Google Now arrives in latest Chrome Canary, here’s how you enable it

When Google added rich notifications support for Chrome, it was obvious for everyone that soon we will be seeing Google Now cards too, in the same place.

Just yesterday, Google pushed an update to Chrome Canary with a flag letting you enable support for Google Now inside the browser.

Google Now

If you’re willing to try out the feature, download Google Chrome Canary, the bleeding edge version of Chrome.

Next, type chrome:flags in the address bar, search for ‘Enable Rich Notifications’ and change it from ‘default’ to ‘enabled’.

Next, search for ‘Google Now’, and change it from ‘default’ to ‘enabled’. Relaunch the browser.

You’ll now see a notification/bell icon in your system tray (on Windows) or menu bar (on OS X). Click on that and you’ll see set of Google Now cards.

You obviously need to sign in to your Google account in Chrome Canary, to view cards.

From what I observed, only few of Google Now cards appear on Chrome. Nevertheless, it’s a handy feature for keeping track of sports scores, events etc. The feature should soon arrive in the stable version of Google Chrome.

Would you like Google Now cards to pop up on Chrome? Drop in what you think in comments.

Chrome updates with Richer Notifications and replaces WebKit with Blink

Chrome has released an update for Linux and Windows users. The update version, will include two major changes. First is the planned move away from WebKit onto Blink. Blink is a forked version WebKit that is being implemented by Google. The second update is richer notifications on Chrome. Notifications were first implemented on Gmail, where users could get a pop-up displaying who has sent a new email to them.

Chrome Notifications
Desktop Notifications on Chrome

The new update will show richer notifications which are more interactive and descriptive as seen in the image below.

Richer_Notifications_Chrome

Configure Notifications on Chrome

  • The browser should update automatically on your Windows or Linux platform. The update is also available on Google.com/chrome.
  • The Richer notifications on Chrome will include many services and will show up with an icon on the system tray. if you have disabled notifications on Chrome, you can switch them on by entering Chrome://Settings in the address bar and then under “Privacy” click on “Content Settings”. In “Content Settings” users can look up “Notifications” options and also edit exceptions which are created by Google Apps.
  • When a notifications pops up, we can review the settings.

Chrome Notifications Settings

At the moment, I do not expect a lot of apps to have implemented “Richer Notifications” on Chrome, but developers will surely roll more out in time. This at the moment works on Chrome OS, Linux and Windows. The update for Mac will be released later.

Google Now on Chrome

This roll out of ‘Richer Notifications’ in Chrome, indicates the eventual plan to bring about Google Now on Chrome. Google Now currently on Android uses data like browsing history, maps, calendar details and email to push notifications on the phone called Google Now. The notifications are usually very intelligent, for example it calculates the amount of traffic on the road and tells you to leave for a meeting early based on that data.

The real big integration will be to have integration of Chrome and Android notifications at some point of time.

Do update your Chrome browser and let us know what you think about “Richer Notifications”.

(via Chrome Blog)

Round-up of Google I/O 2013 Announcements

Google I/O 2013 started with a 3-hour long keynote address. Though many had expected a new Android version, a new Nexus device, new Google X phone to be announced, Google did none of that. Instead they announced an upgrade to a host of their services and products.

Google_IO_2013

Here is a quick round-up of all the updates announced based on different products.

Android

The numbers for Android continue to be impressive. It has 900 million Android activations and over 48 Billion app installations. Though no new Android version was announced there were plenty of new updates for Android.

  • Along with Google Maps API v 2.0 for Android a new Location API was announced. The new Location API allowed features like Geofencing on maps.
  • Google Cloud Messaging allows developers to send messages to Android app users. New update includes upstream messaging which allows messaging from users right up to developer’s server.
  • Google Cloud Messaging will also enable synchronizing of notifications. This means if you remove a notification from one Android device, it will be removed your other Android device too.
  • A new range of APIs were announced under Google Play game services. These will allow users who play games to play a particular level on one device and then continue with the next level from another device.
  • It will support cross-platform gaming experience which includes the web.
  • Android Studio: Android Studio was a new IDE for developers. The IDE supports previews for various sized screens. This should encourage better designed tablet apps.
  • App Translation Service will allow developers to translate their apps into different languages. Google will send strings that need to be translated to approved vendor.
  • Google Play Music is a new service on Android devices that launched. The service streams music based on monthly subscription fee of $9.99 in the US.

