Category: Google

Google+ Quietly Removes Menu Link to Google Spaces

In the latest update to the Google+ app for Android, Google has quietly removed the menu link to Google Spaces.  It could be the first indicator that the carcass of yet another social networking attempt by Google is about to be thrown on the pile.  And frankly, it wouldn’t be all that shocking.  The change can be found in the 9.6.0 build of Google+ for Android and if you open up the menu using the hamburger menu or a swipe from the left side of your screen, you’ll see that there is no link to Spaces.

The idea behind Spaces was never fully articulated.  It was somewhat like Circles in the original Google+ but it was also aimed to allow you to create a “space”, invite friends so that you could discuss the space’s defined topic.  You could also share videos, images, texts and other media.  In theory, a pretty cool idea but Spaces never really took off.

Google Drive Adds 2TB Tier for $19.99 per Month

Google has quietly added a new 2TB storage tier to Google Drive.  The new storage level is $19.99 per month and fills the wide gap that was between the 1TB and the 10TB offering Drive offer previously.  The new tier can be added to your account via the Drive Android app or on the website.  If you already pay for Google Drive storage, you can upgrade your account via the app or web and you will be partially charged for the remaining time on your billing cycle.  The access to the extra storage however goes into immediate effect.  The new tier is available now and you should see it on both the app and the site to sign up.

The addition of the new tier will certainly help those users who need more than 1TB but not the massive – and expensive – 10TB option.  Price wise, the 2TB plan is competitive with other cloud storage solutions and, of course, since Drive ties in nicely with other Google apps, it is convenient.

Remember that if you store Google G Suite files (Docs, Sheets and Slides) and uses High Quality on your Google Photos uploads, those don’t count against your storage quota.  Things like Gmail attachments, PDFs and Microsoft files do count against it.

Google 2-Factor Authentication on Phones Gets More Detailed

Last Summer, Google started allowing users who have 2-factor authentication enabled to get notified and approve account access via a pop-up on their phone.  The feature is deadly handy as it saves a lot of time over having to go over the Google Authenticator app and type in a six digit timed code.  To this point, that pop-up provided basically a yes or no option but didn’t really give you any details other than someone was trying to sign into your account.  That’s changing for the better as Google rolls out an update behind the scenes to improve the details you get when an authorization request is made.

First, if you don’t have 2-factor authentication enabled on your Google account, you can do that by going to myaccount.google.com.  Navigate to Sign in Options and enable it.  After that, you can add your phone to your account as being a device from which you can give authorizations in addition to the Google Authenticator app.  Once you have it enabled, when you try to sign in from another device with your Google account, you will get a prompt on your phone to approve it.

Google Drive Update Brings Support for Password Protected Microsoft Files

The Google Drive team is rolling out an update to the web that allows you to preview password protected Microsoft Office documents.  The update is rolling out to everyone and should get to your account over the course of the next few days.  Once you have it, if you attempt to open a password protected file, you will be prompted for the password and can then preview the file.  The key word here is preview.  You won’t be able to edit the document nor will you be able to open it up in Google Docs, Sheets or Slides.  It is a read-only preview.

While it is limited, this is a nice edition to Google Drive.  Many users store Microsoft files on Drive so being able to at least preview a document before going through the process of opening it up in the apps could potentially save some time.  Interestingly, the ability to open or preview password protected files is something that even Microsoft does not offer with Office 365 online.

Google Sheets Update Brings Formatting Improvements and Mouse Support to Android

Big changes are coming in the latest update to Google Sheets for Android, web and iOS.  There are some nice formatting options that are coming to the app but probably the bigger news is that the Android app will have mouse support for the new breed of Chromebooks that run Android apps.

From a formatting perspective, Sheets will now have the ability to rotate text (this is found under Format>Text rotation) to make your spreadsheet cleaner and more visually appealing.  For example, you could rotate column headers 90-degrees so that they are vertical instead of wide across the column top.  This means you can make those columns more narrow.  Add to that, finally, the ability to format numbers in Accounting style.  This is one of those “why wasn’t it there before?” features but hey, it’s here now.  Under Format>Number>Accounting, you can change your numbers into this format for easier and more consistent reports on budgets and other financial spreadsheets.

 

 

Rounding out the formatting updates are new border styles.  There are several new border styles in the app that have various thicknesses and double borders.  These are all found under Toolbar>Borders>Border styles.

The big changes though and probably the more exciting ones for most are the changes to the Android (and iOS app) app for Sheets.

Google Play Music Brings Back Recents to The Menu

A small dot release of Google Play Music is hitting the Play Store that brings back a menu option and other small improvements.  The updated build is version 7.4 for those keeping score and with it you will find that the Recents option has returned to the main menu or navigation drawer of the app.  This feature disappeared late last year when Google started injecting machine learning into the app so it could better learn your listening preferences.  Since then, your Recents appeared as a button on the main display of the app (but it only shows your downloaded music if you are in offline mode)

The return of Recent to the menu should clean things up a bit whether you are online or offline and make it easier to find the music you have recently listened to in chronological order.

