4/24/12 – In the last few days, Gmail has forced all users into the new look. I have updated this post with better information. Below are a few methods I have found that will change and restore the new Gmail look to feel more like old Gmail. While they don’t address every annoyance, they major ones are fixed for me and I now don’t mind the New Gmail.
Reduce Size of Emails in Inbox
The default new view in Gmail is Comfortable. This makes your Inbox look like it’s double-spaced. Luckily, you can get the spacing of your inbox back to the old look. Go to the gear symbol in the top-right corner of your inbox (not the black bar at the top) and change the Display Density to “Compact”
Change the Symbols for Archive, Spam, Trash, Move, Labels to Text
It seems Google is “sorta” listening to all the problems about the new Gmail look. This change no longer requires a “Stylish” tweak.
Click the Gear (in the top right) > Settings > General > Button labels. Change the Button Labels to “Text”.
Rounded and Compressed Messages
After the compact view and text buttons, this is the next HUGE annoyance: messages and their threads are hard to see. To change back to a view that is more compact and easier to view threaded messages, you’re going to need a plugin that only works for Chrome and Firefox called Stylish.
First, install Stylish:
Chrome – https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/fjnbnpbmkenffdnngjfgmeleoegfcffe
Firefox – https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/stylish/
Second, go to http://userstyles.org/styles/62621/gmail-messages-rounded-and-compressed and you’ll have a big green button to install this script.
Change your Theme
Under the Gear in the top right, choose Themes and find something you like. I find this makes it easier to navigate and read Gmail better with the Beach theme.
Find your Contacts and Tasks
Gmail has hidden the link in the top left to find your Contacts and Tasks. You must now click the word MAIL in the top left to see them.
Other Tweaks and Tricks
If the above tweaks and changes aren’t enough for you, you have a couple options:
1. You can view Gmail in basic HTML mode: https://mail.google.com/mail/?ui=html. This view reduces *some* functionality and you loose the ability to theme Gmail.
2. You can try a number of custom styles with Stylish. Users at userstyles.org have created a number of them. Just go on over to http://userstyles.org/styles/browse/all/gmail. For a comprehensive overhaul to the New Gmail look, I recommend The Return of Old Gmail.
3. If you want to get the old Gmail beach theme and look back, I have made a bunch of custom tweaks myself to The Return of Old Gmail. To get it, first install The Return of Old Gmail (if you already installed Stylish). Then go to Gmail.com and click the Stylish “S” in the top right corner of your browser. Click Edit on The Return of Old Gmail and replace the code with everything from this file: http://spoonjab.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Return-of-Old-Gmail-CSS-for-Summer-Ocean.txt
Have any other tips? Leave them in the comments!