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When ChatGPT attracted 100 million users in two months after launch, the world realized that artificial intelligence is not something from science fiction anymore but a reality. Still, many considered AI a fleeting fad – until the big players like Google started joining the race.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the new Gmail AI assistant, see what it’s capable of, and how you can get access to it before it’s launched to the public.
Gmail AI Assistant Overview
Quick summary of my experience with Gmail AI assistant
Being an AI buff, I applied to test Gmail AI features as soon as they got released and got early access to Workspace Labs in May 2023.
After thoroughly testing AI features in Gmail, I found it pretty average compared to other AI email assistants. It’s pretty good at formalizing and replying but not as good at writing emails from scratch.
I am not impressed by the quality of Google’s email generator: it sounds too formal, generic, and robotic – it’s not like we humans actually communicate. But I can see how it can be useful as a starting point if you can’t afford another tool and writing emails is not your strong suit.
Still, some of the alternative email writing AI tools I’ve tested have more features and better generation capabilities, especially when it comes to the tone of the email and smart personalization.
What is Gmail’s AI assistant all about?
Google first introduced an AI assistant for Google Workspace in March 2023, and then they demoed some of the features at the Google I/O 2023 conference.
You can watch the whole 10-minute talk from Google I/O here.
Now they call it Duet AI, and it adds smart features to Gmail, Docs, Sheets, Slides, and other Google products to help you optimize your workflow and be more productive.
But what exactly does it mean for Gmail?
Gmail AI assistant is an intelligent tool designed to help you write and manage emails much faster. It can draft emails and replies based on a short prompt, shorten your email or elaborate, and even formalize the email you wrote to make it appear more professional.
We’ll look into each AI email management feature in detail in the Features section below.
Gmail’s native AI assistant, launched in spring 2023, is not to be confused with the AI Mail Assistant extension for Gmail developed by Klart AI.
Gmail AI assistant’s availability
It seems like Google is planning to roll out AI Workspace features to everyone by the end of 2023. Until then, you can apply for early access if it is supported in your country.
As I’m writing this in August 2023, Google AI assistant is only available in several countries (here is the full list).
If you try to sign up from a non-supported country, you get this:
As for the platforms, Google AI only seems to be available on desktop for now. Google mentioned bringing these features to mobile, but I don’t see it yet in my Gmail app on Android.
How to get access to Gmail AI assistant
1. Go to the Google Workspace Labs sign up page.
2. Read the terms carefully, agree and confirm you are an adult, and press Submit.
3. Patiently wait for access to the Google AI assistant.
It might take a few days or weeks until you get accepted to Workspace Labs and receive the welcome email.
Is Gmail AI available for free?
Yes, Gmail AI is free, at least for now. You don’t even need to be a paid user of Google Workspace to get access to Workspace Labs. All you need is a Gmail account.
Gmail assistant’s AI features
When you get access to the AI assistant in Gmail, you’ll see a new “Help me write” button when composing a new email.
When you click on it, you’ll see an additional panel with all the available features: “Help me write,” Formalize, Elaborate, Shorten, and “I’m feeling lucky.”
1. Generate an email from scratch
The most prominent AI feature in Gmail is drafting an email based on a short idea.
When you click on the “Help me write” button, you’ll see a place to input the main intent of your email in a few words. It also offers smart suggestions to give you an idea of what you can do with it.
Example 1 – generating a thank you email with AI
For the sake of this example, let’s go with one of the native suggestions Gmail AI gave me – generating a thank you letter after a job interview.
After pressing Create, the Gmail AI takes 3-5 seconds to generate an email.
And here is the result:
Whether or not this is a good output depends on your standards and what kind of emails you usually write.
If you are facing a blank page syndrome, AI will give you the first draft to work with, but you’ll need to do some heavy editing to make it usable.
Imagine each candidate sending this exact generic email after the interview! Always make sure to add your own touch, change some things to make it your own, and personalize the email as much as possible so you don’t sound like another robot.
Example 2 – generating client outreach email with AI
To try a different approach, I gave Google’s AI a real-life scenario: a coach doing email outreach to find more clients.
This is what the Gmail AI assistant generated:
This is way too generic for my taste, and I would never send this in a real-life scenario. Still, it can give you the foundation to work with, so you don’t have to write from scratch.
After the generation, you can choose to Recreate the email if you don’t like it or try one of the other features to update it further.
2. Generate a reply to someone’s email
Replying to emails wastes a lot of time every day, and accelerating this process is the part I’m most excited about when it comes to AI email generators.
In fact, drafting replies to incoming emails is my favorite feature of Gmail’s AI assistant. It understands the context pretty well, and the resulting email is very similar to what I’m usually getting from customer support reps.
Let’s say you received an angry email from a customer who purchased your product that is not working.
All you need to do is press Reply, choose “Help me write,” and input the brief direction for response generation. I typed, “apologize and ask for order number.”
