Updates to the Gmail app for iOS

Several updates were made to the Gmail app for iOS, including –

-Ability to set a custom signature when sending from mobile devices
-Access to configure and set up a vacation responder
-Improved labels with support for nested labels
-New notification sound on iOS 5 to better distinguish received mail
-E-mail messages can now be sent as drawings with support for different colors, brush sizes, lines, erasers, and spray paint

How to access what’s new:
-To configure your custom signature or vacation responder, open the Gmail app, select Menu and then the gear icon.
-To draw a new message, compose a new message and select the scribble icon. The new drawing will send as a PNG file attached to the message.

Google Dabble in Doodle history on the new site

Have you ever seen a doodle you loved, but when you went to see it again it was gone? Ever curious about what doodles in Italy look like, or how your favorite holiday has been celebrated each year? Or wanted to get a behind-the-scenes scoop on the recent Les Paul doodle, and maybe share it with your friends on Google+? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then take a look at our revamped Doodle site.

Since our very first one in 1998, doodles have been our way to share with you the things we love or are excited about. In the past few years we’ve started to create doodles that people can not only look at but also play with. Our first interactive one featured a clickable slideshow of Halloween candy in 2009 and since then we’ve invited people to insert a coin to play an arcade classic, watch a film, and even compose an epic guitar solo, all on the Google homepage.

We’ve always thought it was a little sad that doodles are only available on the homepage for a day. Since we’re firm believers in having too much of a good thing, we set up a gallery of all our previous doodles a while ago. Now on the new site, you can browse, watch or play with over 1000 doodles. Enjoy front-row tickets to a Martha Graham dance, send the first man to space or learn more about why one doodler decided to “cartoonize” Mary Blair.

You can even start wearing doodles, or hanging them on your wall, since the new site includes a link to our new Doodle store featuring all kinds of doodle swag. Happy doodlin’!

Posted by Ying Wang, Director of Product Management

Experience the tsunami-affected areas of Japan through Google Street View

A virtual tour via Street View profoundly illustrates how much these natural disasters have transformed these communities. If you start inland and venture out toward the coast, you’ll see the idyllic countryside change dramatically, becoming cluttered with mountains of rubble and debris as you get closer to the ocean. In the cities, buildings that once stood proud are now empty spaces.

In the bottom left corner of each image you’ll also see a month and year that tells you when a particular photograph was taken. When looking at images of the magnificent cities side-by-side with images of the ruins left in their place, this additional context demonstrates how truly life-changing this tragedy has been for those who live there and witnessed the destruction of their homes, neighborhoods and even entire districts. This timestamp feature has been the most requested Street View feature for the last few years, and it is now available on Street View imagery worldwide. Professionals such as historians, architects, city planners and tourism boards—as well as regular users including travelers and home-buyers—can now get a sense of how fresh the online photos are for a locations that interests them.

In the case of the post-tsunami imagery of Japan, we hope this particular digital archiving project will be useful to researchers and scientists who study the effects of natural disasters. We also believe that the imagery is a useful tool for anyone around the world who wants to better understand the extent of the damage. Seeing the street-level imagery of the affected areas puts the plight of these communities into perspective and ensures that the memories of the disaster remain relevant and tangible for future generations.

Posted by Kei Kawai, Senior Product Manager, Street View

Changing the User Agent, a New Google Chrome Feature

Changing the user agent of a browser is sometimes helpful if you’re visiting a site that doesn’t work well in your browser or if you’re a developer and you want to test a site. Until recently, changing the user agent required installing an extension, opening about:config or adding a command-line parameter.

Now that browsers started to include powerful developer tools and even Internet Explorer has a built-in user agent editor, Chrome added a similar feature. It’s only available in Chrome 17 (Dev Channel / Canary) right now.

Here’s how to change the user agent:

1. open the Developer Tools (Ctrl+Shift+I on Windows/Linux, Command – Option – I on Mac OS X)
2. click the “settings” icon at the bottom of the window
3. check “override user agent” and select one of the options (Internet Explorer 7/8/9, Firefox 4/7 for Windows/Mac, iPhone, iPad and Nexus S running Android 2.3). You can also select “other” and enter a custom user agent.

{ via François. Thanks, Venkat. }

Smooth Scrolling in Google Reader

Google Reader’s settings page has a new section where you’ll find “experiments you can choose to opt-in and try out”. It’s like a small Google Reader Labs that only has a single experiment you can enable: smooth scrolling. This feature makes the transition between items smoother and it’s especially useful in the expanded view.

While this feature is more difficult to find, you’ve probably noticed the colorful ball that’s displayed when Google Reader loads new posts. The animation is one of the few colorful elements from the new Google Reader interface.

{ Thanks, Venkat. }

Google’s Hidden Navigation Menu

As previously anticipated, Google will drop the black navigation bar and will use a simplified navigation interface that will make the transition between two Google products seamless. Google+ notifications, the sharing box and the profile menu will be displayed next to the search box, while the list of Google services will be placed in a drop-down menu next to the Google logo.

