An unofficial blog that watches Google's attempts to move your operating system online since 2005. Not affiliated with Google.

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February 28, 2009

Google's Twitter Accounts

Google has recently launched a Twitter account to share byte-sized news and updates. Twitter, a startup founded by two former Googlers, started to become very popular and it's regarded as the next evolution of blogging.


Here are some other official Twitter accounts for Google services and products:

* YouTube, which has more than 14,000 followers

* Blogger, which answers many questions from users

* Google Reader, which share useful tricks for using the feed reader more effectively

* Google Apps, a feed that shares articles about the evolution of Google's software-as-a-service business

* App Engine - a not-so-frequently updated list of Google App Engine news.

In other news, you can follow the latest headlines from this blog at twitter.com/googleos, where I'll also post news and tips not included in the blog. Send your tips, questions and suggestions to @googleos.

February 26, 2009

Better Interface for Uploading Gmail Attachments

Gmail improved substantially the interface for uploading attachments: now you can select multiple attachments at once and there's a progress bar that displays the status of your uploads. It's much easier to upload multiple files from a folder, although you still need to use a third-party extension to attach files using drag-and-drop (the extension is not compatible with Gmail's new Flash uploader, so you need to disable it from Gmail's settings page).



While the new features are very useful, there's a strange bug that creates individual messages for each uploaded attachment and sends them to the "Trash". I started to compose a message to test the new feature, then I uploaded some photos and clicked on "Discard". Here's what I found in the "Trash" folder:


If you don't like the new Flash uploader, it can be disabled from the Settings page by selecting "Basic attachment features - Attach one file at a time and don't show progress bars".

{ Thanks, Sean. }

User Photos Enhance Google Street View

Google Street View has a new option to show photos uploaded to the Google-owned Panoramio. "Now you can browse user-contributed photos that have been precisely-matched to Street View images. Gorgeous photos from Panoramio allow you to see some of the world's most famous landmarks at an even closer level," explains Google.

Whenever you visit in Street View a location that has user-contributed photos, you can click on one of the photos for a different perspective. You'll find many Panoramio photos for popular places like Tour Eiffel, Duomo di Milano or Times Square.




{ Thanks, Kevin. }

February 25, 2009

Google Shared Stuff to Be Discontinued

Google Shared Stuff, the social bookmarking service that has never been officially launched, will no longer be available after the end of March.

Google Shared Stuff was only used to share videos at Google Video and Knol articles, but it was buggy and underdeveloped. Shared Stuff combined different ways to share pages with other people: by email, using social sites like del.icio.us or by adding them to a public page.


As usually, Google's suggestions for replacing the discontinued services are hilarious:

"If you want another way to share videos, you can use the "Share" link below each YouTube video. You can also create a public Google Site if you want to share websites and links with friends."

A more appropriate replacement is Google Reader's sharing bookmarklet, that lets you share content from any web page. There's also AddToAny, which combines multiple sharing options in a crowded page. Many other social sites offer sharing bookmarklets: Facebook, FriendFeed, del.icio.us.

{ Thanks, Jamie. }

February 24, 2009

Google Toolbar 6 with Quick Search Box

Google Toolbar 6 for Internet Explorer, released in beta today, doesn't have too many new features: the integration with Google Notebook has been removed, the "new tab" page from Google Chrome is displayed when you open a new tab and there's a completely unrelated application bundled with the toolbar. Quick Search Box is already available for iPhone and Mac and now it's part of Google Toolbar 6.


The new application can be launched by clicking on the Google logo on the taskbar or by using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Space. It combines a program launcher with a search box and it shows suggestions, web addresses and results for simple calculations.

"Sometimes, multi-tasking on the computer can be a maddening process if you have to constantly switch between different programs and files. Try using the Quick Search Box: it lets you easily search both your computer and the Web from a slick-looking search box that comes up only when you need it," explains Google.

Quick Search Box is similar to the homonymous feature from Google Desktop, which only shows results from your computer. It borrows the mix of search suggestions and navigation predictions from Chrome's Omnibox, while opening web pages in your default browser.