Google Camera Update Allows For Shutter Sound Disabling

If you are a Google Pixel or Nexus 5X/6P user, there is a minor update to the Google Camera app rolling out for you.  The update, version 4.3 for those keeping score at home, fundamentally brings one feature to the table:  The ability to silence the shutter sound.  This may not seem like a big deal but it is something many other camera apps have offered for a long time and when you are in a museum or other quiet place, having the shutter sound fire off each time you take a photo can be a bit annoying.

This new setting is found in Settings>General in the app under “camera sounds”.  Toggle this off and there will be no more sounds from the app.  Keep in mind, this also means that the self timer feature will also go silent too.  It completely shuts the sounds off in the app.

What is Smart Lock and How To Enable It on Your Chromebook

One of the great features of Chrome OS is one that few people actually use.  It’s called Smart Lock and while technically still a beta feature in the Stable channel of Chrome, it is a quick and easy way to unlock your Chromebook using your Android phone.  No longer do you have to type in your password on your Chromebook but rather, can simply walk into the room with your unlocked Android phone or click your account photo on your Chromebook to unlock it.  Setting it up is pretty easy and it can save you some time, especially if you have your phone setup as a Trusted Agent.

First, what is Smart Lock?  As the name suggests, it is a way to quickly and easily unlock your Chrome OS device by using your Android phone.  To do this, your phone and your Chromebook have to be linked and trusted with each other which is a quick five minute process.  It is a feature that has been in the Settings of Chrome OS since last year and requires that your phone be within 100 feet of your Chromebook to work.  In this How To, I’ll show you how to set it up and use it.

Google Pixel XL Finally Back in Stock at The Google Store

If you have been wanting to pick up the Google Pixel XL, you need to go to the Google Store.  Like, right now.  I’ll wait….

For the first time in weeks the XL is in stock and available for order.  Google has a mighty time keeping up with demand on both the Pixel and the Pixel XL and usually the phone shows out of stock in all colors and variants.  Right now at least, you can pick up the XL in Silver or Black with 32GB of storage.  The 128GB variants still remain out of stock as does the Really Blue color.

Google Fit Update Fixes Low Distance Estimates

Google’s health and activity tracking app, Google Fit, saw a minor update yesterday but it contains a big fix for users.  To be clear, this is not the update that brings a lot of new features to the app to support Android Wear 2.0 devices.  That update is expected once the 2.0 devices get out there, which starts on Friday, February 10th.  So for those of you who have Fit installed, don’t expect to see a lot of changes visually.

The big change is a bug fix that had to do with mileage estimates from the app.  When you were on a walk, run, biking or I’ve found it even in skiing, there were times that the mileage estimates were off.  Sometimes they were off by a little bit, sometimes by a lot.  This update appears to address those issues based on an evening walk I made last night after updating.

Google Photos Update Re-Enables Casting

There is an update to Google Photos for Android that is now in the Play Store that addresses a bug with Casting your photos.  Late last week, the photo app was updated but users began experiencing a problem with it continually prompting for Google Cast credentials and a PIN, even for users who didn’t have a Cast nearby.  On Monday a small patch went out that disabled Casting in Google Photos and the update today fixes that bug and re-enables the feature.

If you were one of the users impacted by the Casting bug, you certainly need to download this update as soon as it is available on your account.

No, Google Now Launcher Won’t Be Uninstalled On Your Phone

Late last week it came to light from various sources that Google is going to be removing the Google Now Launcher from the Play Store in March.  The ultimate reason behind this remains a bit of a mystery with those of us who have the Nexus 6P or Nexus 5X hoping that the Pixel launcher will become the new default. But regardless, one thing that needs to be made perfectly clear:  If you have the Now Launcher installed, it won’t disappear from your phone when Google removes it from the store.  It just simply won’t be available for download.

All-in-all, the Now Launcher is a solid launcher option that has been around since the Nexus 5 days and became a stand alone download in 2015.  It works well, gets the job done and with a swipe to the left you get all your Google Now cards.  Those Now cards are the key reason I’ve kept the launcher installed. But, to be fair, those Now cards are available in the Google app itself now so you don’t necessarily have to have the launcher installed.  This, likely, was part of the deciding factor for Google to kill off the launcher.

The question for some however who use it will be if it will still work after Google removes it from the Store.  The answer is absolutely.  Equally, it won’t be uninstalled from your phone either.  The only way that could happen would be if you completely reset your phone as you won’t be able to download it from the Play Store again.  You can get around that too by side-loading it from APKMirror.