In this video, see baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. speak at Google as part of its Authors@Google series.
Google Earth To Get Google Ocean
Google plans on adding a tool, either within Google Earth or as its own thing, that will allow for users to explore 3D underwater topography. The “tool” being discussed in this article is basically Google adding the sea floor, letting users see the contour of the ocean floor in detail and allow Google to add data above it about the ocean.
Cinco De Mayo Search Logos Ask.com ran a nice homepage design for Cinco De Mayo. Sadly, they misspelled the name of the day:
Here’s the original image, good for a desktop background:
Also, here’s Yahoo’s logo:
Google Shuts Down Hello Google is shuttering Hello, the IM-style photo sharing service it received in the acquisition of Picasa four years ago. Hello was an unsung product with exciting potential, so much so that my article calling it “Google’s Most Underrated Product” in October 2004 was the first ever article on InsideGoogle to get widely noticed, thanks to links from CNet and other major sites. The thing about underrated things is that you’re supposed to realize that you can benefit a lot from recognizing them, and Google never did.
What will happen to hello.com, possibly the best domain name Google owns?
Google Presentations Embeds Change Sizes
Now, if you want to embed a Google Docs presentation in your blog or website, you can change its size to have it match the layout of your site, making it fit in much better.
YouTube Running Playboy Casting Call Playboy magazine is running a contest to give one “lucky” woman a trip to Hollywood and a chance to be featured in Playboy. Just upload a video audition to YouTube, but keep in mind that YouTube won’t let you show all the reasons Playboy should choose you.
Google Docs Gets Lots of Updates Google Docs added lots of new stuff, including saved searches, offline Google Gears access for spreadsheets and presentations, custom document stylesheets (using CSS), speaker notes in presentations, and embedded YouTube videos in presentations.
Move Your Life To Gmail With Gmail Uploader Google released last month the Gmail Uploader, a free application that moves your email and contacts from Outlook, Outlook Express or Thunderbird (on Windows XP and Vista only) to a Google Apps Gmail account. Considering the huge number of limitations (only three email programs, two operating systems, and one very specific and less popular edition of Gmail), you may never get the chance to use it, which is a shame, because most new Gmail users would love the easy migration method.
Google Charts Now Does QR Codes
Google has been trying out QR Codes (a type of 2D bar codes) in its print ads, and now they’re making it easier to generate them on the web. Before, you’d have to use a web app or software to create a QR Code, then save the image to use on your website, but now the Google Chart API can be queried to get them automatically. Right now, all you get are website URLs, though hopefully Google will extend the API to handle more complex data.
Here’s an API-generated image for this site, using the URL http://chartserver.apis.google.com/chart?cht=qr&chs=300x300&chl=http://google.blognewschannel.com/:
Google Invests In New Clearwire Google entered into an agreement with Sprint and others (Comcast, Intel Capital, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks and Trilogy Equity Partners), investing half a billion dollars in a new formation of wireless ISP Clearwire. The new company will be 51% Sprint-owned, taking Sprint’s Xohm WiMax business. Google’s a wireless provider of sorts, now, and will help get open devices, including Android devices, on the network, and provide search and applications for the network.
Google’s Head of PR Goes to Facebook
Elliot Schrage leaves for Facebook, costing Google its vice president of global communications and public affairs. Of course, Google’s corporate PR policies haven’t been that smart the last few years, so maybe this isn’t great news for Facebook.
Google Maps Interface Slimmed Down
Google has finally trimmed some of the cruft building on Google Maps, combining and simplifying an interface that was getting too complicated and cluttered.
Blogger Gets Integrated Analytics
Google has integrated Google Analytics into Blogger for Blogger users that are interested, giving access to stats inside the Blogger Dashboard along with special stats tracking relevant to blogs. They’re also letting Measure Map users roll over their accounts into Google Analytics now.
Google Presentations has finally added a feature that most thought should have been there at launch: You can now save your presentations as PowerPoint files*. Previously, Google’s slideshows were trapped inside Google software, only able to be saved as a mostly useless PDF, but now you can take them and continue editing them in PowerPoint, or in any software compatible with PowerPoint’s PPT files.
* - of course, this being Google, they only let you save as .PPT files, not the newer Office 2007 .PPTX files
Entire Internet Goes Crazy Over April Fools
As usual, April Fools day was the internet’s Christmas, with many major and minor websites getting in the holiday spirit, most with unfunny fake news stories. A few were interest or stood out:
YouTube turned all the Featured Videos on its front page into links to Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up. The video, already the center of the Rickrolling meme, is now the unofficial anthem of April Fools day, with multiple pranks involving it somehow. The video pulled 6 million views in just one day.
