo things like deletes (or “discards”). Well done.

23 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Anonymous 14 Sep 05

Good work by Google! Althought I am not sure why I am unable to see such undo feature that you are seeing. I don’t even see the word “discard” anywhere! Weird!

topfunky 14 Sep 05

Undo would be unnecessary if they actually asked you before deleting things.

On the customized Google homepage, clicking the little red ‘x’ in the corner of an RSS feed deletes it immediately without confirmation.

hp 14 Sep 05

This is not really new feature in Web applications. Almost allWebObjects applications use it (as well as “Redo”) and it’s very straightforward to implement.

We have made undo and redo available on all Web applications we have developed for the past 5+ years and have received only positive feedback from the end users.

Martin 14 Sep 05

Topfunky: Oh no, the undo thing is much better than annoying “are you sure?” confirms all over the place.

And for the anon looking for the discard: start a reply to a message, one of the actions beside “send” is “discard”.

Wesley Walser 14 Sep 05

They seem to be doing something new with drafts as well. Today I wrote myself an email from class, and when I got back to my room it was stored as a draft. Don’t really know how it works but I haven’t looked into it at all either.

Anonymous Coward 14 Sep 05

I hate to ask an obvioius question, but where in Gmail is this occurring?

I’ve tried moving messages to the Trash and deleting messages permanently. Neither produces any “undo” notification like the one pictured above.

Or is it possible that Gmail has rolled this feature out to a select few at first, and the rest of us will see it sometime in the future?

Ian 14 Sep 05

Anon, there are actually multiple versions of Gmail out there depending on when you registered. I don’t have undo (yet) either.

And I agree with Martin, any opportunity to avoid a dialog box!

Rob West 14 Sep 05

I agree: a little confirmation would be nice. But having Undo is such a lovely novelty in Web Applications, it’s kinda fun to think about. Hopefully, despite Google’s implementation, and the argument that delete confirmation should not be elided in favor of undo, we’ll start to see more Undo implementations.

Hopefully some Undo libraries? Design Patterns?

Lode 15 Sep 05

“With Ajax you click the box and bam, the action is performed.”

It is? Now that’s just awful, usability-wise. This is OK for buttons, but definitely not for checkboxes. Maybe for to-do lists like Basecamp, because you can easily switch back, but a critical action should never be performed just by clicking a checkbox.

(On a totally unrelated note, what do you guys think of the way some Apple websites let you choose the language? (like and They do it by presenting a drop box, which gets automatically submitted when you choose one. It seems like the wrong control to me, just like a checkbox instead of a button.

John Topley 15 Sep 05

You get the Discard button when you compose a new message.

Jens Meiert 15 Sep 05

Exemplary. Every (web) application needs to support “undo” (as important as auto save!).

Andy 15 Sep 05

Lets not get too over-excited here. This is basic usability stuff that Windows/Apple (ie. OS-based) apps have had since year dot.

With technology like Ajax and XAML, web apps will become more like Win apps in years to come, and usability must be at the forefront of design.

As a mainly Windows apps developer who has moved to web apps in the last couple of years, that’s one of the most frustrating things about most web apps - usuability is out the window for most web app developers.

Web browsers are fundamentally not designed (or intended) to provide rich, interactive user interfaces without a great deal of effort. I find that most web development involves kludges to get around this, that or the other. Roll on when we have a decent, lightweight platform to use for full-blown web-based applications. (ie. not a web browser in it’s current form)

My 2c! :)

Mark Priestap 15 Sep 05

Gmail is much better than Cats. I’m going to use it again and again.

Jeff Shell 15 Sep 05

Since Zope 1.0 (then known as ‘Principia’) back in 1997, this has been a standard feature when using Zope’s object database. Good content management tools build on top of this functionality to present ‘undo’ to the user. In the default Zope 3 management interface, there are actions for ‘undo once’ and ‘undo more’, which lists past actions. You can even undo undos!

In this case, it’s a feature of the database and its storage system. The ZODB object database keeps historical transactions around until the database is packed, and doing an ‘undo’ means just going back a transaction. One could probably build a similar feature on an RDBMS that provides a transaction log. This means that the application level code doesn’t have to track the state or track their own ‘recent undoable actions’.

I need to expose this functionality to the application I’ve been writing for our customers.

Nolan Eakins 20 Sep 05

I blogged about how the back and forward buttons should act like undo and redo since AJAX makes them completely useless. They would actually do more than undo and redo typically do. For instance they would undo an open message, post a comment, checkout(?), etc. So pretty much any action needs to be undoable and redoable.

I really need to play with AJAX, but I know the DojoToolkit can overide what back and forward do. Not sure about prototype.

mary getstone 03 May 06

I needed you help to undo your toolbar off of my computer
but I found no help in your page contents.

mary getstone 03 May 06

I needed your help to undo your toolbar off of my computer but I found no help in your content page so now I am wondering what should I do because I do not want a google toolbar

mary getstone 03 May 06

I needed your help to undo your toolbar off of my computer but I found no help in your content page so now I am wondering what should I do because I do not want a google toolbar. I am not trying to hurt your feeling but I am an adult who do not feel like having this on there computer.

veronica 21 Jun 06

i want the google bar and all that is associated with google, off of my computer asap. thanks