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March 3, 2015

Google Tests New Contacts Interface

Google released a preview of the new Google Contacts interface. Powered by Material Design, the new Google Contacts improves some of the existing features: finding duplicates, Google Profile integration, while adding some new features: a list of recent messages, Hangouts sidebar, global search results from Google+. It also merges your contacts with your Google+ circles and no longer uses pagination.


"The new Google Contacts comes with a fresh look and feel, and conveniently pools together all your contacts, circles, and the people you talk to most in Gmail," informs Google. Starred contacts and frequently contacted people are placed at the top of the page, followed by your entire address book, which now includes your Google+ circles. You can customize "your circles" and exclude one or more Google+ circles.


Google Contacts now finds duplicates automatically and offers to merge all of them. You can dismiss some of the suggestions and better assess if they are actually duplicates.


When you click a contact, Google now opens a card overlay with a bigger picture and more information from the Google Profile page. Google also shows the most recent email conversations and meetings with that person.


The search feature now includes results from Google+. The first results are from your contact list ("personal results"), while the following results are from Google+ ("global results").


Some features aren't available yet in the new Google Contacts: importing/exporting contacts, restoring contacts, printing contacts, keyboard shortcuts. You can still find them in the old version of Google Contacts. For now, the new Google Contacts is not available for Google Apps users.

The new interface can be found at contacts.google.com/preview and it will be added to Gmail's contact manager over the next few weeks. You can also open Google Contacts and click "Try Contacts preview" in the left sidebar.

How to go back to the old interface? Expand the "more" section and click "Leave the Contacts preview".

{ Thanks, Daniel Sadavoy. }

February 28, 2015

Google Docs Viewer Page, No Longer Available

Google had a page that allowed you to quickly view documents online right from your browser. The Google Docs Viewer page was available at docs.google.com/viewer and drive.google.com/viewer. You could enter a document URL and Google generated a link to view it. This worked for a lot of file types: Microsoft Office files, PDFs, PostScript files and more.


While the page is no longer available as it redirects to Google Docs/Drive, you can still use the Google Docs Viewer. Paste this URL in a new tab:

https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=

and then paste the address of the document you want to view online. Here's an example:

https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http://research.google.com/archive/bigtable-osdi06.pdf


The "embedded" parameter is still available: just add &embedded=true to the URL and the viewer will use an embedded mode interface. This is useful for embedding documents (use the <iframe> tag).

{ Thanks, +Sushubh Mittal. }

February 26, 2015

7-Day Week View in Google Calendar for Android

The latest update to the Google Calendar app for Android brings a lot of new features. You can see more events with the new 7-day week view and pinch-to-zoom, add Google Drive files to events, hide Google+ birthdays from the settings, show week numbers and import .ics files from other apps. The new version is gradually rolling out over the next few days.


The feature that lets you hide Google+ birthdays will also be added to the web interface next week. All the other features are already available in the desktop site.

Different First Page Headers in Google Docs

Google Docs added a few features that make the product more useful, especially for students. You can now use different headers and footers on the first page of your documents, hide headers and footers on the first page and start page numbering on the second page.

When you add a header or footer, Google Docs now shows this option on the first page: "different first page header/footer". Click the checkbox and you can add a different header or footer.


The "page number" feature from the "Insert" menu lets you start page numbering on the second page.


"This means that you can follow academic formatting guidelines for first page headers and footers (e.g. MLA, CMS, APA)," says Brian Levee, Google Docs Product Manager.

{ Thanks, August Valera. }

Google Increases Play Music Storage Limit

Google Play Music now lets you upload up to 50,000 songs and store them for free. Until now, the limit was 20,000 songs. Assuming that the average size of an MP3 file is 4MB, you can backup 200GB of music.

When you open Google Play Music's site, you'll see this message: "Encore! Encore! Now you can upload up to 50,000 of your favorite songs and listen to them on your phone or on the web."


