08 August 2014

Google Knowledge Graph Winners

If you search for [oscar winners], Google shows a long list of winners in the Knowledge Graph sidebar. You can scroll down to see all of them, switch to a different year or click a category and see all the nominees. Search for [oscar 1995] to find the winners from 1995, for example.

You can also try [Grammy], [Emmy], [Cesar winners], [Goya Awards], [Tony awards], [Golden Globes], [Brit Awards], [Pulitzer], [Nobel awards] and many other queries. It works for more specific queries like [nobel peace prize] or [nobel prize physics].

Google Query Tricks

This isn't some new Google Search feature, but I thought it's worth sharing. Google has some smart algorithms that process your queries and can determine what you intended to type even if it's not properly formatted.

1. You can separate all the characters of your query by space. For example: [h o t e l c a l i f o r n i a l y r i c s].

2. You can separate all the characters of your query using dots. For example: [ h o t e l c a l i f o r n i a l y r i c s].

3. You can type your query without using space to separate words. For example: [hotelcalifornialyrics].

4. You can separate the words from your query using various characters like "+", "*", "&", "^" and more. Here's an example: [hotel^california^lyrics].

Moon and Mars in Google Maps

Google Maps for desktop added 3D imagery for Moon and Mars. Just switch to the Earth view in the new Google Maps and zoom out until you see Moon and Mars at the bottom of the page or use these URLs: Moon and Mars.

"Spin Mars and watch the atmosphere change around the red planet; tilt the Moon and imagine yourself gliding along its peaks and craters; and to brush up on your astronomy, click on one of the thousands of labeled topographic features," informs Google.

Google still has the old standalone pages for Google Moon and Google Mars launched in 2009 and you can still use Google Earth to explore Moon and Mars.

Here's a video about the new features:

HTML Tags Supported in Gmail

Google doesn't provide a list of HTML tags supported in Gmail, but the ex-Googler Mihai Parparita came up with an unofficial list. "This list was determined by sending an HTML email with all HTML elements and seeing which came through," explains Mihai.

The list of supported tags is pretty long, so it's probably more interesting to know the tags that are not supported by Gmail. Here are some of them: <embed>, <audio>, <video>, <iframe>, <object>, <script>, <canvas>, <html>, <head>, <body>.

You can also find some sites that show what CSS features are available in Gmail, as well as in other mail services like Yahoo Mail, Outlook.com and mail software like Outlook, Apple Mail and Gmail app for Android.

Unsubscribe Link in Gmail

Gmail continues to make it easier to unsubscribe from newsletters, social updates and other similar messages. After adding an unsubscribe option when marking messages as spam, Gmail now includes an unsubscribe link next to the sender's email address.

"Now when a sender includes an Unsubscribe link in a Promotions, Social or Forums message, Gmail will surface it to the top, right next to the sender address. If you're interested in the message;s content, it won't get in the way, and if not, it'll make it easier to keep your inbox clutter-free. Making the unsubscribe option easy to find is a win for everyone. For email senders, their mail is less likely to be marked as spam and for you, you can now say goodbye to sifting through an entire message for that one pesky link," informs Google.

The unsubscribe link has already been used for Google+ messages. When you click it, Google shows this message: "Google+ provides a page at plus.google.com where you can manage your email subscriptions." Google links to a page that lets you unsubscribe from certain Google+ email notifications, like the ones sent when someone shares or comments on your content.

{ Thanks, Herin. }

06 August 2014

64-Bit Chrome for Mac

Chrome 37 brings 64-bit support for Windows and now Chrome 38 brings 64-bit support for Mac OS. Chrome 37 is currently in beta and requires reinstalling the software in Windows, while Chrome 38 is available in the Dev and Canary channels, but it doesn't require reinstalling the browser in Mac OS. The Canary build runs alongside stable/beta/dev Chrome and it's updated daily.