Google should have released Quick Search Box as a separate application or in a future version of Google Desktop. As it looks now, Quick Search Box doesn't offer enough functionality to replace Windows Vista's search box or application launchers like Launchy, the new feature will certainly confuse Google Desktop users and it's not very clear what's the connection with Google Toolbar.

Gmail Is Down. What to Do?

The web interface is one of the ways to access Gmail and you can choose from many flavors of web-based Gmail. If the standard web interface doesn't load, it's a good idea to try the more secure SSL interface at https://mail.google.com or the basic HTML mode at http://mail.google.com/mail/h.

Gmail also offers other ways to read your email: you can use POP3 or IMAP in almost any email client for desktop or mobile phones. If you use Windows, you already have Outlook Express or Windows Mail, but you can install a better application like Thunderbird. Before opening a mail client and entering Gmail's settings, it's important to enable POP and IMAP from this page (Gmail settings/ Forwarding and POP, IMAP). POP and IMAP access is disabled by default and it can only be enabled from the web interface.

Gmail's web interface was down for more than 2 hours today. "If you've tried to access your Gmail account today, you are probably aware by now that we're having some problems. Shortly after 9:30am GMT our monitoring systems alerted us that Gmail consumer and businesses accounts worldwide could not get access to their email." The only way to access your mail was using a mail client, but the POP/IMAP access had to be already enabled from Gmail's settings page.

What can we learn from today's outage? It's important to know that there are alternate ways to access Gmail and you should enable POP and IMAP, even if you don't intend to use them regularly.

February 20, 2009

Google Video, Back in Google's Main Navigation

Google Video replaced Product Search in Google's main navigation, now that Google's comparison shopping site started to become popular.

Google Video first replaced Froogle on the homepage in 2006, two months before Google acquired YouTube.




A year later, Froogle replaced Google Video on the homepage and it was rebranded as Google Product Search.


And now Google Video is back on Google's main navigation, while Froogle is available in the "more" drop-down.

February 19, 2009

Custom Gmail Themes

Until Gmail adds an option to create your own themes, you can edit the colors from Gmail's default theme. Go to the Themes section from Gmail's settings, click on "Choose your own colors" and select your favorite colors for Gmail's background, links, text messages, navigation links and more.


Your colors are saved when you finish editing the theme and the changes are added to Gmail after you press "Save". If you don't like your theme, you can always choose one of the 31 pre-defined thems or click on "Reset" to go back to the default theme.

"Companies that use Google Apps won't see the options for themes yet, but we're working on getting themes to you too," mentions Gmail's blog.

Google Pack Comes with Shortcuts for Google Web Apps

Google Pack added a new option to install desktop shortcuts for Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Docs. The applications open in Google Chrome, in the chromeless app view. If you click on the Gmail shortcut, you have to option to register Gmail as the default mail client. Google Chrome already includes Gears, so Gmail and Google work offline if you enable the option.



Although Google calls the tool "Google Apps", the shortcuts don't work with Google Apps accounts. As a simple workaround, you can create application shortcuts using Google Chrome and use the icons installed by Google Pack.

{ via Google Docs Blog }

February 18, 2009

Download Books from Google Book Search

Google Book Search lets you download books, but only if they're in public domain, like Hamlet. All the other books are available as a limited preview or as a snippet view in Google Book Search.

You could download the image corresponding to each page of a book or you could automatize the process using a download manager. Another option is to use Google Book Downloader, a third-party Windows tool that downloads the pages from Google Book Search using several proxies and merges the images in a PDF file. Google Book Downloader will only retrieve the pages that are available online, so you won't be able to download entire books in most cases. The application requires .NET Framework 3.5 SP1 and it's not very clear if it breaks the terms of use for Google Book Search.

1000 Machines Find the Results for a Google Query

How many servers process a Google query and serve the top search results? Google Fellow Jeff Dean says that more than a thousand machines are necessary to obtain the search results in less than 200 milliseconds.

