New Google Navigation Bar Looks Sharp

The black bar wasn’t really so awful. But Google apparently is still in the throes of its massive remodel and unification of services, and has announced plans to ditch the black bar in favor of a nested services arrangement under the Google logo itself. Services are linked in a drop-down menu that pops out when you click on the Google logo, showing links to services such as search, Gmail, +, Maps and News.

The bar is split into three regions – the Logo and drop-down menu on left, the familiar search box in the middle and a share box and Google+ notifications on the right side, which are visible on any Google page.

Google believes the redesign makes navigation and sharing “super simple.” I would argue that frequent changes to the set up actually make matters a bit more complicated, at least in the short run.

If the new set up hasn’t yet been rolled out to you, you can check it out in the video below. Hope you like the new digs.

 

New Gmail!

The new Gmail is here. Well, not officially for everyone. But you can preview the new form factor by selection. Why would you do that? Well, to get a fancy new look and feel, for one thing. But beauty is as beauty does and the new Gmail is more than just a pretty face. New features include a morph to fit page that optimizes for any size screen resolution, dramatically improved search, the ability to change the dimensions in the left sidebar, and the option to create filters within the search box – MUCH easier than the old way. Plus, a bunch of new HD backgrounds that are very sweet indeed. Find out more about the new Gmail here and test drive it for yourself – simply click on the button offering the option at the bottom right of your Gmail page. Tell them Martha sent you.

 

The All New Google Presentations

Google Docs, the cloud suite of productivity tools offered by Google for free, has always been a favorite of mine. I have used Presentations, the slide deck creation tool, to make visuals and collaborate with others. I have always found Presentations to be more than serviceable, and definitely useful.

Google has just made Presentations even more useful with a dramatic feature roll out. The changes focus on improving collaboration by including presence markers to show where collaborators are working, allowing simultaneous editing by team members, showing a use revision history to see who made changes or to revert to an earlier version, and a building in a chat feature to permit dialogue between collaborators while working on the document. There are more than 50 other new features , including better transitions and “spicier” (their word, not mine) 3D effects, new animations, new themes, drawings within presentations, and rich tables.

The new stuff is rolling out slowly but you can help it along – just click on the gear in the document list, select Document Settings, hit the editing tab, check the box to “create new presentations using the latest version of the presentation editor” and voila!, you’re in. But don’t bother if you are running an older browser: the new Presentations is optimized to work with the latest browser editions, so update one of those first before trying this at home, kids. Check this link for what works.

I love shiny new playthings from Google!

Go Ahead, Talk To Your New iPhone

I know, I know. Two days later and I STILL haven’t posted about the iPhone and sundry Apple announcements on Tuesday. Other matters have distracted me, and I definitely plan to go into some depth on my thoughts about iOS5 and the new iPhone 4s. In the meantime, however, I think a quick post on perhaps the coolest new iPhone feature is warranted – Apple has finally brought to light the fruits of its acquisition of one of my favorite apps – Siri Assistant. Apple has baked Siri into iPhone 4s (but alas not iOS 5 as it requires the dual processor capabilities of the new phone). By now, you probably even know what Assistant does – it offers a voice-controlled, Artificial Intelligence – like experience from your phone. In essence, you can talk to your phone and get it to do all sorts of cool stuff for you. From all accounts, it appears that Siri is working quite well in its new, native iPhone form.

I bet you are wondering just what you can do with Siri. So was I. It appears you can do a lot more with it than you can with the third party Siri application I have been rocking on my iPhone for several years now. The following list of commands has been posted on several sites across the web and I hat tip them all. The list is impressive and it represents more assistance than I can secure collectively from my three children and sometimes even my husband, so I count that a plus:

Address Book

Querying Contacts

  • What’s Michael’s address?
  • What is Susan Park’s phone number?
  • When is my wife’s birthday?
  • Show Jennifer’s home email address

Finding Contacts

  • Show Jason Russell
  • Find people named Park
  • Who is Michael Manning?

