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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 and 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:

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

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 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 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 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."

Standalone Mini Player for Google Play Music

Google has updated the Play Music app for Chrome and you can now use it without having to open the Play Music site in a new tab.

I sometimes forgot about the Play Music tab, closed the tab and music stopped playing. Now the mini player continues to work even after I close the Play Music tab.

You can click the "I'm Feeling Lucky" dice button and start a radio based on your listening history. Another option is to open the Play Music site, start a radio or pick a playlist. Then you can close the Play Music tab and use the controls from the mini player: pause music, play next song, play previous song, thumbs up/down.

The mini player also supports keyboard shortcuts:

* left arrow - previous song
* right arrow - next song
* down arrow - decrease volume
* up arrow - increase volume
* p / space bar - pause/play music
* r - toggle repeat between off, all, and one
* s - toggle shuffle on or off
* = - thumbs up

{ via François Beaufort }

February 17, 2015

YouTube's Also Subscribed Section

When you go to a channel, YouTube's desktop site now shows a list of people who subscribed to that channel and they're also in your Google+ circles. For example, YouTube lists 3 people from my Google+ circles who subscribed to the TED channel.

If you haven't subscribed to the channel, YouTube shows a similar list with people who "already subscribed" (instead of "also subscribed").

If you click a thumbnail, YouTube sends you to the Google+ profile page.

{ Thanks, Anthony. }

Google Play Tests a Sidebar for Related Apps

Patryk Szczygłowski, a reader of this blog, noticed an experimental web interface for Google Play. The updated UI adds a sidebar that shows similar apps and other apps from the same developer. Right now, these lists of apps are placed at the bottom of the page, below the description, reviews, changelog and other information about the app.

"Please note, it doesn't fit my laptop screen 1366x768, but Google might enable this experiment for me, because I have been using an external Full HD screen for a week recently," says Patryk.

{ Thanks, Patryk. }

Gmail's Warning for Suspicious Email Addresses

A few days ago, I received a spam message in Gmail. Instead of flagging the message as spam, Gmail displayed this warning: "Be careful with this message. Someone might be trying to trick you by using similar-looking characters (such as Σ and E) in the email addresses contained in this message."

Last year, Gmail added support for non-Latin characters in email addresses. It also wanted to make sure that the new feature wasn't "abused by spammers or scammers trying to send misleading or harmful messages" and it started to reject messages from email addresses which used "suspicious combinations of letters that could be misleading".

There's a help center article that explains more about this feature. "If you see a warning that someone might be trying to trick you by using similar-looking characters in the email addresses of a message, you should take a close look at the sender's email address and the addresses of anyone else the email has been sent to. The addresses might be different than they seem. Sometimes, the difference is easy to spot if you look carefully. For example, someone might use a Greek character ('Σ') for the Latin character 'E'. In other situations, it's impossible to detect the difference. For instance, the Greek character ('ο') looks exactly the same as the Latin character 'o'."

Personalized Google Suggestions

Google's search suggestions change depending on your previous searches. Just like search results, which are influences by your search history, suggestions related to the queries you've previously typed are more likely to be useful.

Here's an example: I typed "swiss" and got these suggestions: "swiss colony", "swiss army", "swiss army knife".

Then I searched for "kale".

Here are the suggestions displayed when typing "swiss" again: "swiss chard", "swiss colony", "swiss army", "swiss army knife". As you can see, there's a new suggestion and it's placed at the top of the list: swiss chard, a leafy green vegetable, just like kale.

I searched for "rolex" and typed "swiss" again. This time, suggestions include "swiss watches" and "switch army watches".

This is a feature added by Google back in 2009.

February 15, 2015

Google Finance Alerts

Google Alerts added a new option to the sources dropdown: finance. Now you can get stock updates using Google Alerts.

I'm not sure if the new option works independently or you need to select other sources like web, news, blogs, discussions. You can select multiple sources for the same alert or you can pick the "automatic" option.

I created a new alert for [goog], picked news and finance, enabled "as-it-happens" and I only received news results, so I don't know if finance alerts actually work.

February 14, 2015

Download Blocked Gmail Attachments

I was checking some old Gmail messages and I noticed this warning: "Anti-virus warning - 1 attachment contains a virus or blocked file. Downloading this attachment is disabled." It turns out that the .rar archive was "blocked for security reasons" and I can't download it.

There are some file types that are blocked by Gmail, but .rar is not one of them. Here's the list: ".ade, .adp, .bat, .chm, .cmd, .com, .cpl, .exe, .hta, .ins, .isp, .jse, .lib, .lnk, .mde, .msc, .msp, .mst, .pif, .scr, .sct, .shb, .sys, .vb, .vbe, .vbs, .vxd, .wsc, .wsf, .wsh". It turns out that the archive included a few .bat files inside a .zip archive and "Gmail won't accept these file types even if they're sent in a zipped format".