Samsung Galaxy S4 (running Vanilla Android)

SG4_Google PLay

Google will be selling a Galaxy S4 on their Google Play store. The phone will ship with LTE support and 16GB memory. It will run the default Android version and latest Android updates will be made available with no delays. The phone will be bootloader unlocked.

The disappointing part was probably the high price tag of $649. The phone will be available on June 26.

Google+

Google might be slow in pushing new features on Google+ over the past year but they more than made up for it during this Google IO. They announced 41 new features specifically for Google+.

Google Plus News Stream

  • Google+ News Stream gets a new design. The design is two or three columned and allows looking through the feeds more or less like how we see it on the Google+ mobile apps.
  • Google+ is pushing more interactivity by displaying related hashtags.
  • Google+ Photos will have features like Auto Awesome that combines photos automatically to create new ones.
  • Multiple images can be used to create animated GIFs automatically.

Google’s unified messaging service: Hangouts

There was speculation that Google will be released a new unified messaging service. The name of the new service is Hangouts. This will replace Google Talk.

The service syncs your chats on text, voice and video across platforms. New Hangouts service is available as Chrome extension and as apps on Android and iOS.

Link: Hangouts

Google Search

  • Search app on Chrome will allow voice based searching which will be activated by voice. This means users will not even need to touch the microphone logo on the interface.
  • Google Now will support reminders being set by users.
  • Google Now will also supporting something called hot-word detection. It will allow voice based multiple search queries to be be answered with results but remaining in context.

Google Maps

  • Google Maps will get updated over the next month or so. The new updates will be on Android and iPhone apps.
  • A new app for iPad might be released soon.
  • Google Maps desktop (web) version will get new features that will display images from Google Earth, Street view from one place.
  • The new Google Maps version will be tailored to the individual users using the same data Google Now uses.
  • Google Maps literally brought about eye-candy in the form of 3D environments that will compete with Apple Map’s vector based layouts.

Link: Google Maps Preview

Though there was no big announcement, Google IO showcased a host of improvements. In all fairness they did probably make a big announcement in Android Studio which should really improve app development process for tablets. Google might have also not released a new version of Android just to make sure that Android ecosystem was not fragmented too much. Currently only 25% of Android phones are on Jelly Bean (Android 4.1 & 4.2).

What are your views on Google’s announcements? Do drop in your comments.

Google IO 2013 Keynote Address (Video)

‘Google Keep’ gets an official Chrome App

Google Keep is a service that is the Evernote clone from Google. It is baked into Google Drive and that allows syncing notes between web, phone and tablets. Today, Google has released a Chrome app for Google Keep. The app basically opens a small window that allows you to edit and read your notes that you have on Google Keep.

Google Keep Chrome App

Google Keep Chrome App features

  • Install the Chrome app and it shows up with the Google Keep icon on your Chrome’s new page layout.
  • The app opens a small window that can be kept open through the day while we can add new notes and task lists.
  • All the notes automatically sync with Google Keep app for Android.
  • There are still some downsides of using Google Keep on Chrome. I would have preferred a right-click option to open the window. An extension instead of an app would have been better.

Is Google Keep useful?

I have started using Google Keep more than my favourite task manager called Any.do. But unfortunately Google Keep has only a Android app but nothing available for iPhone or iPad devices. But considering Google I/O conference takes place in a couple of week, a lot of new announcements on updates will be expected.

Do try out Google Keep on Chrome and drop in your comments.

Link: Google Keep Chrome App

5 Announcements to Expect at Google I/O 2013

It is that time of the year again, when Google will be hosting developers at a 3-day conference. It is called Google I/O and as most presentations are available and streamed live on YouTube, it gives Google a massive audience to make new announcements.

Last year, they announced Google Glass, Android Jellybean, Nexus 7 and a few more announcements. This year should not be any different and here are five announcements, I expect from Google. Google IO takes place on 15-17 May, 2013.

