Google Docs version tracking makes collaboration easier

Since adopting the G Suite moniker in September, Google has been steadily beefing up Docs, Sheets, and Slides. Whereas, in the past its updates have targeted select sets of users (like one-tap citations for researchers) its latest crop of tools are all-encompassing. And, they’re all about tracking changes on collaborative docs — even from mobile devices.

Google seems to be fond of rebrands, because starting today “revision history” is dubbed “version history.” This is the place where you can track your team’s changes. The new title also brings with it the ability to assign custom names to versions of a doc, sheet, or slide. That way you can keep on top of things by maintaining a historical record of your squad’s progress. It can also be used to indicate that a doc is actually final (as in completed).

If you’re someone that likes to review documents on the go, Google has you covered. Now, you can suggest edits to a doc from an iPhone or Android handset, and an iPad. Just click the three dots menu at the bottom right of your screen, turn on the “suggest changes” toggle, and input your thoughts in the new “suggestion mode.”

Docs is also receiving a couple of quick-action prompts, including a new preview option that scrubs out comments and suggested edits to show a clean version of your draft. Or, you can skip the review stage altogether by instantly accepting or rejecting all changes. Both options can be accessed via the tools drop-down menu.

Rounding out the updates are a bunch of new templates and add-ons for businesses. And, G Suite is also integrating Google Cloud Search (which uses machine learning to find relevant info from across Google’s productivity apps) for business and enterprise customers.

Source: Google Blog

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Google Allo finally offers web chat, but it’s only for Android users

Allo, Google’s beleaguered chat app that arrived on the iPhone and Android devices last year, finally has a web counterpart. Just a few minutes ago, Amit Fulay (head of product for Allo and video chat app Duo) tweeted that Allo for the web was available, but only for Android phones. To give it a go, you’ll need to open the Allo app on your device and use that to scan a QR code you can generate at this link.

Once you’ve scanned the code, Allo pulls up your chat history and mirrors all the conversations you have on your phone. Most of Allo’s key features, including smart replies, emoji, stickers and most importantly the Google Assistant are all intact here. In fact, this is the first time you can really get the full Google Assistant experience through the web; it’s been limited to phones and Google Home thus far.

There are a few things that didn’t work so well in my quick test. Pictures from earlier in a chat with one of my co-workers failed to translate to the web — instead, I was told I had to view them on my phone. Allo’s little “slider” feature that lets you increase or decrease the size of text in chats is also unavailable, and you can’t make your own emoji like you can on Android.

But the good news is that the most important features are all here and conversations sync quickly between multiple devices. That alone is enough to make Allo worth recommending, perhaps for the first time ever. I just couldn’t go back to a world where my chats weren’t synced across computer and phone, but that’s no longer a problem, at least for Android users. Google says that Allo for the web will be available for iPhone users before long.

Source: Amit Fulay (Twitter), Allo for web

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Apple CarPlay now supports Google Play Music

If for some reason you’re an iOS and CarPlay user that also manages your tunes with Google Play Music, you’re in luck. Google’s music service is now compatible with Apple’s in-car system, which means you can control things from the safety of your car’s display rather than fiddle with your iPhone while on the road.

CarPlay already works with Apple Music, Amazon Music and Spotify, so it makes sense that Google would want to get its own service into rotation here. According to 9to5Google, Google Play Music for CarPlay has four main sections. You can view your recommendations on the Home screen, recently played tunes on Recents, your saved music catalog on Music Library and find genres and other collections on Stations. To get this fine feature, you only have to update your Google Play Music app on your iPhone and you’ll be good to go. You can also move the Play Music icon to your main CarPlay screen in the CarPlay Settings on your iPhone to make it even easier to access.

Source: 9to5Google

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Google Play Music’s New Release Radio is available for all users

Google has officially announced New Release Radio, a station on Google Play Music that provides users with a daily selection of new songs they may like based on their listening history. The feature has actually been out in the wild for almost a month now, but originally it was positioned as an exclusive for Samsung users (though neither Google nor Samsung made an official announcement).

Now, Google is saying that it was “gathering feedback” from Samsung users before officially rolling it out to everyone — but the screenshots we saw from users on Reddit last month clearly called it a “Samsung exclusive” feature. Oddly enough, Reddit also quickly discovered a workaround for people who didn’t have Samsung phones to try the station — I got it working on my iPhone with no fuss.