"Their performance gains are also impressive, now serving pages in under 200ms. Jeff credited the vast majority of that to their switch to holding indexes completely in memory a few years back. While that now means that a thousand machines need to handle each query rather than just a couple dozen, Jeff said it is worth it to make searchers see search results nearly instantaneously."

More Local Search Results in Google Maps

Google Maps shows more local search results: instead of showing only the first 10 results, you can explore the most relevant 1000 local businesses in a single view.

"Ever wish you could see more than just ten local search results at once? Us too. So we've added a search layer for local search results that activates when there are more relevant results than we can show on one page. Instead of just plotting the first page of business results on our map, we plot more of them as small circles. You can click on the circles to get more information about the businesses they represent. The top ten results will still appear in the left-hand pane and as pins on the map," mentions Google Lat-Long Blog.


In other news, Google Maps is for the first time more popular in the US than MapQuest. According to comScore, Google Maps had 42.3 million unique US visitors in January, while AOL's MapQuest had only 41.5 million uniques.

"Google has for several years been investing very heavily in Maps (and Earth), as well as distributing Google Maps across the internet via its API. The features and capabilities developed for Google Maps are more extensive and widely known than those of its competitors. (...) Google steadily built out a large number of features that consumers and the market have found compelling. More importantly, Google has regarded Maps as a strategic product, arguably its most successful after core search," suggests Greg Sterling.

Ironically, when Google Local was launched in 2004, Google used MapQuest as a provider for maps.

February 17, 2009

How to Disable Google Suggest


Google Suggest, the feature that autocompletes your searches with popular suggestions, has been enabled on google.com last year. The feature is enabled by default and, like all the other Google Search preferences, its state is saved in a cookie. That means the settings can be changed only for the browser you're currently using and they're active as long as the Google cookie is not deleted.

The feature can be disabled in the "preferences" page, from the "query suggestions" section.


If your browser automatically deletes cookies when you close it, you'll probably find an option to add exceptions. For example, Firefox's settings page has a button titled "Exceptions" in the Privacy/Cookies section. Type "google.com" and press "Allow" to prevent Firefox from deleting Google's cookie.


Cookies aren't always reliable and sometimes a small change corrupts them. If you use an ad-blocking plug-in like AdBlock Plus for Firefox, add a new filter with the following format:

http://clients*.google.com/complete/search?*

A filter that will disable Google Suggest in Google Video and YouTube has the following format:

http://suggestqueries.google.com/complete/search?*

Here's a more general filter that should work for all international domains:

http://*.google.*/complete/search?*

Changing the preferences for each browser you use is not very convenient. Some people like to use a portable version of their browser on a USB key (Opera, Firefox or even Chrome), others use software that synchronizes their settings (Moziila Weave is an example).

Another solution is to bookmark or add as a homepage a modified version of Google's homepage that doesn't use Google Suggest. Here's the link:

http://www.google.com/webhp?complete=0 - no more Google Suggest

The "complete" parameter controls the status of Google Suggest. If you like the suggest feature and you want to see it in Google's search results pages, not just on the homepage, bookmark this URL:

http://www.google.com/webhp?complete=1 - Google Suggest on all Google pages

February 14, 2009

Find Interesting Places in Google Maps

When you search for the name of a city or an address, Google Maps lists interesting places from that location and illustrates them with excerpts from Wikipedia articles. To find other locations that have Wikipedia articles, click "More" on the map and select "Wikipedia".


But even if Google highlights very few data layers, you can add to the map many other layers from the directory. For example, you can add the Webcams Worldwide layer to find webcams, the Virtual Tourism layer to explore 400 locations using YouTube videos or find places of interest.

February 13, 2009

First Screenshot of Google Chrome for Mac

The Windows version of Google Chrome was launched in September 2008 and many users asked for Mac and Linux versions. The work to port the Windows version started soon after the initial release and it will soon show some visible results.