Anti-virus warning in Gmail's web interface

How to download the blocked attachment? I couldn't find a way to do this from the web interface. Gmail disabled the download button and the "save to Drive" button. Not even the "basic HTML" Gmail interface lets you download the file and the "download all" link only lets you download all safe attachments.

Fortunately, you can use other mail clients: Outlook, Thunderbird, KMail, Apple Mail. Surprisingly, Gmail's Android app lets you download blocked files or save them to Google Drive. Gmail's iOS app doesn't let you download blocked attachments, but you can save them to Google Drive. I also checked the built-in mail clients from iOS and Mac OS X and it's easy to download all attachments. To open archives in iOS, install an app like iZip first.

Gmail's Android app

Google+ Celebrates Valentine's Day

Mr. Jingles, the Google+ mascot, looks different today. He has a cute rose to celebrate Valentine's Day. You can find the funny animation in the Google+ notification box: in Google+ for desktop, Google+ mobile apps and most Google services.

Here's the animation:

When click the +1 button, Google+ shows some animated hearts:

You can also check last year's Easter Egg for Valentine's Day and today's Google doodles.

"Whether a time for a romantic date, to catch up with friends, or catch up on cat videos, Valentine's Day is a good excuse to connect with the world around you. As nerds, the doodle team wanted to sweeten up our homepage with ways in which technology brings people together," explains Google.

The reCAPTCHA team also celebrates Valentine's Day with a special CAPTCHA:

{ Thanks, Fred. }

February 13, 2015

Google Discontinues Helpouts

Helpouts started as a great way to use Hangouts to share expertise, but the service wasn't very popular and Google will soon shut it down.

"Since launching in 2013, Helpouts has been a home for people to connect with experts on topics they want to learn about or seek advice and solutions to everyday challenges. The Helpouts community includes some engaged and loyal contributors, but unfortunately, it hasn't grown at the pace we had expected. Sadly, we've made the tough decision to shut down the product. Starting April 20, you'll be able to download your Helpouts history using Google Takeout (available until November 1, 2015)," informs Google.

From talking with a doctor to getting fashion advice from companies like ASOS and Sephora, from learning a new language to home workouts and mobile phone support, Helpouts was useful in so many ways. Too bad that Google didn't promote Helpouts more aggressively and didn't use it extensively to provide customer service for its own services. Play Store's video chat assistance feature was a good start.

{ via Android Police }

Star Places in Google Mobile Search

Google's mobile site and mobile search apps show a star icon next to local search results. If you are logged in to your Google account, you can star places directly from Google Search and quickly find them in Google Maps. After clicking the star icon, Google confirms that the place has been "saved to your map" and links to Google Maps.

Back in November, Google's Android search app got a Material Design upgrade. In December, the iOS app was updated and many of the new features were gradually added to the mobile site.

{ Thanks, Lee. }

Google Knowledge Cards Show More Health Information

A few days ago, Google announced that health-related Knowledge Graph cards now include a lot more information. "We'll show you typical symptoms and treatments, as well as details on how common the condition is — whether it's critical, if it's contagious, what ages it affects, and more. For some conditions you'll also see high-quality illustrations from licensed medical illustrators."

I've searched for [type 2 diabetes] and Google displayed a lot of information: organs affected by diabetes, symptoms, ages affected, treatments, specialists. "When you search for a medical condition, you'll see three tabs: About, Symptoms, and Treatments. Right now, we show this medical information for the most frequently searched for health conditions, and we will continue to increase the number of conditions we cover," informs Google.

Google "worked with a team of medical doctors to carefully compile, curate, and review this information. All of the gathered facts represent real-life clinical knowledge from these doctors and high-quality medical sources across the web, and the information has been checked by medical doctors at Google and the Mayo Clinic for accuracy."

For now, the upgraded cards are only available in the US if you use the English interface. They're displayed in both the desktop site snd the mobile site/apps.

Material Design Refresh for Google Help Panes

Most Google services use floating help panes, so you can find relevant articles from the help center and read them inside the web app. Google Flight Search uses a new interface for the help panes, powered by Material Design. New icons, bigger headings and search box, new color palette.

You can check the new UI by visiting Google Flights and clicking Help. Google Maps, Gmail, Google Drive and other Google services still use the old interface.

The nice thing about Google's help panes is that they list contextually relevant articles. For example, if you go to Gmail's filters section from the settings page and click Help, you'll find articles about using filters, blocking unwanted emails and changing your Gmail settings.

{ via Florian Kiersch. }

YouTube Tests New Logo

YouTube's site tests a new logo that looks just like YouTube's mobile app icon. It's smaller, instantly recognizable and more consistent.

For some reason, YouTube still shows the old logo at the bottom of the page:

Here's the regular YouTube interface: