I came across the Gmail blog the other day and they were announcing a handy little feature that lets you take back email messages before they are actually delivered to the Internet. For example, let’s say you were sending a friend a message:
I was chatting to that girl you like the other day. She says that she does like you.
You, being the good friend that you are, are doing him a favor by doing a little bit of investigative work. But as you hit send, you notice something. You forgot to add the word not after the word "like" and before "you". The sentence "She says that she does not like you" completely changes the tone of the message.
Normally, if you were to do such a thing, you’d be out of luck and have to send a follow up email. I know that in many of the emails that I send out, I notice the typo just as I click and release Send. I’m like "Noooooo…" But this new Gmail feature allows you to click the Undo link just as you send it, and if you do it within 5 seconds, you are then returned to the Compose window. Pretty handy.
Of course, Outlook/Exchange has had this feature for quite some time. There are two versions of it — one that works and one that doesn’t. For the one that doesn’t work (and I say this tongue in cheek because it has only worked for me once in the dozens of times I have tried to use it), if you send a message and want to recall it, you can go to your Sent mail folder. If you double-click on the message to open it and click "Other Actions" you can actually Recall the message. There are two Recall options, retrieve unread versions, and retrieve and replace the message. So if you make a mistake in email and send out a message you actually didn’t mean to send, you can undo it. I consider this feature purely theoretical because I have yet to see it work for me in real life.
The other option is similar to the Gmail feature. Outlook lets you specify a delay on the time you hit Send to the time the message is delivered. I think that the default is 5 minutes. So, if you send a message and it sits in your inbox for a while, that gives you time to go back and fix it before it gets sent out to the world. It’s a feature that I don’t use because when I send email I expect it to go out instantaneously. I don’t even know where to set that feature but I know it exists. Perhaps if I dropped the threshold to 30 seconds I would be alright with it.
So, while the Gmail feature is neat, it has been around Outlook for a long, long time.