Phillip listed a ton of others from Google, including a retread “We’re going to space” joke from Google (this time with Richard Branson and Mars and YouTube videos, but even less funny than when they did it in 2006), scratch-and-sniff Google Book Search, Google Talk auto converting everything you say into acronyms, a paper airplane template in Google Docs, custom email time in Gmail, Google Calendar’s Wake Up Kit (which pours a bucket of water on you if you ignore the alarm) and I’m Feeling Lucky button (random blind dates), Orkut renamed Yogurt, and more.
Google Docs Finally Gets Gears Offline Access
Google Docs, the most obvious candidate for offline access, has finally been enabled to work with Google Gears. You can now access and edit your text documents (but not spreadsheets or presentations, yet) without an internet connection, provided you’ve installed the Google Gears plugin. Wonderful news, and hopefully the start of a wave of Google products taking advantage of Google’s offline platform.
Here’s a video about it:
Google Spreadsheets Adds Gadgets Google Spreadsheets has added a directory of Google Gadgets you can use to extend its functionality. It includes charts, new table functionality, pivot tables, maps, search results, organization charts, and many other features Spreadsheets lacks. It also now has email notifications, autocomplete and a new visualization API. Unlike Docs, Spreadsheets is one area where the majority of users won’t be satisfied with an underpowered Microsoft Word, and any way Google can get advanced features in there, the better.
Google’s Search Lead Continues To Grow comScore saw Google share of the search market grow in February (surprising no one), reaching 59%. Yahoo fell to 21.6%, Microsoft slipped slightly to 9.6%, and Ask added .1% to reach 4.6%.
Viacom Will Not Get Punitive Damages Vs. YouTube A judge ruled that if Viacom prevails in its lawsuit against Google-owned YouTube over copyrighted videos, it would not be entitled to punitive damages. Instead, Viacom will have to prove actual damages, with each successfully proven “willfull” violation costing Google up to $300,000, and other costing as little as $750. Gonna have a hard time getting $1 billion out of Google that way.
Google To Layoff DoubleClickers Tuesday Valleywag reports that Google intends to hold its first round of layoffs of DoubleClick employees, trimming headcount at its acquisition to get the most value out of the buy. The layoffs should start this Tuesday, the first day of the second financial quarter of the year.
Of course, that day is also April 1, the day Google usually publishes a funny prank to amuse web surfers. If Google tries to be funny while firing hundreds, if not thousands of good people, laying them off in the middle of a recession when the job market isn’t going anywhere, I don’t think I’ll be laughing a whole lot.
Barry Diller Wins IAC Trial
In the case for control of IAC and the right to decide the company’s future, Barry Diller has defeated John Malone and won the right to break up the company into five seperate firms. Considering the hard work Diller has put into screwing up Ask.com the last few months, his victory is everyone else’s loss.
Google Israel Goes Black for Earth Hour
Google’s website in Israel turned its background black Thursday, marking off Earth Hour, some sort of awareness campaign where people turn off their lights for an hour to save the planet. While the message was nice, it was still strange to see Google ignoring its own research that clearly showed a black Google wastes more energy than a lit Google.
YouTube Showing Advanced Video Stats YouTube has launched a new feature, called Insight, which shows you more advanced stats for your own uploaded videos. It features a Google Finance-type graph that shows viewing over time, so you can see which days viewing spiked, that sort of thing. Click About This Video on your videos page, or add “http://www.youtube.com/my_videos_insight?v=” before any video ID (it won’t work if it isn’t your video).
Video Ads Make it Into Google Search Google has started showing video ads in its search results, adding a “watch commercial” or “watch demonstration” or “watch testimonial” link beneath AdWords ads. Click the link, and a video expands and plays right there in the sidebar. The video is tiny (160×140) and is about 30 seconds long, and the advertiser pays if the user watches the video, not if they click the link to go to the ad’s landing page. I saw one of the ads in action, and if they don’t cost too much more than regular ads, they seem like a good deal.
Google Documents Revamps Interface
Google Docs’ word processor application has changed its interface, adding drop-down menus and getting rid of the old tabbed toolbar interface. The old interface was a poorly implemented middle ground between the old interface paradigm common in document apps like the older versions of Microsoft Office, and the new Ribbon used in Office 2007, and Google finally wised up and junked the confusing system.
The new interface is pretty familiar to anyone who has been using Microsoft Word since the Windows 3.1 days, with drop down menus and a simple toolbar. The new menus do include a list of the keyboard shortcuts, making it easier to use those timesavers, but the changes don’t bring anything new to the table. Guess this is one area where Microsoft can claim to be bolder and more innovative.
Blogoscoped also found this, an Easter Egg (or possible prep for April Fools Day), making fun of the old Microsoft Office feature, Clippy. It’s funny, but Clippy is a remnant of Office’s past, and Docs is looking more and more like Office used to, so maybe the joke’s on Google.
