Google put out a pair of small, but useful Gmail updates on Thursday that make it both easier to use and more integrated with the company's free Calendar service. Notably, both have skipped a trial through the service's "labs" section, and gone straight through to the final product.
The first is drag-and-drop attachments, a feature which lets you drag files from your desktop machine right into your e-mail message to have them begin uploading. It works the same as the system Google implemented in its Wave service for photos and other media types. It also has the same requirement of the user having to run Google Chrome or Firefox 3.6.
To use it within Gmail, users just drag any file from their hard drive (or from within an open application) into a new green box that appears within the compose menu. The service then uploads it in the background, which--just like uploading any other attachment--lets you do other things as the bits are being pushed.
The other new feature is a nice follow-up to the experimental rescheduling feature the company introduced to its Calendar product just last month. It adds a little "insert invitation" link just below the subject line of outgoing e-mails. When clicked, it pops up with a Google Calendar invitation-maker that includes a visual of when there are open times to meet based on those people's schedules. As soon as you send it, the event gets added to everyone's calendars (if they're on Gmail that is), or attached as an .ICS file.
Between the two, the drag-and-drop attachments is really the new, killer feature. For those users on Chrome or Firefox (with Mozilla's Prism installed) who are running Gmail as a standalone desktop Web app, this adds a whole new layer of functionality, and one that more closely resembles a real piece of software.