A document from Chromium's site includes a list of remaining features that need to be implemented. "The purpose of this document is to help organize and coordinate the effort to get a browser window up and running on Mac and Linux using as much of the code that is already there as possible (with temporary header and link scaffolding, plus ifdefs) as opposed to writing a bunch of throw-away code that duplicates what already exists on windows. Our goal is to get a double-clickable app with a working browser window using the real multi-process infrastructure (not TestShell) by mid-February."

Mike Pinkerton offers more details about the Mac port, which will certainly be released before the Linux version. "We made a list early in the week of the key classes on the critical path to getting a renderer launching and showing bits on the screen. Our goal was to have a renderer being spawned by launching the browser by the end of this week. The list is now almost all green and as of this morning we hit our goal (one day early!) to have renderer processes launched. In fact, we launch a new renderer with each tab, and when the tab is closed, the renderer goes away!! You can see it come and go in Activity Monitory. All this goes through the cross-platform infrastructure with a Cocoa front-end."

Even if there's still some work for creating a proper user interface, here's the first screenshot of Google Chrome for Mac:


And another screenshot via Mike Pinkerton: "Now mind you, clicking doesn't work, and the renderers crash like nobody's business, but the other great thing is that the user interface stays running even if they do. Just open a new tab and keep going! It's important to point out that's part of what's taken us so long to get to this point. The WebKit that ships as part of Mac OS X can't run this way -- it took a lot of work to marshall it to do so. In addition, the UI clearly needs much love, but it's an indicator of the clean and simple direction we're heading."


More about the progress of Google Chrome's Mac port:

* Mac Detailed Status: "Our new goal is to have a multi-process browser limping by the end of the quarter."

* Build instructions: "Right now, the Mac build is a work in progress. The TestShell project builds and is able to render web pages, and this area is currently under active development, but work has yet to begin on the user interface of the main Chromium application."

Edit Google Spreadsheets on a Mobile Phone

Until now, the mobile interface for iPhone of Google Docs was only useful to read documents, spreadsheets and presentations. This is about to change now that spreadsheets can be edited: you can add rows, edit an existing row, filter the columns by value and sort the columns.

The new editable list view for spreadsheets is available for iPhone, T-Mobile G1 and Nokia S60 phones, that is for mobile phones that have WebKit-based browsers.

Screenshot from Firefox with an iPhone user-agent.


Tip: If you like the list view, there's an easy way to enable it for any spreadsheet, even if you're using a desktop browser. Just replace

http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=ID

with

http://spreadsheets.google.com/lv?key=ID .

{ Thanks, Daniel. }

February 12, 2009

Gmail Tests PGP Signature Verification

Sean Leather spotted a new Gmail feature that checks if the PGP signature attached to a message is valid.

"A major benefit of public key cryptography is that it provides a method for employing digital signatures. Digital signatures enable the recipient of information to verify the authenticity of the information's origin, and also verify that the information is intact," explains PGP's documentation.


Gmail's code reveals that Google uses a Java applet to perform verification. Here are some excerpts from the code:

function zOb(a){var b=a[dd](/(-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----(.|\r?\n)*?-----END PGP SIGNATURE-----)/); ... var DOb="PGPApplet",EOb="exp/799/pgpapplet_0.jar";OZ[k].wbc=function $aRa(){var a=document[Qi](M);d(a,WNb({code:"com/google/caribou/pgp/PGPApplet.class",name:DOb,archive:EOb})); ... kOb="Click to verify PGP signature in this message.",lOb="Verify signature",RZ="vPzQab",mOb="Info",nOb="No valid PGP signature found.",oOb="Warning!",pOb="Invalid key entered.",qOb="Applet not loaded. Is Java enabled?",rOb="wrClmc",sOb="Success!",tOb="Your message was verified successfully!",uOb="Verify again",vOb="The signature was incorrect! This message may not be authentic!"

The new feature quickly vanished from Sean's account, so it's safe to assume that it's not ready to be publicly released yet. PGP signature verification is the perfect candidate to be the next Gmail Labs experiment.