Google Japan Parametron Doodle Google ran this Doodle logo in Japan last week, honoring the anniversary of some Japanese computer:
YouTube Releases API for Customizing Player YouTube released an API for customizing its embeddable player, letting you change the look of it to match the look of your website. You can write completely customizable video player, changing any element and putting together anything your mind/code can come up with.
Google fixed some of the UI in Google Docs word processor application, replacing the all blue bar of tiny icons with a larger toolbar with more traditional and easier to read buttons. The interface is cleaner than before, cleaning up some of the cruft that had developed on the tab area as Google added new features and tried to cram them in.
One curious decision: Google removed the Cut, Copy and Paste buttons from the toolbar. As a power user, I approve this decision, since I never use those buttons and users have got to learn how to use the CTRL shortcuts. However, everything we know about user interfaces says that users still use those buttons even if we don’t want them to. In Microsoft Word 2003, Paste is the number one used command on the toolbar, and Copy is #3.
I like the idea of killing those buttons, but how about a smart interface that removes it after the first time the user invokes CTRL+C/X/V? Without a Paste button, Docs is no longer safe for grandma to use, not that there were a whole lot of less experienced users taking advantage of Google Docs in the first place.
Apparently, Firefox (and in some cases IE7 in Windows Vista) wouldn’t allow Docs access to the clipboard, thus making the buttons useless and forcing Google to issue a popup explaining the error and instructing the user to use keyboard shortcuts. However, how many users who needed those toolbar buttons are using Firefox? Google needs to pay attention to all potential users, not just those familiar with keyboard shortcuts.
Google Dics Spreadsheets has a new feature, which lets you create a form that allows anyone to enter data into your spreadsheet. The idea is that users can create a spreadsheet, create a form for it, and send the form to anyone with an email address. They can enter data in the form right from their email, without requiring the person responding to log in or have a Google Account.
The forms are really easy to create. In fact, a form can be created without a spreadsheet, and a spreadsheet will be automatically created for entry of the form data. Also, a Google Gadget has been released that tracks responses to your form, though there is not yet a way to embed the form in a web page. Possibly, Google only wants the forms to be sent to specific people, not posted on blogs and other pages all over the web.
As Duncan Riley points out, though Google Docs doesn’t have a database program, a huge portion of database users only use the database software as a fancy spreadsheet, and this new feature means Google Docs can now replace Microsoft Access for that group. It isn’t perfect, but nothing in Google Docs is, and once again Google manages to corner the market on “good enough” for the average simple user.
Jeff Fisher on the Google Data APIs Team has released the Documents List Uploader, a software application for Windows that uses the Google Docs List API to get documents from your computer into Google Docs. With the Uploader, you can drag and drop multiple files into the application and watch as it uploads all of them to Docs. Even better, you can right click on any compatible file on your PC and click “Send to Google Docs”. Life just got easier.
Google Docs’ presentation application added some new features yesterday, gaining the ability to output to PDF. Users can save their presentations as PDF files, in order to share the file with others, or print it out for handing to others. Users can even print multiple slides per page, up to 12. What they still can’t do is output to Microsoft Powerpoint’s PPT file format, a glaring omission that is starting to look like an intentional incompatibility.
The other new feature is the ability to insert vector shapes into presentations. You can choose from 12 shapes, or rather eight different arrows and four other shapes (box, circle, talk balloon and star burst) and insert them on your page to jazz it up. Because they are vector shapes, they can be resized at will and still look great, and thusly give you more than just some text and a background in your presentation.
If you look in your Google document editor, under the Edit tab, you’ll see buttons for Header and Footer. Click them, and you can create a text field at the top and bottom of the document. After you click it, you get a dashed box where you can type some text. You can even format the text, but don’t format it too much, or you’ll break the header box.
Some kinds of formatting, when undone, will break the box and turn your header into regular old text. Other kinds, like the now-awfully-named Header styles on the Style menu will also break the box when activated, so don’t even try using them. The same goes for footers. Break the box, and the header will appear right where it is, but not repeated at the top of every page.
Now, this feature is just several minutes old, but it is broken, so lets hope the Google Docs team is fast moving and fixes this as soon as they hear about it, and doesn’t just file away the bug to be fixed sometime in the not-so-near future. Google Docs users have been clamoring for things like headers and footers, but if you can’t style them without fear of breaking them, they might as well have not been shipped at all.
Oh, and for god’s sake, don’t press Enter on your keyboard and try to put a second line in the header! The results are just plain unpredictable, in my experience.