Relationships

  • My mom is Susan Park
  • Michael Manning is my brother
  • Call my brother at work

Calendars

Adding Events

  • Set up a meeting at 9
  • Set up a meeting with Michael at 9
  • Meet with Lisa at noon
  • Set up a meeting about hiring tomorrow at 9am
  • New appointment with Susan Park Friday at 3
  • Schedule a planning meeting at 8:30 today in the boardroom

Changing events

  • Move my 3pm meeting to 4:30
  • Reschedule my appointment with Dr. Manning to next Monday at 9am
  • Add Lisa to my meeting with Jason
  • Cancel the budget review meeting

Asking about events

  • What does the rest of my day look like?
  • What’s on my calendar for Friday?
  • When is my next appointment?
  • When am I meeting with Michael?
  • Where is my next meeting?

Alarms

Setting Alarms

  • Wake me up tomorrow at 7am
  • Set an alarm for 6:30am
  • Wake me up in 8 hours
  • Change my 6:30 alarm to 6:45
  • Turn off my 6:30 alarm
  • Delete my 7:30 alarm

Checking the Clock

  • What time is it?
  • What time is it in Berlin?
  • What is today’s date?
  • What’s the date this Saturday?

Using a Timer

  • Set the timer for ten minutes
  • Show the timer
  • Pause the timer
  • Resume
  • Reset the timer
  • Stop it

Email

Sending Messages

  • Email Lisa about the trip
  • Email Jennifer about the change in plans
  • New email to Susan Park
  • Mail Dad about the rent check
  • Email Dr. Manning and say I got the forms, thanks
  • Mail Lisa and Jason about the party and say I had a great time

Checking Messages

  • Check email
  • Any new email from Michael today?
  • Show new mail about the lease
  • Show the email from Lisa yesterday

Responding to Messages

  • Reply Dear Susan sorry about the late payment
  • Call him at work

Friends

Checking Up on Friends

  • Where’s Jason?
  • Where is my sister?
  • Is my wife at home?
  • Where are all my friends?
  • Who is here?
  • Who is near me?

Maps

Directions

  • How do I get home?
  • Show 1 Infinite Loop Cupertino California
  • Directions to my dad’s work

Local Businesses

  • Find coffee near me
  • Where is Starbucks?
  • Find some burger joints in Baltimore
  • Find a gas station within walking distance
  • Good Mexican restaurants around here

Messages

Sending Texts

  • Tell Susan I’ll be right there
  • Send a message to Jason Russell
  • Send a message to Lisa saying how about tomorrow
  • Tell Jennifer the show was great
  • Send a message to Susan on her mobile saying I’ll be late
  • Send a message to 408 555 1212
  • Text Jason and Lisa where are you?

Reading Texts

  • Read my new messages
  • Read it again

Replying to Texts

  • Reply that’s great news
  • Tell him I’ll be there in 10 minutes
  • Call her

Music

Playback

  • Play The Light of the Sun
  • Play Trouble
  • Play Taking Back Sunday shuffled
  • Play Alicia Keys
  • Play some blues
  • Play my party mix
  • Shuffle my roadtrip playlist
  • Play
  • Pause
  • Skip

Notes

Creating and finding notes

  • Note that I spent $12 on lunch
  • Note: check out that new Alicia Keys album
  • Find my restaurant note
  • Create a reading list note
  • Add Tom Sawyer to my reading list note

Phone

Phone calls

  • Call Jason
  • Call Jennifer Wright mobile
  • Call Susan on her work phone
  • Call 408 555 1212
  • Call home
  • FaceTime Lisa

Reminders

Requesting reminders

  • Remind me to call mom
  • Remind me to call my mom when I get home
  • Remember to take an umbrella
  • Remind me take my medicine at 6am tomorrow
  • Remind me to pick up flowers when I leave here
  • Remind me when I leave to call Jason
  • Remind me to finish the report by 6

Stocks

Checking Stocks

  • What’s Apple’s stock price?
  • What is Apple’s PE ratio?
  • What did Yahoo close at today?
  • How is the Nikkei doing?
  • How are the markets doing?
  • What is the Dow at?

 

Weather

Checking the Forecast

  • What’s the weather for today?
  • What’s the weather for tomorrow?
  • Will it rain in Cupertino this week?
  • Check next week’s forecast for Burlington
  • What’s the forecast for this evening?
  • How’s the weather in Tampa right now?
  • How hot will it be in Palm Springs this weekend?
  • What’s the high for Anchorage on Thursday?
  • What’s the temperature outside?
  • How windy is it out there?
  • When is sunrise in Paris?