It’s still not clear whether or not this was always the plan or if Google and Samsung changed course after the confusing rollout of New Release Radio in June — we’ve reached out to Google and will update this post with anything we learn.

Regardless of the back-and-forth here, we’re glad to see New Release Radio available for all Google Play Music users. It’s a smart addition to the service that matches up with some new music discovery features Spotify and Apple Music have offered for a while — and it would have been a shame if only Samsung owners could use it. The jury is still out on whether New Release Radio is as good as Discovery Weekly, but pretty much anyone using Google Play Music should enjoy giving this new station a spin.

Source: Google

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Google hires designer behind Apple’s mobile chips

Google wasn’t shy about targeting its Pixel phones at iPhone users (it even helped them migrate), and now that similarity could extend to the processors under the hood. Variety has discovered that Google recently hired Manu Gulati, a key chip designer at Apple, to become its lead system-on-chip architect. While Gulati’s LinkedIn profile doesn’t say much about what he’s doing, sources claim that Google hired him with the goal of designing its own CPUs for Pixel phones. It’s looking for more chip experts, too, and has posted job listings or a “mobile SoC CPU architect” and similar roles.

We’ve reached out to Google for comment and will let you know if it can elaborate on the hire.

It’s not completely shocking that Google would go this route: there were rumblings in 2016 about Pixel phones eventually adopting custom processors. The big concern is whether or not it’s practical. Apple, Huawei and Samsung can all justify in-house CPUs because they sell many millions of devices every quarter. Google hasn’t divulged Pixel sales, but it’s safe to say they’re nowhere near as large as more established rivals with wider availability and bigger marketing budgets. If Variety is accurate, Google is betting either on the Pixel line’s continued growth or is willing to take the likely financial hit that comes with making chips in smaller batches.

The custom chip strategy could also make Google’s Android partners nervous. They’ve had to accept Google as a hardware competitor for years, to varying degrees, but they’ve also known that Nexus and Pixel phones were using off-the-shelf chips that reduced their ability to stand out. If Google can give itself a performance advantage through custom processors, that would change the game. The Pixel line would have an edge over the sea of Snapdragon-based phones on the market, and it might fare better against Huawei and Samsung phones. Apple wouldn’t have as much to worry about (it’s the only choice for iOS, after all), but it might sweat a bit if Google can brag about its hardware brawn.

Source: Variety, LinkedIn

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Google Sheets uses machine learning to build you better charts

Google spent plenty of time at its I/O developer conference earlier this month talking about how we’re entering the age of AI. Today, the company’s humble spreadsheet app Sheets is getting an upgrade thanks to Google’s machine learning smarts. Sheets has long had an “explore” tool that analyzes your spreadsheets and builds charts automatically, but as of today you’ll be able to ask for charts using natural language.

Hitting the “explore” button brings up some default charts based on your particular spreadsheet. But if you want to get custom, you can just type things like “histogram of 2017 customer ratings” or “bar chart for ice cream sales” (two examples Google provided).

Another handy new feature closely links Sheets with Google’s presentation app Slides. Last year, Google added the ability to automatically update data from Docs into Slides with one click. Now, Google’s adding similar syncing features that go from Sheets into both Docs and Slides. That is, if you’re using the same table for data between these apps, you can just click an “update’ button to pull in the latest information from the master source.

Google also added a bunch of new functions to Sheets, bringing the total to more than 400. There’s also a new chart editor sidebar that should make building the right graph a little bit easier; this will also be available on Sheets for iPad and iPhone today as well. And for those of you who still need to put your spreadsheets on dead trees, there are a few new tools that make it easier to print your document. If you want to give these new features a shot, Google says they’re live today.

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Google Assistant on the iPhone is better than Siri, but not much

Google’s Assistant is finally ready to take on Siri on Apple’s own turf: the iPhone. Yes, you could already play around with the AI-powered chatbot if you downloaded Allo — Google’s mobile-only messenger app — but its functionality was limited. Today, that changes thanks to a new standalone Google Assistant app available on Apple’s App Store (though it’s US-only for now). Eager to check it out, we downloaded it right away and spent some time commanding our Google-branded phone butler around. After a few hours, I’ll say that while I find Google Assistant a lot friendlier and smarter than Siri, it doesn’t quite replace it. At least, not yet.