Update: Expect to see this feature in Gmail Labs. Look for this image:

Options for Caching Attachments in Gmail Offline

Offline Gmail has been updated to version 0.2 and you can now specify a maximum size for the downloaded attachments. If you don't need to access attachments when you're offline, you can disable the download of attachments.

A user of the Gmail Group has a workaround for those who don't have the new version. "It seems to me that for existing users it'll appear only when you disable and then again enable Gmail offline. And you won't have to download your emails again; you can always choose them not to be removed while disabling Gmail offline."


{ Thanks, Steve. }

Download and Buy Videos from YouTube

YouTube includes a new section for "My Videos": a list of purchased videos. A YouTube help page has more details about the new feature:

You have the option of downloading and storing your favorite Partner videos and watching these videos even without an internet connection. To download Partner video:

1. Find the video you'd like to download.
2. Below the video's play bar in the lower left hand corner, you'll see a 'Download' button.
3. Click the 'Download' button to indicate that you'd like to download the video.


Videos are available to download in the MP4 format and some of them can be downloaded for free and they're even licensed as Public Domain or Creative Commons. An example of channel that offers Creative Commons-licensed video downloads is Stanford University. If the download requires payment, you'll be directed to a Google Checkout page where you'll find the price of the video.


Google Video had a similar option that has been discontinued in 2007, but it used DRM and it required to be online in order to authenticate your credentials.

Related:
Greasemonkey script for downloading YouTube videos

Update: YouTube's blog has more details. The downloading options are a test for US partners and there are 5 licenses for the downloaded videos:

* Personal, non-commercial use
* Creative Commons (Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works)
* Creative Commons (Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike)
* Creative Commons (Attribution)
* Public Domain (no copyright protection)

February 11, 2009

Better Search in Google Contacts

One of the most significant limitation of Google's contact manager was that most of the contact fields weren't searchable. This problem has been addressed and you can now search for any information included, from titles and companies, to locations and phone numbers.

"We've heard you loud and clear, and contact search now works much better: instead of just searching contact names and email addresses, it now includes phone numbers, notes fields, and mailing addresses as well. So, if you're visiting the Bay Area and looking for friends to catch up with, you could try typing "650" or "415" in the contact manager search box," suggests Gmail's blog.


Gmail should also include an advanced search option for contacts, so you can find more precisely the contacts that work for a certain company or the people who sent you more than 3 messages in the past month. Some of these searches could be saved and used to create dynamic groups.

Google Search Pages Load Faster if You Use Google Toolbar

Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer implemented Shared Dictionary Compression over HTTP (SDCH), a technique that speeds up loading web pages. According to Google's proposal (PDF), SDCH is "an HTTP/1.1-compatible extension that supports inter-response data compression by means of a reference dictionary shared between user agent and server".

The proposal explains that "retrieving a set of HTML pages with the same header, footer, inlined JavaScript and CSS requires the retransmission of the same data multiple times. [SDCH is] a compression technique that leverages this crosspayload redundancy."

One of the sites that benefit from this extension is google.com and Google decided to add support for SDCH in Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer.



A Google help page provides a way to remove the feature by disabling the "Google Dictionary Compression sdch" add-on, corresponding to the file fastsearch.dll from Google Toolbar's main directory. There's even an example when the dictionary compression doesn't work well.

The developer versions of Google Chrome implement SDCH as well. Here's an example of dictionary for google.com.

Show Your Location in Gmail Messages

Try this simple exercise: send an email from an Yahoo Mail account to a Gmail account (you can also use almost any other mail client or service). When you receive the message, click on the small arrow from the top of the message and select "Show original". Check the Received header and you'll find your IP address, which could be used to find your location.


Now send a message from your Gmail account to a Yahoo Mail account and select "Full Header" in Yahoo Mail. If you look at the Received header, you'll notice the IP address of Google mail server, like 64.233.170.191.


The conclusion is that Gmail doesn't send your IP address and here's why: "Personal information, including someone's exact location, can be gathered from someone's IP address, so Gmail doesn't reveal this information in outgoing mail headers. This prevents recipients from being able to track our users, or uncover what may be potentially sensitive personal information. Don't worry -- we aren't enabling spammers to abuse the system by not revealing IP addresses. Gmail uses many innovative spam filtering mechanisms to ensure that spammers have a difficult time sending bulk emails that arrive in users inboxes."

