Google Drive – Why It’s Awesome and How It Makes Chromebook Sexy

Google launched Google Drive on 24 Apr.  I believe it is a significant step that takes cloud living and working into a new era.  In this article I shall briefly introduce what Google Drive is, how to use it and what killer features does it have.

Google Drive Icon

 

Activation

Currently Google Drive is not fully opened to all users.  If you go to http://drive.google.com, chances are you would see the following screen.  Note the “Your Google Drive is not ready yet” message and the “Notify me” button (top right corner).  From here you could ask Google to send you an activation email.

Google Drive - Not Yet Ready

 
It may take hours or days to receive Google’s welcome email, which looks like this:

Welcome to Google Drive

 

Basically Google Drive is an upgrade of Google Docs.  It doesn’t look much different from Google Docs.  You can use it the same way as Google Docs, there is not much of the user interface to learn.

Google Drive
 

Features

But Google Drive is not simply a Google Docs with a larger capacity (Google gives you 5 GB storage for free).  I see a few improvements.
 
Firstly, Google Drive has a built-in OCR function, meaning that if you search for a phrase in your Google Drive, not only would text-based files containing the phrase would come up in search results, pictures which the phrase would also be searched.  Google recognizes the text in graphics form.  Similarly, Google Drive also integrated Google Goggles the image search engine.  So it you try to find “the great wall” in Google Drive, even if the file name does not contain the words, Google Drive could recognize the photo you took in Beijing in your last trip to China.
 
Secondly, just like Dropbox and Skydrive by Microsoft, the desktop app of Google Drive automatically synchronize your files between your Windows PC or Mac and your Google Drive.  There is also an Android app and an iOS app is in the pipeline.  This level of synchronization was not available in the previous Google Docs.

Google Drive for Windows 
 
Thirdly, Google brought web apps into Google Drive.  When I first entered Google Drive, I was asked if I wanted to use Pixlr Editor as the default image viewer and editor.

Google Drive - Web Apps

This is a smart move by Google.  There are way too many online storage competitors in the market, the most famous ones include Dropbox, Box and Skydrive.  Why should we use Google Drive if other companies provide the same (or more) storage space?  By adding web apps to web storage, Google created not only a storage space but an online working space!

 

There is a growing collection of Chrome web apps that support Google Drive.  You can identify these web apps by the Google Drive icon in chrome Web Store:

Chrome Web Store - Google Drive Apps

And you can add more web apps by clicking “Create”, choose “More” and then “Get more apps”.

Google Drive - Get more apps
I see huge potential in integrating Google Drive with web apps.  Image editor, word processor, music player and editor, spreadsheet editor…  All web apps could be ran on the same Google Drive platform, this makes online working and collaboration much easier.  The Google Docs in the past was primitive, it only had basic editing function.  Now when third-party app developers could create web apps that have direct access to Google Drive, more possibilities are created.
 
The launch of Google Drive with web apps also makes Chromebook a much more attractive product.  Users can store all their files online in one place and have them viewed and edited in the same one place.  Chrome OS + Google Drive + web apps is an integrated, independent and complete system.  As long as you have web access, you have access to your files and apps to view/edit your files.  I think Google Drive filled the missing piece of a complete cloud system.  The cloud era has come, now in a more desirable way.
 
Finally watch this introductory video, know what Google Drive is and try it now!

Chrome Web Store Trending Apps – Find Hottest Web Apps Easily

Chrome Web Store just received a new update.  A major new feature is the “Trending” tab which to let users know what web apps are hot now.

 

Trending Chrome Web Apps

In the past we could only see “popular” web apps but this list is not frequently updated.  The new “trending” tab lists out the hottest web apps and sort by the popularity.  Apps are ranked as “on fire”, “hot” and “warm”.

Chrome Web Store - Trending Web Apps

The purpose of this “trending” tab is to highlight web apps that are popular in recent time.  These apps may not be found in the “popular” tab that shows all-time hot apps.  For example, while YouTube is definitely a “popular” web app (over 1,000,000+ users installed it in Chrome), it is not even “warm” in “trending”.  This is obvious because the user count of this web app is stable.

Apart from the trending tab, now you can also sort web apps in each individual category to find out the trending web apps.  This is very useful for finding out the hottest web apps such as latest games.