Google_IO_2013

1. A New Android Version (Jellybean or Key Lime Pie)

Android Jellybean started off as Android 4.1 version. When 4.2 was released, it was still named Jellybean. This prompted the argument that Key Lime Pie will be version 5.0.

So will Google be pushing out a new version of Android? Absolutely yes. There is no way Google will host a conference with developers and not announce a new version. But this might not be the Key Lime Pie version but another updated version of Jellybean. So chances are that we will get to see Android 4.3 rather than Android 5.0 in May.

2. Google Glass Apps and partnerships

Google Glass alpha versions are out for developers to try out. I am sure that during Google IO, it will announce more apps and partnerships for its Glass project. I am sure this I/O conference will see a host of announcements and guidelines for developers to work with Google Glass. We might just see a better roadmap on how Google will be making Glass available for the general public in 2014.

3. Nexus 4 LTE and Nexus tablets

The Nexus brand will keep growing with more announcements likely. Nexus 7 tablet will in all probability see an upgraded model with better specs. Also expected is the announcement of Nexus 4 LTE phone. The current Nexus 4 phone does not support LTE but is supposed to have a inactive LTE chip on it.

4. Babel (Unified Messaging service)

Google is working on a unified messaging service that integrated your SMS from your Android phone, your emails and your chat messages on Gmail and Google+. This is on the lines of Apple’s iMessage and should work across platforms. Google will probably integrate this service into Android and Chrome initially.

5. Google Now on Chrome and web

Last week, I wrote about how Google is trying to gets its Google Now feature from Android onto Chrome and the Google homepage. This might serve as a handy replacement for iGoogle initially but more importantly it means reminders and updates will be synced and displayed on your browser and also your phone.

Things we might not see:

Google will probably not announce a Nexus 5 phones – as Nexus 4 was announced only towards the end of last year. It might just announce a new phone often called ‘Google X’. But the best rumours about Google X are sketchy at best.

There were rumours of Google announcing opening of physical stores (like Apple Stores) but that also seems unlikely as Google IO probably is not the best place for that announcement.

What do you expect to see this Google IO? Do drop in your comments.

Create shortcuts for text phrases on Chrome with Popchrom

Chrome is my favourite browser and it has a great deal of options to improve productivity. Here are some of my favourite productivity tips for Chrome. Because I am using the browser a lot for writing blog post and answering email, I found Popchrom a really good extension. It allows me to create shortcuts for text phrases. For example, I have set the shortcut “DW” to expand into “Devils’ Workshop” the full name of this blog.

Chrome - shortkeys expansion

How it works:

  • Install the Popchrom extension on your Chrome browser.
  • Then look up its options and add your customized shortcuts. There are some default ones like “sy” expands to “Sincerely yours” and “today” expands to the current data.
  • Once you type in the short form, just hit “Ctrl + Space“. This is a default and can be changed according to your preferences.
  • Usually, it makes sense to have some very common short forms for words or full sentences you might typing out too many times.

Additional Tip: If you sending similar emails all the time, you might want to check out Gmail’s canned response which can even be used from your Android phone.

Try out Popchrome and drop in your comments.

Link: Popchrom

Google dumps Webkit for its own rendering engine

webkit-logoRendering engines are an important part of a web browser. They can be one of the primary reasons why a browser is snappy or dead slow. I find Chrome to be fast and responsive and one of the reasons for it is, it’s based on Webkit – an open source rendering engine.

Today, Google announced that it is ‘forking‘ Webkit and building its own rendering engine for Google Chrome.

Why is Google doing this?

One of the main reasons why Google is releasing a new rendering engine is, Chromium (the open source version of Chrome) handles multi-process architecture differently from other Webkit-based browsers (like Safari).

Another reason seems to be about decreasing the code base as much as possible. As Google puts it – “we anticipate that we’ll be able to remove 7 build systems and delete more than 7,000 files—comprising more than 4.5 million lines”.

With Blink, Google has complete control over the rendering engine they use and that fortunately leads to less bugs and more stability.