In addition to better performance and fewer crashes, 64-bit Chrome for Mac also lets you use 64-bit plugins like Java. Until now, you had to use a different browser to load Java content. "Chrome does not support Java 7 on Mac OS X. Java 7 runs only on 64-bit browsers and Chrome is a 32-bit browser," informs Oracle's site.

Don't get too excited. Chrome will soon remove support for NPAPI plugins, so you'll still have to use Safari or Firefox to open pages that include Java applets.

Google Domains Screenshot Generator

Google Domains has a cool feature that generates a small screenshot for your site (379x283 px) when you use the web forwarding feature. The nice thing is that Google doesn't use signatures or complicated parameters, so you can change the URL.

Here's an example: http://ift.tt/1ASdS1C. Unfortunately, the URL only works if you are logged in to a Google account and Google Domains is enabled. There are many other services that generate site screenshots: ShrinkTheWeb, PagePeeker and more.

Google Domains is still in beta and requires an invitation. It's a service that allows you to register domains and manage them.

05 August 2014

Mobile Internet Explorer's New User Agent

I've bought a Nokia Lumia 520 a few months ago to try Windows Phone and it turned out to be a pretty good phone. Windows Phone shines on low-end hardware and Nokia's hardware is great for a phone that costs about $100. There are many issues with Windows Phone and some of them have to do with its late release (2010) and low market share (about 3%). Many companies, including Google, continue to ignore Windows Phone, many sites aren't optimized for Mobile IE.

If you use Google services and products like Gmail, Google Maps, Google+, Google Drive, Chrome, it's hard to switch to Windows Phone. There are some third-party apps for Google services, but they're far from Google's apps for Android and iOS. Google doesn't want to make Windows Phone more popular, so it doesn't release apps for Windows Phone. Google also serves inferior versions of its mobile apps in Internet Explorer Mobile. Gmail's mobile site for Windows Phone has a lot in common with Gmail's site for feature phones.

The entire thing reminds me of Opera's early days. Opera struggled with its low market share and had to spoof its user agent to identify itself as Internet Explorer. The sites that required Internet Explorer worked in Opera, but developers continued to ignore Opera.

The latest Windows Phone 8.1 update changed mobile IE's user agent to mimic mobile Safari. Microsoft added "like iPhone OS 7_0_3 Mac OS X AppleWebKit/537 (KHTML. like Gecko) Mobile Safari/537", but also "Android 4.0". The sites that check the user agent for strings like "iPhone", "Android" or "Mobile Safari" are supposed to work well in the latest Internet Explorer for Mobile. While the browser still has the same Trident rendering engine, Microsoft used some workarounds that improve WebKit compatibility.

WebKit is the most used rendering engine for mobile browsers. Apple used it in Safari for iPhone and iPad, Google used it in the mobile browser for Android and later in Chrome for Android. Google forked WebKit and now uses Blink. Since WebKit dominates the mobile space, many developers optimize their sites for WebKit and use non-standard WebKit features. Firefox and Internet Explorer don't have a lot of mobile users, so developers don't bother optimizing their sites for these browsers.

"Unlike the mostly standards-based desktop web, many modern mobile web pages were designed and built for iOS and the iPhone. This results in users of other devices often receiving a degraded experience. Many sites use features via a legacy vendor specific prefix without supporting the un-prefixed standard version or only support vendor prefixes for certain devices. Other sites use non-standard proprietary APIs that only work with Safari or Chrome. Of course there were also bugs or missing features in IE that became particularly apparent on mobile sites designed specifically for our competitors' browsers," informs the IE blog.

It's ironic to see Microsoft complaining that sites use non-standard features and aren't compatible with Internet Explorer. I still remember the sites that required Internet Explorer 6 and didn't work well in other browsers.

The good news is that many sites now works properly in Windows Phone's browsers. Microsoft "tested more than 500 of the top mobile web sites and found that the IE11 update improves the experience on more than 40% of them." Here's a screenshots for Gmail in the new IE version:

... and a Gmail screenshot in UC Browser, which still uses the old IE user agent:

User agents are a mess and developers should use feature detection instead of relying on a meaningless string. Chrome's user agent includes "Mozilla", "Gecko", "AppleWebKit" and "Safari" for backward compatibility. Now mobile IE's user agent includes "Android", "iPhone", "AppleWebKit", "Mobile Safari", "Gecko".

04 August 2014

How I Cross-Post Updates to Social Media

Digital Inspiration has an active presence across all social media websites – from Facebook to Twitter to LinkedIn – and as soon as a new article is published on the site, updates are sent out to all the difference social channels.

The social media publishing strategy is partly automated and partly manual for sites like Pinterest and Google+ that do not allow automated posting. Also, I am not using services like dlvr.it that monitor RSS feeds and cross-post updates almost immediately to Twitter and Facebook channels. The reason being that handcrafted social updates tend to perform better than ones containing only post titles picked from the RSS feed.

I have connected my Twitter account, Facebook Page, LinkedIn Page and the Google+ page to Buffer. When I am ready to share an article, I simply open the Buffer add-on, write a message and share.

In some cases, it helps to include an image with the social update and Buffer makes that easy as well. While you are on a page, hover your mouse over any image on that page and a little Buffer icon appears. When you click that icon, the actual image is included in the update along with a link to the containing page. Here are some tweets posted through Buffer that contain images and as well as links.

You can only post to a limited number of your social channels through the free version of Buffer but, as a workaround, you can install a couple of IFTTT recipes that will further propagate your Buffer updates to other non-supported channels.

I have created recipes that automatically send updates posted on Buffer to Tumblr (link) and my LinkedIn profile (link). I have another IFTTT recipe that takes the first picture from my RSS feed and uploads it to Flickr while adding the post excerpt in the picture description. Here’s a screenshot image posted on Flickr through IFTTT. This does help improve visibility of your stuff in Google Images and other visual search engines.

For Twitter, I have configured the large summary card so an large image from the post is automatically shown when someone expands the tweet on the Twitter website. This tends to perform than regular summary cards where a small cropped image is shown inside the tweet.

social media posting

Finally, I manually share links on Google+ since they do not allow automated posting on Google+ Profiles. Since Buffer has already published the update on the Google+ Page, I just use the share option to post that same update on my Google+ profile – this saves some time and also exposes the site’s Google+ Page to my Google+ followers.

This story, How I Cross-Post Updates to Social Media, was originally published at Digital Inspiration on 04/08/2014 under Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, Internet

03 August 2014

More YouTube Comments

The Google+ integration managed to improve the quality of YouTube comments (or at least the top comments). Sometimes you find YouTube videos with interesting comments, but it's not that easy to read all of them.

YouTube only displays 20 comments or threads and you have to click "more" to read 20 other comments. There's also a page that only displays comments: click "all comments" below the video description and you'll be able to read the top 100 comments.

When you click "more", YouTube fetches 100 other comments. For example, the page lets you read 300 comments with only 2 clicks on "more", while the standard YouTube video page requires 14 clicks.

Here's an example of comment page that shows the top 100 comments. You can click the drop-down below "all comments" to sort comments by date. Another example here.

Offline Android Games

Google Play Store has a collection of games that work offline. It's a hand-picked list of free and paid games like Despicable Me, Asphalt 8, Dots, Minecraft, Riptide GP, Temple Run 2 and more.

"Whether you're in airplane mode or stuck with zero bars, all these games require is your thumb. Now you can play your heart out from anywhere with our selection of off-line games," says Google.

Maybe Google should allow users to create their own collections they could share with other people. A Google search reveals a lot of Google Play collections: Get Things Done, Essential Games, Abstract Puzzlers, MMORPGs, Hidden Gems, Mood Boosters, Picture Taking, For The Power User and more. There are also music collections, movie collections, books collections, Newsstand collections.

Google on Windows 8.1

Google's homepage continues to promote Chrome when using a different browser. Until now, the ad promised "a faster way to browse the web". Now there's a more specific ad in Internet Explorer: "a faster way to browse on Windows".

When clicking "install Google Chrome", Google sent me to this page: "Get Your Google Back. Take two minutes to make Windows 8.1 more familiar." The page suggests to install Google Chrome ("It's the fast, free browser that's built for the modern web") and get the Google Search app for Windows 8 ("It's the quickest, easiest way to access Google Search").

This seems to be an updated version of the "Get Your Google Back" page launched in 2012 for Windows 8 users. Google tries to explain that you can continue to use Chrome even from the Metro/Modern interface and there's even an optimized Google Search app.

Removing the Plus from Google+

3 years ago, Google+ was launched in an effort to make Google more social. It's the most successful social service created by Google and the main reason is that Google promoted it a lot and switched a lot features to Google+.

Google Talk morphed into Google+ Hangouts, Picasa Web Albums became Google+ Photos, YouTube comments require Google+, Android reviews and Google Maps reviews require Google+. When you create a Google account, you need to join Google+. There are Google+ features in Google's notification bar and Google+ is the first service displayed in the app launcher.

Google+ was supposed to be a new version of Google, an upgraded Google that's more personal, has better tools for sharing content and better ways to filter information. "This is just the next version of Google. Everything is being upgraded. We already have users. We're now upgrading them to what we consider Google 2.0," said Vic Gundotra 2 years ago.

Vic Gundotra left Google a few months ago and since then Google+'s importance has diminished. Google no longer released some information about the number of active Google+ users and barely mentioned Google+ in the Google I/O keynote. Google+ no longer requires real names, Google Apps users no longer need to join Google+ to use Google Hangouts video calls and there are rumors that Google+ Photos will be renamed Google Photos and will no longer require Google+. "The move would enable the photo service to stand more independently and be accessible for consumers who aren't part of Google+, potentially spurring more growth," suggests Bloomberg.

Google launched some of its best features inside Google+ to attract users. Now it's time to set them free and make them more popular instead of using them to make Google+ more popular.

For many people, Google+ was an artificial barrier. Having to use your real name to write comments and reviews, to share photos, to write blog posts was an obstacle. The Google+ integration improved YouTube comments, but made many users unhappy.

Google+ is not dead, but Google seems to extract the "+" and split into standalone apps and services. The stream could become less important.

Google Drive Viewer Changes

I've mentioned a few weeks ago that there's a new interface for Google Drive previews and Gmail attachment previews. There's more space for content, the toolbar disappears when you're not using it, you can click "open" to open the file using the default app.

If you use the new Google Drive UI, Google Drive Viewer is no longer available in the "open" menu and you need to click the "pop-out" icon next to the "x" icon to open Google Drive Viewer. Most of its functionality is available from the preview interface, but there are some missing features. For example, adding comments.

The Google Apps blog mentions that "as part of this change we will remove support for adding file-level commenting of non-Google file formats. This change doesn't impact comments in Google Docs, Sheets and Slides, and existing comments on non-Google formats will be retained and available to view." The commenting feature is still available for me in the "Edit" menu when opening a PDF file or other non-Google file types:

Find the Number of Gmail Messages

By default, Gmail groups all your messages in conversations. That's the reason why Gmail displays the number of conversations and not messages in all the Gmail views: inbox, all mail, labels, search results.

If you ever want to find the number of actual messages that match a certain query, the number of messages from inbox or the number of messages you've sent or received since you started using Gmail, there's a way to do that. Just go to Gmail's settings and temporarily disable conversation view. Find the "conversation view" section in the General tab, click "Conversation view off", scroll down to the bottom of the page and make sure you click "Save changes".

Now Gmail will only display separate messages and the number of search results will be more accurate. You'll be able to find the number of messages, not conversations or threads. A conversation can include one message or more messages, so the number of messages will be bigger. Please note that the number of search results is not displayed if there are many search results, so you need to use a workaround.

The screenshot above shows the "all mail" message counter when conversation mode is disabled, while the screenshot below shows the number of conversations when the conversation mode is enabled.

You can go back to Gmail's settings page to enable conversation view.