Chrome Web Store - Trending Web Apps in Categories

 

Offline and Playable on Google+ Identification

The second change to Chrome Web Store is the new mark-ups showing particular features of web apps.  In the following screenshot, you see a Google+ mark for Diamond Dash, meaning that this game is playable on Google+ (and trending mark for BrowserQuest too).  You can also find a lightning mark for apps that run offline.  Google said that more marks for other features would follow.

Chrome Web Store - Playable on Gogle Plus Mark

 

Read more about this update here: http://chrome.blogspot.com/2012/04/zap-finding-right-app-and-extension.html

Facebook Lists: Group Your Friends Like Using Circles in Google+

It’s Social Wednesday!  Every Wednesday I write about web apps and browser add-ons or observations related to social networks.  SUBSCRIBE RSS feed or email updates to follow these stories!

Facebook recently released another way for you to organize your friends and filter and read status updates of your friends.  I said it is “another way” because it is an “optional” (Facebook said so) method you do not necessarily need to use.  After using it, I found it quite similar to the circles in Google+.

 

Lists: Facebook’s Version of Google+ Circles

Now if you enter Facebook, you’ll find some default lists on the left sidebar, like these:

Facebook Lists on Left Sidebar

According to Facebook, you have some default lists: Close Friends, Acquaintances and Restricted.

Close Friends: You receive more of your friend’s updates in the feed if you put them into the Close Friends list.  You get notified each time they post something new.

Acquaintances: People on this list would not appear in your feed as often as those in Closed Friends.  You can choose not to let them see you new posts when posting by choosing Friends except Acquaintances.

Restricted: Who would you add as friends but want to restrict their ability to see your updates?  Well, think about your boss or professor in school (probably parents of kids).  If you put somebody on this list, he would only see your update if you choose to make it public or tag this guy.

Facebook Lists - Audience selector

You can of course create custom lists such as ex-girlfriends and WoW friends.  Your friends in Facebook would not know when you add them to lists.

 

Smart Lists

Smart Lists are auto-generated lists where Facebook put friends who share similar backgrounds with you together.  For example, if you have XXX Company in your profile, very likely you will find a new smart list of “XXX Company” where your colleagues who are your friends in Facebook would be added automatically.  This function is also location-based so if you live in Boston you should have a “Boston” smart list showing your friends who live in Boston.  To make things more flexible you can adjust the distance covered.  May be you want to show everybody in the same state instead of just a small city, you can do it.

The whole thing is based on profiles (your friend’s and yours) so whenever you friends update their profiles the changes would be reflected in your smart lists.

 

Read more »

Google+ is Open to Public, Plus New Features: Hangouts On Air, Screensharing and Better Search

Google just announced the complete opening of Google+ to the public after 90 days of field trial.  YES!  Anyone can apply for an account now without the need of invitation.  Just go to google.com/+ to enable the service.

New Features in Google+: Hangouts

Google also announced some new features in Google+.  The first thing is about Hangouts, the video conferencing function.  If you use an Android 2.3+ phone, you can use Hangouts right on your smartphone.  This means video chatting anywhere!

Google Plus hangouts on your phone

The other thing is Hangouts On Air.  Now apart from the 9 members who can join the video conference, you have the option to broadcast the video session on the internet, meaning that everybody can watch your Hangouts LIVE.  You can also record the session for playing later.  This is perhaps the best and cheapest way to create podcasts.

Google Plus hangouts on air

Hangouts On Air

Hangouts with extras is yet another great invention of Google+.  From now on you can share your screen without your audience on Google+, and you can use sketchpad to draw illustrations.  What’s more, you can access and use Google Docs right in Google+ and name your Hangout to make it like a public webinar.

Google Plus hangouts with screensharing and sketchpad

Screensharing and Sketchpad in Hangouts

Google Plus hangouts with Google Docs and Named Hangouts

Google Docs in Hangouts and Named Hangouts

 

New Features in Google+: Hangouts APIs

Last week Google+ launched the first set of Google+ APIs to the public.  Now Google also make Hangouts APIs available.  Software developers could create apps with Hangouts as a core function.  A challenge to Skype?  May be.

 

New Features in Google+: Search in Google Plus

The search function in Google+ is enhanced, you can now search for people, posts and popular contents from the web, all from the search box in Google+.  For example, if you are a Xbox game player, enter the term “Xbox 360” to find other Xbox 360 gamers and popular posts about it.  This greatly enhances the usability of Google Plus and promotes sharing.  After all, Google is all about searching, right?

 

information and image source: Google Official blog

 

Follow me on Google+ ===> Peter Mugi

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