Is Google being evil?

That’s the classic question, for a company that claims not to be evil. Personally, I think there is nothing wrong with Google releasing a new rendering engine.

Some people think that Blink is Google’s way of moving away from Apple’s involvement in its browser (Apple is one of the biggest contributors to Webkit) and that’s one way to look at it.

Opera to follow Google

Opera has recently announced its switch to Chromium Webkit from Presto. Now that Google plans for Blink as their rendering engine, Opera too agrees with it.

I’m more interested about how Blink will effect Chrome on Android, which is really slow and half-baked right now.

Link: Chromium Blog

Chrome beta includes Opera-like data compression feature

Opera used to be very popular on mobile devices a year ago, but with Google releasing Chrome for Android and majority of Android users catching up with Android 4.0, Opera mobile is no longer as popular.

Opera’s both desktop and mobile clients (where it actually became popular) have data compression built-in, which essentially compresses website data before loading on your device and hence saving you data charges. Now, Google is testing the same kind of feature with Chrome beta.

spdy-data-compression-chrome-beta

The feature can be enabled in Chrome beta (which is a bleeding-edge version of Chrome for Android). To enable it, just go to chrome://flags, tap on Enable, below data compression proxy feature. Relaunch the browser for it to take effect.

Technically, if the feature is on, the user (when requests a website) will be routed to SPDY (pronounced as ‘speedy’) proxy which compresses and minifies HTML/CSS/image files and thus results in saving of data. This applies only for webpages which are not on a HTTPS connection.

I’ve tried the feature (it works both on Wi-Fi and cellular networks) and it does seem like it saves good amount of data. You can check the statistics directly through Chrome by visiting chrome://net-internals/#bandwidth.

data-saving-compression

Meanwhile, Opera has lately released a webkit version of their browser for Android and it too has this feature. This is after Opera switching to Webkit as their engine, leaving out Presto.

Link: Chrome Beta

Asterisk: Get Personalized Results From Your Favourite Sites

Recently I came across this new search tool, that allowed me to search for related links from a list of custom selected websites. The new service called Asterisk Search works as a plugin on Firefox and Chrome. While visiting a webpage, if you want more related information, we just have to select the text and click on the Asterisk symbol.

Personalized Results Asterisk

Features of Asterisk Search

  • Install the GoAsterisk pluging for your browser. It supports Firefox and Chrome at the moment.
  • Highlight text from the webpage you are reading. A small asterisk symbol will show up.
  • Click on it and some results will show up on the left-hand column. There are some popular sites already added like Wikipedia as sources.
  • I could remove these sits and add and customize the sources as I wished. So next time I am reading something, I can simply search from the sites I want to look up rather than all of them.

The only downside of Asterisk is you need to register before you use their service. But you can easily sign-in with your Twitter, Facebook or Google accounts.

If you liked using Asterisk Search, you might also like to check these 5 online tools to search for similar images.

Do try out Asterisk and drop in your comments.

Link: Asterisk

Insert Your Signature into a Gmail Attachment With a Single Click

Usually signing documents online is a very tedious process. For example, someone wants your signature scanned on a document. Ideally you have to download the document as an attachment from your email account. Then we take a print out of the document and put a signature on it. Finally, we have to scan the same document and send it back.

HelloSign allows users to do this in an automated way. It works well on Chrome if you add their extension.

How HelloSign Works:

  • First log-in to your Gmail account and also install the HelloSign Chrome extension.
  • Then you will have to create an account with HelloSign. You can also use your Google account to simply sign up.
  • Enter a specimen of your signature and save it.
  • Now when you check your Gmail attachments it gives your an additional option to ‘Sign’.

Sign_attachments_documents

  • This will open up pop-up that allows you to insert your saved signature into the attachment.

Add_sign_hellosign

  • This inserted signature then is saved on your attachment. Send the attachment back to the person who needs your signature on a document.

This works great to insert not just signatures but also your initials. Additionally this is good for the environment as you do not have to take out printouts just to sign a document and scan it to send it back.

Do you know of any other similar services? Do drop in your comments.

Link: Hello Sign Extension