Google finally made embedding Presentations a feature of Google Presentation, the slideshow maker in Google Docs. The slideshows get embedded with a YouTube-style player, called the “Mini Presentation Module” (yeah, Google is just filled with branding geniuses). Here’s a sample Presentation Philipp created:
I’d like to point out that Superman’s powers are actually:
Heat vision (shooting lasers from his eyes)
X-ray Vision (seeing through objects)
Telescopic vision (ability to zoom with his eyes and see objects very far away)
Super-hearing (ability to hear sounds far away, even whispers and through walls)
Super-breath (blow air at hurricane-level speeds)
Despite what the movies would have you believe, Superman cannot travel through time under his own power. I liked the movies, but the director seemed to have no interest in consistency or believability with the comics. Going back in time by flying around the earth? Ridiculous! Every Start Trek fan knows you need to fly around the sun to go back in time!
A recent NPD survey showed that an overwhelming number of PC users either have never heard of web-based Office suite alternatives, or have no interest in using them. 73.2% have never heard of them, 20.8% heard of them but never tried them, and 1.5% tried them, and never used them again. In addition, 2.1% sometimes use them (with 1.9% using them in addition to desktop apps), 2% often use them alongside desktop apps, and a scant 0.3% often use them and don’t use desktop apps.
Well, it’s a start.
So, why is the online productivity app struggling to take on with consumers? Are people too afraid of not having offline access? Are the features in Google Docs and the like just not powerful enough? Is Microsoft Office too entrenched? If Office so cheap ($150, $60 for students) that free isn’t enough of an improvement? If Office so easy to pirate that free is irrelevant?
These are the questions Google is going to have to answer over the next year if it wants Docs to actually mean anything in the larger marketplace. I’d argue that if Docs doesn’t get the number of users who often use their product up from 2.3% to at least 10%, and those that use it exclusively up from 0.3% to 5%, and do it by the end of next year, then it just doesn’t matter, and it probably never will.
Amit Agarwal talks about DocSyncer, a new program in invite-only beta that watches your computer for Word, Excel and PowerPoint files and automatically uploads them to Google Docs. Not only does it help you manage files on your computer with online editing, but it also can act as an excellent bulk uploader for getting your files into Docs. Request an invite here, and download it here if you get one.
Google Docs (and Spreadsheets and Presentations and Wiki…) represents a new way of dealing with a traditional software category, so it stands to reason that it would take time to catch on. Still, the latest stats from Compete show that Docs is having some pretty good growth over the last 13 months. It’s also good to see that both Docs and Spreadsheets are equally popular, which probably means they share a savvy userbase that uses both products significantly, and not just occasional dabblers in one or the other.
Chech out Compete’s post, where they also talk about the evening out of average minutes per user on both apps over the last year.
(via Richard MacManus)
Jotspot’s former VP of Product Development and current Googler Scott Johnston gave a presentation last week where he revealed much of Google’s plans for JotSpot. Turns out the collaboration software will be the basis for Google Sites, the replacement for Google Page Creator, using powerful collaborative tools to allow businesses to create “intranets, project management tracking, customer extranets, and any number of custom sites”.
Scott also confirmed what most people had been suspecting, that Google Gears support will be built into Google Docs, Gmail and Calendar for offline access. He explained how offline and online collaborative editing of the same document would be reconciled.
What happens when somebody edits a document offline at the same time another user is editing the online version? The same algorithm that reconciles simultaneous editing will apply here when the offline version is merged back into the online version. Changes will be versioned the same way, so basically in chronological order.
Google is also apparently not yet working on OCR (optical character recognition) for imported files (Microsoft Office’s OneNote does this), but may one day. Integrating GrandCentral into Google Apps is a major priority for Google, he said. And finally, don’t expect video conferencing in Google Talk/Chat, not soon at least, though it may be considered for the long term.
Google has launched a mobile site for Google Docs. It isn’t a mobile version of the office suite, so you can’t create and edit text documents or spreadsheets, but you can use it to view or download documents from your Docs account, making it a useful way to access your free Google Docs storage. You can download all your documents, but you can only view text and spreadsheets as HTML in the mobile interface (though iPhone users can view Presentations on their phone as well).
Philipp has screenshots, including showing the strange view spreadsheets have within the interface, showing only a single column or a single row (displayed vertically) at a time. You can see that presentations exist, but you can’t download them to view in PowerPoint mobile on a Windows Mobile phone, presumably because Presentations shipped without a PowerPoint export function.
Nathan Weinberg at Inside Google sure can write a dramatic blog entry.
That’s gotta be the nicest thing anyone said to me all week. I like.
Elinor’s also got a quote from a Google rep on the story:
A Google representative provided this statement when asked for comment: “We take our users’ privacy and security very seriously. We acted quickly when we discovered this bug and delivered a fix: e-mail addresses are no longer archived during presentation chat sessions.”