“The Google bar, which runs across the top of the browser of nearly all Google services and offers easy access to Google’s products, has recently updated its look for a more consistent, streamlined user experience and increased visibility of the most popular services,” explains Google.

The new navigation interface no longer uses additional space, it’s more compact and the short list of Google services that’s displayed by default matches Google’s simplified product line. The menu links to Google+, Web Search, Image Search, Google Maps, YouTube, Google News, Gmail and Google Docs, but you can mouse over “More” to see additional services. Here are the services that have never been included in the navigation bar until now: Google Wallet, Google Offers, Google Music, Google Mobile and Blogger.

While the new interface looks modern, it’s also less user-friendly because the navigation links are hidden behind a drop-down menu and the average user might not be able to find them. Android’s menu button wasn’t a great idea and Ice Cream Sandwich made menus more visible, so it’s not clear if this is going to work. Google’s homepage will expand the product menu by default, but it will be interesting to see if Google users will actually notice that mousing over the Google logo lets them access Gmail, Google Docs and other services.

I don’t see the new interface yet, but it’s likely that it will be rolled out in the coming days

Gmail’s Hybrid iOS App

Two weeks after the embarrassing launch, Gmail’s app for iPhone and iPad is back in the App Store. Google fixed a bug that broke one of the main features: notifications and that’s the reason why the app has been temporarily removed from the App Store.

Gmail’s “native” app is actually a wrapper for a new version of the Gmail web app, enhanced with a few features that integrate it with the operating system: basic push notifications, image upload and a new navigation menu. It’s interesting that the new interface of the mobile web app is only available if you use the “native” app.

I’ve always thought that Gmail’s mobile web app is much better than the native Android app, so it’s a pleasant surprise to see that Google didn’t develop a completely new app for iOS. This way, you’ll always get the latest features and you don’t have to wait until Google releases a new version.

Regarding notifications, the app only supports badges and sound notifications, so you won’t see the banner notifications introduced in iOS 5. Hopefully, Google will address this issue in a future update.

“To try out the Gmail app today, install it from App Store on any iOS 4+ device. Those who already have the Gmail app released Nov 2 must uninstall or log out of the old app prior to installing the new app,” suggests Google.

Google Music Store

Google Music is out of beta and users can now buy songs, but only in the US. Business Insider reports that the store has 13 million songs from 3 major labels (EMI, Universal, Sony) and other independent labels, self-released artists can upload their own songs and T-Mobile customers can pay for songs on their phone bills.

Google Music Store is available in the Android Market (both the web interface and a new version of the mobile app that will be released soon). A surprising feature is the integration with Google+: “if you use Google+ to share a song or album with someone either privately or through a circle, the person who receives the share will get one free full play of the song or album. If you do a Public share, people in your circles will get one free full play of the shared song or album. Everyone else who sees the share will get a preview.”

Google offers a lot of exclusive songs and albums, but you can’t download the free songs from the store without associating a US credit card to Google Checkout.

Google Music will store the songs you’ve uploaded or bought and now you can also download them. For example, in the web interface, click the arrow icon next to a song and select “Save to computer”. The catch is that “you can only download each purchased track from the web 2 times”. To download all the songs you’ve purchased from Google Music, use the Music Manager app.

“Google Music is about discovering, purchasing, sharing and enjoying digital music in new, innovative and personalized ways. Google Music helps you spend more time listening to your collection and less time managing it. We automatically sync your entire music library — both purchases and uploads — across all your devices so you don’t have to worry about cables, file transfers or running out of storage space,” informs the Google blog.

YouTube Tests a New Interface

YouTube experiments with a new interface that uses a gray background, muted colors, redesigned buttons and new icons for the like/dislike buttons. Most of the features are available in the Cosmic Panda experiment, but the changes are less drastic.

To try the new interface, change the value of the VISITOR_INFO1_LIVE cookie for youtube.com to Eg7GsyKWzk8. For example, in Google Chrome, go to YouTube’s homepage, open the JavaScript console (Ctrl+Shift+J or Menu > Tools > JavaScript Console), paste the following code:


Then press Enter, close the console and reload YouTube’s homepage.

You can also use extensions like Edit this cookie (Chrome) or Cookies Manager (Firefox). Opera has a powerful cookie manager, so you don’t need an extension to edit a cookie.

To go back to the old interface, open your browser’s cookie manager, search for youtube.com and delete the VISITOR_INFO1_LIVE cookie.

{ Thanks, Maurice. }

Google’s Barrel Roll Easter Egg

If you use Google to search for [do a barrel roll] in Chrome, Safari or Firefox, you’ll notice that the search results page actually does that. It’s a brilliant Easter Egg that will surprise a lot of Google users.

According to Wikipedia, “a barrel roll is an aerial maneuver in which an airplane makes a complete rotation on its longitudinal axis while following a helical path, approximately maintaining its original direction.”

There are at least four other Google search Easter Eggs: ASCII art, anagram, recursion and tilt.

{ Thanks, Herin. Spotted by Jason Cross. }