The first obvious barrier is that while Siri is baked right into iOS, you’ll need to download Google Assistant as a separate app. Plus, accessing Siri is as easy as holding down the iPhone’s home button — with Google Assistant (as with Cortana, Alexa and all other third-party assistants), you’ll need to take the extra step of launching an app. If you have an Android phone, Google Assistant is ready to go without having to download anything at all.

As you might expect, when you first launch Google Assistant on the iPhone, it asks you to log in with your Google account. After you do, it introduces itself to you and invites you to ask it anything you wish. Press the microphone icon at the center to offer a voice command, or if you’d rather not disturb the people around you, you can hit the keyboard icon to type your query.

The first thing you might wonder is if you can make a call or send a message on the iPhone with Google Assistant. The answer is: You can, but it’s not any easier than it would be with Siri. When I say, “Call Mom,” for example, it brings up her name and triggers a phone call, which you can then cancel or confirm. When I say, “Text Mom,” it asks me for my message and then kicks me over to the Messages app on my phone, where I can choose to send it off or not. At least Siri can send messages without me having to open the app.

I also tried to play music on Google Assistant to see how the experience compares to Siri. It was a little, well, uneven. When you first tell Google Assistant to play music, it’ll ask you to choose between Apple Music and YouTube as your default. I chose YouTube and then said, “Play LCD Soundsystem.” It kicked me over to the YouTube app, where it played a random song from the band. Then I went back and said “Play Radiohead,” and it would just give a list of albums. I then tried to switch the default choice to Apple Music, which I somehow was able to do so by saying “Play on Apple Music.” From then on, whenever I said “Play [name of song],” it would play the song on Apple Music. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that I can switch back to YouTube as the default, despite multiple attempts. Sometimes it says it’s playing a song, but nothing happens. Clearly, this feature is still pretty buggy.

As you might expect, Assistant plays particularly well with Google’s own apps. So sending email through Gmail is a snap — say who you want to send the email to, and it’ll kick you over to the Gmail app to follow through. Similarly, it’ll offer directions with Google Maps rather than Apple’s own.

What I found particularly intriguing about the Google Assistant app on iOS is that there’s a whole Explore page full of suggestions on what you can do with it. There’s a list of the usual suggestions, like “How many pounds in a kilogram?” or “What sound does a dog make?”

But interestingly, there’s also a slew of third-party chatbots you can try out. Examples include Genius, a bot that’ll guess the name of a song based on a lyric snippet, or the Magic 8 Ball, which will offer pithy responses to yes-or-no questions. Google Home users likely already know about some of these third-party chatbots, but to mobile users, this is new.

Aside from Explore, there’s also a Your Stuff tab that lists your Reminders, Agenda, Shopping List and quick Shortcuts that you can add to customize Assistant. So, for example, you can say “Late again” to trigger an automatic text to your best friend that you’re running five minutes late. “Cheer me up” will automatically bring up a list of kitten videos on YouTube.

I then tried to do a number of things on both Google Assistant and Siri to compare the two. I discovered that due to iOS restrictions, Google Assistant isn’t able to set alarms, take selfies, launch apps, post to Twitter or Facebook, call Ubers or Lyfts, or use third-party apps like Whatsapp for sending messages. Siri, however, was able to do all of these tasks without issue.

At the same time, Google Assistant was vastly superior when it came to translating languages (Siri often faltered) and remembering context clues. For example, when I asked, “Who’s the president of the United States” and followed it up immediately with “How tall is he?” Google Assistant immediately responded with “Donald J Trump” and “6-feet 2-inches tall.” Siri, on the other hand, could answer the first question, but not the second (it responded with “I don’t know”). Google Assistant also was smart enough to respond to set-a-reminder requests with the place and time in which I wanted to be reminded — Siri just placed them on a Reminders list. Siri was also sometimes just plain wrong — it erroneously said the population of Egypt was 85,800 (it’s actually 91.51 million).