Websearch

Looking up information

  • Search the web for Bora Bora
  • Search for vegetarian pasta recipes
  • Search the web for best cable plans
  • Google the war of 1812
  • Search Wikipedia for Abraham Lincoln
  • Search for news about the World Cup
  • Bing Alicia Keys

 

Using Wolfram Alpha

  • How many calories in a bagel?
  • What is an 18% tip on $86.74 for four people?
  • Who’s buried in Grant’s tomb?
  • How long do dogs live?
  • What is the Gossamer Condor?
  • What’s the square root of 128?
  • How many dollars is €45?
  • What was the Best Picture of 1983?
  • How many days until Christmas?
  • How far away is the Sun?
  • When is the next solar eclipse?
  • Show me the Orion constellation
  • What’s the population of Jamaica?
  • How high is Mt. Everest?
  • How deep is the Atlantic ocean?
  • What’s the price of gasoline in Chicago?

Share The Love, And Your Google+ Circles


The toddler social network Google+ based its marketing on the fact that you could control what you post to whom and keep private what you want private. Facebook recognized that value of Google’s model and has completely revamped its own sharing structure to meet the apparent demand. Now Google+ has retreated somewhat from the privacy premise with the ability to share your circles with others.

Don’t get me wrong – I actually think this is a brilliant move, one that would not work for the likes of Facebook even with its newly revamped sharing. Google+ has embraced its following functionality and, like Twitter lists, has offered users a way to share content by sharing the best content sharers and curators with others. You do all the hard work and your followers reap the benefits, as do members of your recommended circle who presumably will be rewarded with more followers. Overall, the Google+ experience is enhanced for both followers and followees.

My sense of it is that people will most likely share lists based on topics, such as Tech gurus, Photographers and Artists, Musicians, Lawyers, etc. I can’t imagine sharing family and personal circles, so I think the tech press cautioning against sharing circles and privacy implications is off the mark. Nonetheless, it makes some sense to use some sense when you do share.

All in all, though, as I mentioned above, I find this sharing feature fantastic – now I can find the best unknown follows by checking out the shared lists of some of my most respected and well-known follows. Thanks, Google+.

http://www.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3DMiYSklcTk6w&sa=U&ei=ALCBTuXBCMLH0AG07vywAQ&ved=0CC0QtwIwAw&sig2=pwAABbSU59DkT7RnR1xeSQ&usg=AFQjCNFRZqmDYAreqiHH80iUft9QuN1rng

Meet The New Delicious

Sneaking in between big announcements from Facebook, Amazon and Apple, the all new Delicious has launched and is looking very visual and social. Fans of the site have been struggling over the better part of the past year as Yahoo shuttered operations at the seminal social bookmarking site and then sold it off to YouTube founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen. For months now, devotees have wondered what Hurley and Chen would do with the site, shuddering a bit at the new terms of service. But now Delicious is finally back and, I daresay it, still fresh, interesting and effective.

Delicious was a pioneer of the Web 2.0 movement – creating an application that allowed you to log in and save key web content from any browser, peruse the favorite items of other members on the site and connect over web content. Delicious retains its social sharing DNA, but changes the “network” and “fans” to “followers” and adds a new feature, Stacks, that looks a lot like a playlist of your favorite content. In other words, Stacks allows you to curate related web content and share that curation on the site – much like Scoop.It and Pinterest. Also new: multi word tags and media previews. And, according to Hurley and Chen, they have a lot more features waiting in the wings to add value to the Delicious  experience.

The good news is that saving content via the familiar checkered bookmarklet in the browser will remain intact. The better news is that all your hard, curation work is going to get a whole lot shinier. Check out an example of a “stack” of links about Texas wildfires:

Also, check out the interview with Hurley and Chen over at AllThingsD - I wish them – and Delicious – all the best.

iCloud is Your Cloud, Only Different This Time

Ahhh, WWDC. There is always something fun to be had, particularly if you are an Apple fan. Today was no exception. From a new Mac OS, dubbed Lion, that will be available in the Mac App Store in July, to the brand new, re-imagined iOS 5 with tons of new goodies for iPhone / Pad / Touch toting devotees, and finally, to the widely rumored and now reality iCloud, Apple is clearly taking it to the skies.

I followed the liveblog here, working around a conference call to get it all in. Hey, I have my priorities in line with my ducks!