If you do want to show your location when you send a message, try the newest experimental feature from Gmail Labs: "Location in Signature", which adds your locations to your signature. After enabling the feature, go back to the Settings page and select "Append your location to the signature". Gmail will use the IP address to approximate your location, but you can get better results by installing Gears. "The Gears Geolocation API can make use of network servers to obtain a position fix. The server determines the client's position using a set of data provided by the client. This data includes the client's IP address and information about any cell towers or WiFi nodes it can detect," informs a document about Gears APIs.


Google has at least two other services where you can show your location: Blogger, which lets you geotag posts, and Latitude, that shows the locations of your friends.

{ via Gmail Blog and Paul Buchheit }

February 10, 2009

Merge Gmail Contacts

The feature is not yet automatic, so you need to find the contacts you want to merge, but it's useful if you don't have too many duplicates. Just select two or more entries for the same person, click on "Merge these contacts" and Google will combine the information from the selected contacts.

All the email addresses from the merged contacts will continue to be available in the auto-complete feature, so you'll still be able to choose one of the addresses.


Try this new feature in Gmail's contact manager.

{ via Blogoscoped Forum }

Update: To make things even more confusing, Gmail added a new view titled "All Contacts". So now you have:

* My Contacts - "a place to import, store and view all of the contact information that's important to you"
* All Contacts - "these are all of your contacts"
* Suggested Contacts - "the people you have contacted frequently"
* Most Contacted - "contacts you email and chat with the most"

The descriptions are not clear enough to distinguish between all these views and I wonder if all of them are really necessary.

February 9, 2009

Google Sync, Available for iPhone and Windows Mobile

If you have an iPhone or a Windows Mobile, you can now synchronize Google Calendar events and Gmail events using Google Sync. "Once you set up Sync on your phone, it will automatically begin synchronizing your address book and calendar in the background, over-the-air, so you can attend to other tasks. Sync uses push technology so any changes or additions to your calendar or contacts are reflected on your device in minutes," explains Google Mobile Blog.

Google Sync already works on BlackBerry. For the rest of the mobile phones, you can only synchronize contacts if there's support for SyncML. Contact synchronization should work on some Nokia and Sony Ericsson phones, for example Nokia N-Series and Sony Ericsson W-Series.



Before synchronizing data, read the known limitations of the initial release and follow the instructions from Google's site.

Google mentions that the service available for iPhone and Windows Mobile uses the Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync protocol. "When setting up a new Exchange ActiveSync account on your phone, all existing Contacts and Calendar events may be removed. Please make sure to back up any important data before you set up Google Sync."

YouTube Feed View

There's a new option to customize YouTube's homepage when you are logged in: the feed view. YouTube orders chronologically the videos from all the other sections you've selected: featured videos, promoted videos (which can't be disabled), videos from your subscriptions, recommendations, friend activity.


Unfortunately, YouTube's promoted videos can't be filtered, recommended videos constantly change and there's no actual feed generated by YouTube. You can obtain a feed that aggregates the latest videos from your subscriptions using a Yahoo Pipe.

YouTube shows a similar recent activity view in your channel, but you need to explicitly make it public. The activity view can show your latest ratings, recent comments, video uploads and subscriptions.

February 8, 2009

Import Contacts and Mail to Gmail

Gmail includes some options that let you import contacts and messages, but they're not very easy to use and migrating data to Gmail is not straightforward. But things are about to change: Google has partnered with TrueSwitch and Gmail will start to include a simple migration tool that works with some of the most popular mail services (AOL Mail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail and many services provided by ISPs and mobile carriers).


"If you're switching to Gmail from another email provider, importing contacts and messages from your old email account can help you make the transition without having to do a bunch of housekeeping," explains Google. You can import the contacts from your old account, import the existing messages and the messages you will receive in the next 30 days and create a new label for the imported messages.

