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Google has already introduced quite a few changes to many of its products over the last 4-5 months. We know that it’s not easy to keep track of all those changes, so we decided to round up some of the more useful ones that you might want to know about. Let’s explore them one popular Google product at a time, shall we?
You now have a better chance of staying safe on the web thanks to the extra layer of security that Google has added to its webmail service. Now Gmail warns you:
- If your communication is less than secure — If you’re sending a message to (or have received a message from) someone whose email service doesn’t support an encrypted connection (TLS), you’ll see a red-colored open lock icon in the message.
— Anita Campbell (@smallbiztrends) February 20, 2016
- If you receive a message from a sender that Google can’t authenticate — In this case, you’ll see a question mark in place of the usual sender photo or avatar.
- When you’re about to open a malicious link — You already know this warning as Gmail’s Safe Browsing feature, only now you get a full-page warning and you get the option to back out of opening the link.
- If you’re the target of state-sponsored spying — Apparently, this last scenario is a potential threat to fewer than 0.1 percent of Gmail users — mainly activists, journalists, policy makers, etc.
— Heimdal Security (@HeimdalSecurity) April 1, 2016
Note: Not all emails that set off alarm bells are dangerous just as not all emails that appear genuine actually are. The warnings are to remind you to exercise caution when dealing with email. In any case, don’t reply to suspicious emails and don’t open links or attachments embedded in them.
You can now take advantage of Gmail features without a Gmail account on Android. Google’s new “Gmailify” feature makes that possible. It allows you to manage your Outlook, Hotmail, or Yahoo! email account from the Gmail app on Android with this simple setup.
— Gmail (@gmail) February 17, 2016
Google has added a couple of other useful features to its Android app: rich text formatting and the ability to view your schedule and respond to Google Calendar/Microsoft Exchange invitations with a single tap.
Inbox by Gmail
The Smart Reply feature which was available only on Android and iOS now works on the web. It “reads” your emails and crafts a reply for you. Three replies, actually. You can pick one (and edit it if need be) before you send the email. Inbox “learns” from your choices to craft better replies and more complex sentences with each iteration.
Finding information via the search feature in Inbox got a lot faster this year. The app scans your emails for useful hidden data related to travel bookings, events, bills, car rentals, phone numbers, etc. Inbox has been doing this all along, but now it serves that data to you up front by placing the most relevant cards right at the top of your search results. Intrusive? Yes, but not any more than Google search, which does something similar:
The Snooze feature on Android got a makeover. It not only looks different, but also has a couple of new useful features — the ability to specify which days constitute the weekend and two new snooze times (Later this week and This weekend).
— Inbox by Gmail (@inboxbygmail) February 26, 2016
Two other updates that you’ll love in Inbox on mobile? Single-tap sharing for trip plans and one-shot multiple photo attachments to emails.
Inbox groups similar emails into bundles. This is great when you’d like to see all information related to any of your trips at a single glance. What’s better is that you can now share a quick overview of your trip plan with anyone — open the trip, tap the Share button, add the recipient’s email address, and tap Send.
You can add emails to a trip and also make it available offline.
— Inbox by Gmail (@inboxbygmail) December 14, 2015
The task of curating photos to share with friends and family got a lot less dreadful, or rather unnecessary, because Google has volunteered to take it over for you. It has introduced a Smart Albums feature in Google Photos on Android, iOS, and on the web.
Now, Google Photos automatically creates albums for you after a trip or an event. That’s not the awesome part. This is: the auto-created album contains only your best shots, which means no dealing with duplicates or squinting at several sets of similar-looking photos trying to decide which ones to keep. And that’s not all. Google Photos adds some extras like location pins. You can also add maps and captions, and invite people to upload photos.
— Google Photos (@googlephotos) March 28, 2016
Here’s another update that you’ll appreciate: quick revert to the original version of an image on Android. You can also undo individual edits one by one because Photos now saves all edits within the same photo instead of creating a new version of the image with every edit.
If you’re an iPhone user, you can look up gas stations, restaurants, convenience stores, etc. and add them to your route — all without leaving the navigation mode. The Pit Stop feature makes this possible. Add pit stops via the magnifying glass icon at the top right when you’re on the Driving screen in Maps. You can pick from the list of suggested locations or look up and add a location of your own. By the way, this feature came to Android first.
On Android, you can personalize maps with stickers and labels for specific locations. Search for any address and once you locate it, swipe up from the bottom of the screen to get the personalization options. Labelled addresses will appear under Your Places in the app’s sidebar. Naming destinations as Home, Work, Gym, etc. gives you quick access to directions and en-route traffic updates for these places no matter where you happen to be right now.
— Jaana Nyström (@JaanaNystrom) March 22, 2016
As an Android user, you can also add locations to your timeline manually and choose to disable voice guidance when you’re on the phone (via Settings > Navigation Settings > Play voice during phone calls).
The iOS and Android versions of Maps now have a dedicated tab that displays information about a handful of ride services including Uber when you ask for directions. This makes it easy to compare pick-up times and fare estimates for various ride services and pick your best option right from Google Maps. Once you do, the app for the ride service you chose comes up so that you can book a ride.
— techAU (@techAU) March 29, 2016
Note: Some of the latest Maps updates are available only if you use an iPhone 6S.
Google is making easier to get creative with Hangouts. For starters, you don’t need to have a Google account to join a Hangouts call. Of course, someone with a Google account will need to send you an invite via email. Once you click on the link in the invite and the sender approves your request to join the call, you’re in!
If you’re the one sending a Hangouts invite to an external guest, you’ll need to create an event in Google Calendar, add a video call to it (as shown below), and send the calendar invite to the person you’d like to have on the call.
If you’re a Hangouts user on iOS, you can record and share 60-second videos — a step up from the 10-second videos that Google permitted until now.
For Google Apps customers, Google has raised the participant limit for Hangouts video calls from 15 to 25. It will display video feeds only for the ten most active users in the call though, in a bid to maintain high call quality.
If you’re using Android N, you’ll love the ability to skip the Hangouts app and reply to messages from the notification panel instead.
Google Image Search
So far you could star or bookmark images (and keep them organized in folders!) from Google’s image search from your mobile browser. Now you can do that from your desktop browser as well. You’ll need to be logged into Google of course. This feature is available only to US-based users at the time of writing this.
— Barry Schwartz (@rustybrick) March 30, 2016
Real-time commenting capabilities came to mobile for Docs, Sheets, and Slides — a big boost for Google Drive’s collaboration setup.
Docs, Sheets, and Slides got a new set of special templates made for you by a handful of experts. For example, you now have a Sheets template for annual budget planning for business. It has been designed by Intuit, the company that gave us the accounting software QuickBooks.
— Google Docs (@googledocs) March 2, 2016
If you use Google Apps, you can also set an expiry date for a shared document, but only for users who have only view access or comment access.
If you have installed any of Google’s editor apps like Photos or Docs on Android, you can jump to those apps quickly from document previews in Google Drive and edit the documents on the fly. Any changes that you make to them using the editor apps get synced back to Drive.
You can now type with your voice in Google Docs. Here’s why voice typing is the best thing that happened to Docs.
You no longer need to scroll back and forth between various sections of a document. You can jump to the right ones directly. That is if you take advantage of the outline tool that Google has introduced. Let’s see how to do that.
Go to Docs on the web, open any document, and click on Tools > Document outline. This puts a list of all the section headers in that document in the sidebar. Click on the sidebar link for any header and Docs will take you straight to the corresponding section. If you haven’t used headers to split up your content into logical sections, Google does that for you.
You can also use the Documents outline feature on Android (via the Overflow menu). The outline appears as a list of section headers that you can scroll through. There’s no Document outline feature on iOS, at least for now.
Google Docs for iOS has finally got a word count feature. It’s hidden in the More menu at the top right within a document. Also, Google Docs on Android got a reverse sort option.
The option to export a document as an EPUB (via File > Download as) is another Google Docs addition worth noting.
— Google for Work (@GoogleforWork) March 7, 2016
You can now view and change the filters applied to a spreadsheet in the iOS app.
On Android, you’ll be able to view Google Drawings in spreadsheets (except in frozen rows and columns). The updated version has a few more file formats in the Share & export > Save As… menu. You now get to save the current spreadsheet as a CSV file, TXT file, or even as an HTML web page bundled into a ZIP file.
Google Slides for Android got three new file formats — JPEG, PNG, SVG. You can save and/or send a copy of slides in these formats from the Share & export menu. And you can now change the layout or theme of a presentation in the iOS app.
You’ll be able to get real-time notifications via email for individual form responses. You can also use third-party add-ons right from Forms, much like you do in other Google Drive products. And now you have a bunch of templates to start creating forms with.
"See that? Add-ons. I love the sight of add-ons on the new Google Forms in the evening." pic.twitter.com/bXzDsseuiZ
— Blayne Primeau (@beepreemo) March 18, 2016
Google for the Win!
These are just some of the top-level visual and functional changes to look out for in your favorite Google products. There are always more changes on the way, such as the exit of the terrible Chrome App launcher from the desktop. Looking forward to those? So are we. For now, update your favorite Google applications to get all the features that we listed here.
With so many Google updates piling up in just a few months, we might have forgotten to highlight some useful ones along the way. If you know of any such updates that deserve a mention, share them in the comments.
Image Credits:cheese pancakes by shakim888 via Shutterstock