How to enable new Gmail for free Google Apps accounts

Google released a major design update for Gmail a few weeks back. The new update has a number of improvements like a sleek redesign, new snooze functionality, smart replies, offline mailconfidential email mode for sensitive information, integrated apps for Calendar, Tasks and Keep, and much more. Google rolled out the new Gmail to users globally a few weeks back. Paid Google Apps users also received the optional update but somehow, users on the free grandfathered Google Apps accounts still have not received the update. However, there is an easy workaround to quickly enable the new Gmail Early Adaptor Program without shifting to a paid account.

Enable new Gmail on Google Apps legacy free plan

Here is how you can enable the new Gmail design on your free Google Apps account. To do so, you must be the admin for your Google Apps account.

1. Login to your Google Admin console. You should see an option to upgrade your subscription. If you don’t see the sidebar, click on the small arrow to open it. Click on the red upgrade now button.

Google Admin Console

2. There is not much to do on this screen. Click on Get Started.

Upgrade Google Apps Account

3. On this screen, where you get to add the trial plan for G Suite Basic, simply check the terms and conditions checkbox and click on the blue Continue button. We will be upgrading to this trial account temporarily and will cancel it by the end of this guide.

GSuite Basic

4. Once you have upgraded your account to G Suit Basic trial, go to Apps > G Suite > Settings for Gmail > Advanced settings and look for New Gmail Early Adopter Program. Click on Allow my users access to the new Gmail UI and features as well as on Enable Gmail web offline. The later option will enable Gmail’s new offline functionality which removes the need of installing a Chrome app. More on this later, but don’t forget to turn it on.

New Gmail Early Adapter Program

5. The changes that you just made might take 1 hour to become available in your user accounts. So if you do not see the option right away, don’t fret. Once the option is available in your account, you can click the Settings icon in Gmail to see the Try the new Gmail option.

Try the new Gmail

6. Now that you have new Gmail working on your accounts, it is time to downgrade the G Suit Basic subscription back to your free Google Apps subscription. You will not lose the new Gmail on accounts for which it had been enabled. To downgrade, go to Billing in Google Admin and click on Actions > Cancel Subscription.

GSuit cancel Subscription

7. On the next screen, make sure that Downgrade to Google Apps option is selected. Do not change this and click Continue. You will be downgraded to your free Google Apps account.

Downgrade to Google Apps

New Gmail offline Mode

The new Gmail offline mode will also need to be manually enabled on each account. This can be done by going to Gmail Settings > Offline and clicking on Enable offline mail. Make sure to check any of the available options under Security before you can save changes. Gmail Offline

There are a few caveats to note when using Gmail Offline:

  • You must be on Chrome 61 or above
  • You must have Gmail already open before you lose connectivity. If you did not have it open in Chrome, before losing connectivity, this functionality will not work. This kind of defeats the purpose of an offline mode so it’s better to rely on an app like Outlook or Spark if you want real offline email access.

Note: At the time of writing, Google has still not rolled out some of the features from the original announcement like confidential mode.