To upload music, you can use the Chrome app or Music Manager for Windows/Mac/Linux. Google only uploads songs if they can't be found in the Play Music database, which has more 30 million songs. Otherwise, Google uses the high-quality version from its own database and doesn't waste bandwidth to upload your music files.

{ via Android Blog }

February 24, 2015

Chrome's Warning for Sites With Unwanted Software

Last year, Chrome started to block downloads for applications that "make unexpected changes to your computer — for instance, switching your homepage or other browser settings to ones you don't want". Now Chrome shows a warning when you visit a site that "encourages downloads of unwanted software".

Here's the warning page: "The site ahead contains harmful programs. Attackers on example.com might attempt to trick you into installing programs that harm your browsing experience (for example, by changing your homepage or showing extra ads on sites you visit)". This is a new SafeBrowsing feature, just like malware and phishing warnings, and you can disable it from the settings.


In addition to displaying Chrome warnings, Google will also downrank search results and disable Google ads that lead to sites with unwanted software.

There's a Google page that provides more details about unwanted software. According to Google, unwanted software has at least one of these characteristics: it's deceptive, it affects the user's system in unexpected ways, it's difficult to remove, it collects or transmits private information without the user’s knowledge, it's bundled with other software and its presence is not disclosed.

February 23, 2015

Mobile Google Tests Colorful Cards

Google's mobile site experiments with a new card UI. There are a few changes: each search result has its own card and cards have colorful borders.

The screenshot below shows Google's Japanese interface, but it looks like this is a global experiment. You can find more screenshots at Baka-Ke.com and Android Police.


{ Thanks, Shinohara Makoto and Florian Kiersch. }

February 19, 2015

Google Inbox for Tablets and More Desktop Browsers

Google Inbox now supports more devices and more browsers. Mobile apps are now optimized for tablets (iPads and Android tablets) and you can use Google Inbox in Firefox and Safari for desktop computers.


You can install the iOS app or the Android app to use Google Inbox on a mobile device. For now, Google Inbox doesn't support mobile browsers.


Inbox no longer requires Chrome for desktop. In addition to Chrome, Inbox now supports Firefox and Safari. For some reason, Internet Explorer is still not supported. Here's the error message displayed by Inbox: "Oops, your browser is not yet supported. Inbox works best on Chrome, Firefox, or Safari. More browsers coming soon."


There's also an error message for old versions of supported browsers: "It's been a while since your browser was last updated. Please upgrade to the latest version to continue using Inbox."


"If you aren't using Inbox yet, now's a perfect time to jump in. Email inbox@google.com to request an invite and we'll email you as soon as more invites are available," informs Google.

Google and Lunar New Year Celebrations

Google+ celebrates the Lunar New Year with a special costume for Mr. Jingles, the friendly Google+ mascot. "Countries across Asia are beginning Lunar New Year celebrations to welcome in the year of the sheep. In China, hundreds of millions of people are travelling home in what is considered the world's biggest annual human migration. State media says about three billion passenger trips will be made by plane, train and car over the 40-day period," reports BBC.


Here's the animated version:


There's also a Google doodle for Lunar New Year. Google uses an animation which illustrates that 2015 is the Year of the Sheep (sheep, goat or ram, since there's a single Chinese word for all of them).

February 18, 2015

Google Reading Level Bug

Google has an advanced search feature that lets you filter search results by reading level. Click "search tools", pick "reading level" and you can select one of the 3 options: basic, intermediate and advanced reading level.

For some reason, Google's feature no longer works well: the advanced reading level's percentage is 0% for all queries. When you click "advanced", Google doesn't return any search result. Here's an example for [science].


Google annotates search results and you can still find "advanced reading level" pages.


"The reading-level is based primarily on statistical models we built with the help of teachers. We paid teachers to classify pages for different reading levels, and then took their classifications to build a model of the intrinsic complexity of the text," explained Google's Daniel M. Russell. "Roughly speaking, 'Basic' is elementary level texts, while 'Intermediate' is anything above that level up to technical and scholarly articles, a la the articles you'd find in Scholar."