Google Docs may not be as fully featured as a full-blown productivity suite like Microsoft Office, but its collaboration features are something many of its users can’t live without anymore. Until now, though, you couldn’t edit documents collaboratively when you were on your phone. That’s changing today. Android users can now install the latest version of Google Apps for Android and start using Google Apps’ real-time collaborative editing features on the go.
In addition to this new feature, Google also updated the overall interface of the app a bit. You can now, for example, pinch to zoom and focus on a paragraph (or zoom out, of course, to see the whole document). More importantly, though, Google also added rich-text formatting so you can now bold words, add color or write a bullet list.
As usual, Google also produced a nice little video that shows off the power of being able to edit and collaborate on your documents on your phone.
The Google+ is ending the year with a massive number of updates and new features. Besides giving users greater control over what appears in their main stream, the Google+ team also launched support for multiple administrators for Google+ Pages and more useful notifications that provide users with what Google calls "sneak peaks" at updates from your stream. In addition, Google+ now also features a redesigned lightbox for photos, which have quickly become a central feature on the site.
All of these updates are rolling out now and will be be available to all users within the next few days.
Ever since the launch of Google+, its users have asked for better ways to control what appears in their streams. With today's update, Google introduces a slider for each of your circles that allows you to fine-tune how posts from this circle appear in your stream. As Robert Scoble, one of the site's most prolific users points out, Google+ users now finally have a "first form of noise control this morning. Good first step. Now we need Gmail-style filtering on top of this."
Ever since its launch, photos have been a significant part of the Google+ experience. The new Lightbox, which Google introduced today, has been redesigned to enhance navigation, comment legibility and "better overall utility."Google also launched a new tagging experience that it calls "fun and fluid."
Finally: Useful Notifications
Also new today are a set of improvements to the notifications that Google prominently displays in its redesigned Google bar. Until now, there was very little information in these notifications. Now, instead of saying "Mr. X and 3 others commented on your post," you will actually see the comment right in the notifications window, for example.
Multiple Administrators for Google+ Pages
For businesses and publishers who manage Google+ Pages, today's updates also finally introduce support for multiple administrators (up to 50). In addition, these administrators will now also get access to a new notifications flow and an "aggregated count of users that have engaged with your page, either by +1’ing it or by adding it to a circle."
Support for multiple administrators was probably the most-requested feature when Google launched these brand pages. Indeed, it came as quite a surprise for many when they couldn't add additional managers to their new pages. It's good to see that Google has quickly added this feature, though I can't help but wonder why this feature wasn't available at launch.
Google today announced a wide-reaching update to its search ranking algorithm that will impact about 35% of all search queries. This improved algorithm will put a stronger emphasis on how recently a page was posted or updated. As Google puts it, “Search results, like warm cookies right out of the oven or cool refreshing fruit on a hot summer’s day, are best when they’re fresh.” Today’s update, says Google, will especially ensure that you will get more relevant results for searches related to recent events, regularly recurring events (think annual conference, elections, sports scores, information about TV dramas etc.) and when you search for topics where information is frequently updated (Google uses car and gadget reviews as examples here).
Bigger Than Panda
It’s worth noting that this update should be more noticeable for users than the so-called Panda updates Google rolled out earlier this year in order to combat the growing influence of low-quality pages from content-farms like Associated Content and Demand Media. The first of these updates, according to Google, only affected about 12% of all queries “to a noticeable amount” and a second, smaller update, changed about 6-9% of all queries.
Here is an example of what these fresher search results will look like when you search for a recent event:
It’s no secret that Google is obsessed with speed. While getting search results to users faster is one way of making search better, having more recent search results to begin with is obviously another way for Google to make its ten blue links more relevant. Google will have to ensure that its new algorithm doesn’t value freshness over relevance, though.
After a long period of rumors and denials, Google officially announced its Google Business Photos program (a.k.a. indoor Street View) earlier this year. While Google put the first set of businesses online soon after the announcement, we didn’t hear much about this project since. Now, however, it looks as if more and more of these indoor, Street View-like images are going online. You can find some examples here and here.
When Google first announced this program, the company stressed that it was mostly interested in working with independent local merchants. Merchants also had to apply to be included in this program. True to form, the new indoor Street View images come from small, independent stores, including the comic book store you can see below.
Interestingly, it doesn’t look as if these images are linked to the larger Street View and the surrounding streets, though. Instead, the only way to get to them right now, it seems, is by going through the business’ Place Page. It would be nice if Google made finding these images a bit easier.
As one business owner pointed out on Hacker News earlier today, the total visit from the Google team took about 20-30 minutes (though things didn’t go right the first time around and they had to come back).
It’s worth noting, by the way, that Microsoft’s Bing has been offering interior views of some businesses since last December.
There were some rumors earlier this week that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was about to launch a formal antitrust investigation into Google’s “core search advertising business.” Today, Google confirmed that it has indeed received formal notification from the FTC that “it has begun a review of [its] business.” In its official statement, Google notes that it’s “unclear” what exactly the FTC’s concerns are, but if an earlier Wall Street Journal report is correct, the FTC is especially interested in investigating if Google has abused its dominant position in the search advertising space. (more…)
Google Maps for mobile browsers on iOs and Android now features almost all the features of the desktop version.
When you compare the features of the Google Maps-based mapping app on the iPhone with the Google Maps desktop experience, it quickly becomes obvious how many feature are missing from the native app. There are no layers, no biking directions, no photos and no integration with Google Places, for example. Google constantly adds new features to Maps, but the native app on the iPhone hasn’t seen any major update for ages. Indeed, there are some rumors that Apple is developing its own maps and mapping apps and could soon drop Google as its main mapping provider.
Now, however, the mobile version of Google Maps that runs in the browser is getting virtually all of the features the desktop version currently offers. There are clickable icons for businesses and transit stations, biking directions and layers, integration with places most of the other features you’ve gotten accustomed to on the desktop. Overall, the web-based version of Google Maps – especially on iOS – is now better than the native app. On the one hand, that showcases the power of web apps, but it also highlights how out of date the native Apple ‘Maps’ app has become.
Here is a list of all the new features:[list]
See your current location
Search for what’s nearby with suggest and auto complete
Have clickable icons of popular businesses and transit stations
Get driving, transit, biking, and walking directions
Turn on satellite, transit, traffic, biking, and other layers
View Place pages with photos, ratings, hours, and more
When signed into your Google account, access your starred locations and My Maps[/list]
Thanks to the wonder of modern web technologies like HTML5, using the web-based version of Google Maps doesn’t feel very different from using the native apps. The new features actually make it more useful than the native app. You can now, for example, tap on a business’ name on the map and immediately see reviews, call the business, get directions or see more details on the respective place page. The only feature I’ve always missed in the web-based version has been the ability to double-tap on a map to zoom in. That’s still not an option today.