Of course, you can also import contacts by first exporting a CSV file from your old account, there's also the powerful mail fetcher that downloads messages from services that support POP3 and you can auto-forward messages to Gmail if your old service has this feature.

The new option should be added to the new Accounts and Import tab from Gmail's settings page.


If it's not there yet, then you'll have to wait until it's available for everyone. One thing is clear: when this option is available, it will be much easier to migrate from Yahoo Mail and Hotmail to Gmail and that could the increase the adoption of Google's mail service. "Between December 2007 and December 2008, Gmail's number of unique monthly visitors in the United States grew 43%, from 20.8 million to 29.6 million, according to ComScore. Windows Live Hotmail lost 5% of its unique monthly visitors during this period, falling from 45.7 million to 43.5 million," reports InformationWeek.

{ Thanks, Kevin. }

February 7, 2009

Google Tests a New Interface for Google Suggest

Cameron Beyer spotted an experiment that simplifies the interface for Google Suggest and adds Google's search buttons below the list of suggestions.


This is not the only experiment for Google Suggest: other changes include the direct access to the top result for navigational queries, direct answers and suggestions from your search history.

Since many people replaced the address box from their browsers with Google's search box, it's natural for Google to make the search box more powerful and to provide even faster access to search results. If Google's search box first became ubiquitous through Google Toolbar, then Google Toolbar's search box evolved into Chrome's Omnibox, the added functionality should now be included in Google's homepage.

February 6, 2009

Attach Files to Google Calendar Events

Brandon Kraft spotted a new feature in the Google Apps version of Google Calendar: attaching files from Google Docs and photos from Picasa Web Albums to an event. Sometimes you can provide all the details of an event in the description box and you may need to attach photos, presentations and other useful documents.


What I don't understand is why there's no rich-text editor in Google Calendar, where you could drag and drop content from web pages and even images. Hopefully, when GDrive finally launches, you'll be able to access the files stored in Google's Web Drive from any other Google service.

{ Image licensed as Creative Commons Noncommercial Share-Alike. }

Multiple Views in Your Gmail Inbox

Gmail released another Labs experiment and this one converts your Gmail inbox to a structured dashboard that shows multiple views. The improperly-named "Multiple inboxes" lets you add up to 5 lists of search results next to your Gmail inbox: in the right side of the inbox, below or above the inbox.

Use the advanced search operators to build searches like label:name-of-label, subject:linux or is:unread -in:inbox. If you were expecting to actually see the inboxes of multiple email accounts, you can achieve this by using Gmail's mail fetcher, which automatically labels the messages fetched from other accounts and archives them. You can then create panes that have the following format: label:myotheraccount@gmail.com or to:myotheraccount.com.


"After you turn on Multiple Inboxes from the Labs tab under Settings, you can configure what you want to see, as well as set the number of messages displayed and the positioning of your panels from the Multiple Inboxes section under Settings," explains Octavian Costache, who created this feature.

"Multiple inboxes" works especially well if you have a high resolution monitor and if you use filters that automatically archive some classes of messages.

Related:
Simplified Gmail searches
A dashboard for Google Docs

February 5, 2009

Print Preview in Google Docs

Google's PDF viewer has many practical uses: you can view the PDF files uploaded to Google Docs, view your Gmail attachments (and not just PDF files). The same viewer is now used to implement "print preview" in Google Docs, a feature available in the File menu.


Use "print preview" before printing a document or just to find the number of pages in your document.

The feature also works for presentations, but it's not yet available from the interface. You will need to manually create the URL:

http://docs.google.com/gview?a=v&pid=writely&srcid=DOCUMENT_ID

where DOCUMENT_ID is the ID of the document or presentation (you can obtain it from the docid parameter).

{ via Google Docs Blog }

Google Chrome Will Have Extensions by May

Nicholas Moline noticed an interesting session from Google I/O, a developer conference that will be held in May.

Developing extensions for Google Chrome

"Learn how Google Chrome makes it easy to write extensions using the web technologies you already know. This talk will cover the basics of the extension system (distribution/packaging, installation, updates), as well as the different APIs to enhance with the browser."

We can assume that Google Chrome will add support for extensions before May 27th, when the conference starts.

A recently published document explains the process model for extensions. The latest developer versions of Google Chrome already supports user scripts, which could later become part of more complex extensions.

"Chromium extensions will follow a multi-process architecture to share the same kind of stability and security that regular web pages have in Chromium. All of an extension's code runs in a single process, separate from the browser (with the exception of user scripts which run in whichever renderers they apply to). Extension code can communicate with user scripts, and vice versa, through a message passing API."

There's also a list of APIs that includes support for changing the theme, customizing toolstrips and buttons, manipulating the download system, interacting with the history and bookmark system, adding support for sidebars and status bars.

{ "Chrome Drip" licensed as Creative Commons by ViaMoi. }

February 4, 2009

Offline Google Calendar for Google Apps

Some Google Apps users noticed a new option in Google Calendar: read-only offline access to the calendars using Google Gears. Mark Mathson has screenshots for the new feature, but it's surprising to see that Google Apps users, who usually received the updates later than Google Accounts users, get the offline Calendar earlier.


Google's help page mentions that users can decide which calendars are available offline. "Calendar keeps you on time, even when you're not online. Offline Calendar allows you to access your events through your browser without requiring Internet access. It's perfect for flaky connections or for when you're in between meetings and have no idea where you're supposed to be next. Note that while offline, Calendar will be read-only - it will not be possible to create, edit, or delete events."

It's interesting that the version briefly available in October 2007 allowed you to "view and edit the next 3 months of your Google Calendar when you're not connected to the Internet". Google decided that it's important to synchronize all the events and that editing the events is too difficult to implement reliably.

{ Thanks, Mark Mathson and Tom Rodman. }

Google Latitude: Share Your Location with Friends

The latest version of Google Maps for Mobile adds a new feature that lets you share your location with friends and see their locations in real-time. Google Latitude is the first step for adding more social features to Google Maps and to other Google services.

"How often do you find yourself wondering where your friends are and what they're up to? It's a pretty central question to our daily social lives, and it's precisely the question you can now answer using Google Latitude," explains Google's blog.


After installing Google Maps Mobile 3.0 (only available for Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and Symbian S60 right now), you can share your location automatically or set your location manually. You can also post a short status and choose a profile photo.


Here's the complete list of things you can do using Latitude:
After selecting yourself, you can:
- Change your status message across Google products. Your status will only be shared with your current Google Talk or Gmail chat friends.
- Change your photo across Google products.
- Submit or edit your phone number in Latitude for your friends.
- Edit your privacy settings for all friends.

After selecting a friend, you can:
- Show the friend in map view.
- Search for places near your friend.
- Call if a phone number is available in your Google Contacts or Latitude.
- Chat using Google Talk or Gmail chat if available.
- Send an email.
- Get directions to the friend's approximate location.
- Set sharing options. You can choose to hide your location or share only city level location with individual friends.
- Remove the friend. Your friend cannot see your location and you cannot see the friend's location.

"Everything about Latitude is opt-in. You not only control exactly who gets to see your location, but you also decide the location that they see. For instance, let's say you are in Rome. Instead of having your approximate location detected and shared automatically, you can manually set your location for elsewhere — perhaps a visit to Niagara Falls. Since you may not want to share the same information with everyone, Latitude lets you change the settings on a friend-by-friend basis. So for each person, you can choose to share your best available location or your city-level location, or you can hide."

If your mobile phone is not yet supported by the new version of Google Maps, you can add an iGoogle gadget that has similar features.


Location-based services will be increasingly popular now that mobile phones with GPS and fast Internet connections become the standard and the privacy expectations are changing. Eventually, you'll be able to share your location with other applications and obtain personalized information, alerts and even recommendations. From this perspective, Yahoo's Fire Eagle is better-suited for shaping the future of location-based services.