Here is the resulting email reply that Gmail AI generated:
After all my experiments with Gmail AI assistant, this is the only case where you can send the generated email to someone as is. Great job, Google!
Since customer support is one of the top AI use cases in business, I am not surprised that this generator is also good enough at that.
3. Elaborate on existing email
The Elaborate feature of Gmail’s AI assistant is able to add some details to your short email to make it appear more sophisticated or professional.
As an example, I wrote a short one-line email meant as an outreach to offer the software tool to a potential customer. Then I pressed Elaborate.
Here is how Gmail improved my email. I can totally see it being used for some simple real-life use cases – it’s definitely better than the original but still too boring and generic, and I wouldn’t send this to anyone without editing.
I feel like elaborating is better than creating an email from scratch because AI has a little more context and can pick up on your tone.
4. I’m feeling lucky
This is an interesting one. According to Google, this feature “updates draft with creative details,” and I would say it’s a fun addition that has no real-life application because you never know what to expect.
To be fair, Google has had the “I’m feeling lucky” feature in search since forever, so I guess they are just staying on brand.
I took the interview email from the first example and pressed, “I’m feeling lucky.” Gmail AI assistant regenerated it, adding two paragraphs that I highlighted on the screenshot.
You can see that it added some details but also some random stuff about enchanted forests and adventures, so I wouldn’t rely on this feature for anything serious.
It also added the weird line “Generated with…” at the end – but that’s what many free tools do, you can just remove it.
For a second example, I took the logo-related outreach email that Gmail AI assistant generated for me earlier using the Elaborate feature. And pressed “I’m feeling lucky.”
To my utter surprise, AI turned it into a haiku (Japanese-type poem). I should say I did not expect that.
I don’t see where it can be used as it seems to do it randomly, but it adds a fun element to the whole email management process and reminds us to chill out.
5. Shorten an email that’s too wordy
Shortening is another AI useful feature in Gmail: it can take your long email, cut the fluff, and make it more succinct.
For example, I took the 5-paragraph interview email that I had after testing “I’m feeling lucky” and asked Gmail AI to Shorten it.
Here is a new, shorter version of the email. It removed all the unnecessary blabbing, leaving me with a one-paragraph summary.
I wouldn’t call it a good email, but it did the job – the shorter version is more likely to be read by an interviewer.
6. Formalize an email to make it polite
There are several occasions in life when you might need to write a formal email. The Formalize AI feature is designed for those moments when you need to appear more professional or polite.
I used Formalize on a shortened version of the email we had from the previous test, and here is what the AI assistant generated:
As you can see, it’s pretty similar to the very first version of this email. This shows that Gmail’s AI assistant writes in a pretty formal tone by default.
Since AI formalizing AI didn’t work out, I decided to try another approach.
Imagine you are writing an email telling the boss that you are quitting. You are really angry and emotional, and you can’t take it anymore – and instead of taking the time to calm down and think it through, you choose to write it now and get it over with.
(Don’t take this email too seriously, I was just having fun with it, curious how Gmail AI will handle it, and it actually did a pretty good job.)
Click Formalize – and here is an AI-polished and more polite version:
This is a much better way to do it, isn’t it? AI basically created an “anger filter,” resulting in a regular quitting email that is almost ready to be sent.
You can see that the AI assistant invented some details which may not be true (in this case, having a position at another company) – and this is why I always emphasize the need to fact-check every AI output.
What I don’t like
I pretty much explained my impressions as I was reviewing each feature, so here are just a couple of additional things that I didn’t like about the AI assistant in Gmail.
I think this issue might go away after they roll out the final version to everyone.
How to opt out of Gmail AI features
If you join the Workspace Labs and get access to AI features in Gmail, it doesn’t mean you are stuck with it. If you don’t like it, you can always opt out through the convenient button in Settings.
Best alternatives to Gmail AI
Best email marketing tool with AI assistant
Best email collaboration tool with AI for teams
Effective AI writing tool for email campaigns and newsletters
AI writer with lots of email-oriented use cases
Best AI tool for personalized outreach emails
AI-supported email marketing tool for business
Final verdict: does Gmail AI assistant help you write emails faster?
If you are really bad at writing emails, Gmail AI will make your life easier. Even though the basic generation is pretty boring and generic, it gives you the skeleton of the email, so you don’t have to start from scratch.
Based on my tests, the best feature of Gmail AI assistant is replying to incoming emails, which means it might be helpful for doing customer support as a small business.
If your work involves a lot of sales outreach or business emails, I wouldn’t recommend relying on Gmail AI – rather, consider one of the more professional alternatives I mentioned above.
Overall, Gmail’s AI assistant indeed helps you write emails faster, and generated emails make sense and are grammatically correct. However, it is not yet smart enough to fully mimic human communication, and there is definitely room for improvement.