Howto: Default the XO’s GMail Activity to Basic HTML

This howto is a two-fer: You can use this to modify the GMail Activity installable in Sugar, and you can bookmark this to use as a regular link to GMail on other machines too, whether they’re using Ubuntu or Arch, Firefox or Kazehakase.

For me, and probably for a lot of people using older machines and the GMail Web interface, the super-smooth layout with all the fancy effects is painfully slow. On the other hand, the pure HTML version is nice and fast — and with the exception of a few minor points, you get all the fundamentals with none of the drag. It’s like a low-fat version of GMail.

The downside of that is, you still have to load that slow interface the first time you log in, before you can jump to the HTML version.

Or not: Using this link takes you straight to the HTML version, immediately after logging in

Bookmark that through your browser, and opening it when you log in will avoid the wait while the advanced UI loads.

In Sugar, with the GMail Activity installed from the prepackaged Activity that comes on the XO, you can get the same behavior by modifying one line of one file.

Start a Terminal Activity, and change directory to Activities/Gmail.activity/, like this:

cd Activities/Gmail.activity/

Now edit the file with nano.

nano -w

Scroll down until you find the _GMAIL_PATH variable, which is preset to ‘’. Edit that to the link I gave you above, so the whole line looks like this.


Now press CTRL+X to close nano, save the file and stop the Terminal Activity. When you press the GMail icon in the Activity Bar, you should go straight to the same login page, but your inbox and the entire interface will be the Basic HTML version.

As one last note, this only works the first time you open that link. If you log out and then log back in to the same account or another one, you’ll go back to the advanced interface. That’s because GMail’s logout link takes you back to the top login page, not to the nested, HTML login page.

So if you have more than one GMail account, like me, you’ll probably want to close each Activity between logins, and start fresh ones each time.


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