If you use a third-party app on any OS to manage your Gmail, you may be in for some very good news today: Google has announced the official Gmail API, and it's available immediately as a beta.

For developers of third-party email experiences, or apps that access email data, the Gmail API is huge. Previously, developers were left using IMAP as the typical way to interface with Gmail, and that standard is far from ideal for a great many reasons. The new Gmail API natively supports labels, threading, drafts, and includes the ability to utilize fine-grain permissions for new and existing messages. (For example, if an app only needs to send a message, it can request only the "compose" permission.)

The API will allow developers to implement basically the same functionality as the Gmail search box, too, and because it no longer uses TCP / SMTP, the Gmail API can be implemented in basically any environment. It's also apparently much, much faster than IMAP at most operations, especially search. To learn more, hit up the blog post and the API page below.

Google Apps Developer Blog, Gmail API