In many ways, Siri pales in comparison to Google Assistant. It can’t understand voice commands as well as Google, and it doesn’t remember your preferences like Google can. Siri makes so many errors that there’s even a Reddit group called “Siri fails” that documents its many mistakes. But as long as it comes preinstalled in every iPhone out there and does a good-enough job, Google Assistant — and all other rivals — will have a hard time replacing it.

For all the latest news and updates from Google I/O 2017, follow along here

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Google Maps uses Street View to keep you on the right path

Google Maps for Android got a slight remake this week, with a couple handy new features on board. It still looks and functions basically the same as the Google Maps you know and potentially love, but Google has smartly integrated some Street View features directly into the navigation view. When you ask the app for directions, you can swipe up from the bottom of the screen to see the all the turn-by-turn steps as before. But now each step is accompanied by a Street View image of that exact turn.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because Google added it to the web version of Maps many year ago, in 2008 in fact (as Android Police notes). Tapping on the Street View image opens it up full-screen, properly facing the direction you’re going on the route. Most people are probably happy enough with the info provided by the turn-by-turn navigation, but if you’re the type to get a little lost these images might help you prepare for the route.

The default view when you pop open the Google Maps app has changed a bit, as well. Now, the bottom third or so of the screen contains info relevant to the time of day and your location, like local lunch spots. Google’s had this location-specific info in Maps for a long time now; they’re just surfacing it in a more obvious way here. These changes should all be available in Google Maps for Android now, but they haven’t rolled out to the iOS app just yet. Given how Google is keen on keeping its apps in parity, these new features will likely hit the iPhone before long.

Via: Android Police

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Google iOS search now finds streaming movies, music and TV

Finding streaming content on your iPhone is getting easier. Google announced on Wednesday that the newest update to its search app on iOS devices will enable users to find TV shows, movies and songs on streaming services. That includes iTunes, Hulu, Amazon Video, Google Play, YouTube and Spotify.

The feature, which is already available on Android and the desktop, displays the icons of streaming services that currently offer the content you’re searching for. So, for example, if you look for Zootopia, the app will pop the “Knowledge Box” at the top of the search results. Below the screenshots, movie ratings and synopsis, you’ll now find links to Netflix, Hulu and wherever else it’s streaming. The same goes for music, though you’ll find links to Apple Music, Spotify and Pandora instead. The app will also show how much you’ll have to pay to rent or buy the content.

It’s not a huge addition, but a helpful one. As mobile culture moves from surfing the web to working within apps, this new feature will help users find what they’re looking for more efficiently, regardless of which service the content resides on.

Source: TechCrunch

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Google might bring curved screens to its next Pixel phone

Google, which has taken a hands-off approach to Android hardware until recently, may be getting more involved in smartphone production. It’s reportedly investing up to $ 875 million in LG Display to develop a stable supply of flexible OLED screens for its Pixel phones, according to reports from Korea’s Yonhap News and Electronic Times (ET). That would help ease supply problems for the next-gen device, as the current model has been nearly impossible to find.

The search giant would invest a trillion won ($ 875 million) and possibly more to secure a production line dedicated to its own smartphones. It may also reserve some flexible OLED screens for other devices like a rumored pair of “Pixel” smartwatches. LG display is reportedly mulling the offer, which would be a strategic investment and not just an order deposit. If it signs on, curved screens for the Pixel would likely be built in LG’s $ 1.3 billion flexible OLED line in Gumi, North Gyeongsang Province.

With its Nexus phones, Google let partners Huawei, LG and HTC control all aspects of the devices and hardware. However, with the Pixel and Pixel XL, Google actually took charge of the design and thus, to some level, the hardware. That was both a good and bad thing — the phone was generally acknowledged as the best-ever Google device, but was only released in the US, UK, Australia, Germany and Canada. Even in those nations, it was pretty damn hard to find.

If the news is accurate (and with supply rumors, that’s a big “if”) then Google would be playing favorites with one Android supplier, LG, over another, Samsung. On the other hand, Samsung might be quite okay with that, considering it’s about to launch its own curved OLED Galaxy S8 smartphone and possibly supply the flexible OLED display for Apple’s next iPhone 8. With OLED tech seemingly the only thing that manufacturers want, it makes sense for Google to cut a deal with LG, which isn’t faring so well with its own devices.

Via: Techcrunch

Source: Yonhap, ET News (translated)

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