Skipping for now the new features in OSX Lion, iOS 5 has some great new adds. Notifications have become more unobtrusive and Android-like. No more pop-ups on the screen that have to be dismissed. Now they will discretely show at the top and disappear until you scroll them back with a downward swipe. Or dismiss them by clicking the “X” next to them. App-specific notifications will show up on the lock screen which opens the app when you unlock the phone. There are widgets for stocks and weather and such in the drop down as well. Another long overdue but still welcome change is the fact that updates and syncing will now occur over the air and without the need for cable-based tethering – Woo Hoo! Messaging between iPhones also has undergone a dramatic change, becoming more Blackberry-like with a native MMS – SMS protocol.  There is a new app, Newstand, that looks to be the iBooks for your magazine subscriptions, with automatic over air updates for new issues. Twitter is now tightly integrated into the OS, with buttons for instant share in the Maps, Camera and Photo apps. Photo editing features too, with some better control over zoom (pinch) and setting focus / light. Mobile Safari will look a LOT more like Safari on your desk top, complete with tabbed browsing, but the really cool new add is a Reading List, which lets you save articles for later reading (think Instapaper). The new iOS also includes a Reminders app, which essentially is a to do list, making all those to do list apps obsolete – it syncs across devices and with calendars automatically. A camera button on the lock screen, a split keyboard for more comfortable iPad typing, and it really is ALL GOOD in iOS 5. Can’t wait until it is available for us consumers in the fall (developers can get their hands on it right now).

Now, for something totally different and new, where there once was MobileMe, there is now iCloud. What was once $99 per year is now free. What was once limited to email, cloud disc space and calendar, now includes photos, documents, music, and apps. When you sign up for iCloud, you get 5GB of free storage, but purchased music, apps, and books, as well as the new Photo Stream, don’t count against free storage. 5GB for mail, documents, Camera Roll, account information, settings, and other app data.That is a few GB more than Dropbox but same as Box’s free cloud storage offering. What makes iCloud nice is the effortless, behind the scenes syncing and back up of vital information – it is integrated into applications and a lot of the magic occurs without much user intervention. All the data to be synced is shared across all iCloud connected devices. For example, take a photo on your iPhone and instantly see it on your iPad and instantly store it in iPhoto on your Mac or in your Picture file on your PC. And it works with both Mac and PC computers, so you really can connect your digital life to iCloud if you choose.

Is there a downside? Well, yes if your focus is cloud-based music storage. iCloud will allow you access to all your iTunes purchased music on all devices with a few button clicks. If you want more than that, i.e. your non-iTunes music stored in the Cloud, you will need to pay $24.99 per year to get the iTunes matching service – your library is checked against iTunes library and matches are made available within the iCloud ecosystem. Or you can manually sync with a cable. :(. And, here is the kicker: there is no streaming. You still have to download the media onto the devices, so storage is still an issue, particularly with big music collections like mine.

Guess I will stick with Google Music, with 20,000 songs streamed from the cloud, for free.

Save for these disappointments, the new iOS and iCloud features are still exciting and will push mobile and Cloud computing forward a substantial distance. I can’t wait for Fall, and it is hardly Summer!

UPDATE: There are a few new iOS 5 features that I cannot believe I failed to mention yesterday. That is what I get for cooking dinner and writing a blog post at the same time. Probably my most used app, Mail, is getting some great new features.

Your inbox is about to receive some great new features. Rich text formatting with bold, italic, or underlined fonts. Control over indents within the text of the message. The ability to drag email addresses and rearrange names in address fields. The ability to flag important messages, add and delete mailbox folders on the fly and search the full-text, including body, of email messages. Combined with iCloud’s free email account synced on all your devices, the new Mail app is starting to approach desktop functionality. Calendar, the second most used app on my iPhone, is also getting some tweaks. You can now see year view on iPad and week view on iPhone or iPod Touch. Tap and drag to create events and adjust time and duration. Add, rename, and delete calendars directly from the device. View event attachments without leaving the Calendar app. And, of course, use  iCloud to share calendars with friends and family, with the same information synced to all devices. I can’t wait to try the multi-tasking gestures on the iPad with the new OS – you  can use four or five fingers to swipe up to reveal the multitasking bar, pinch to return to the Home screen, and swipe left or right to switch between apps. Very cool indeed! I also like the automatic WiFi sync – plug in your device and automatically and wirelessly backs up to new content to iTunes.  

There are more features, over 200 new I believe, but these are the top features for me. What are you looking most forward to?

Time To Primp Your Google Profile

Yes, I said “primp.” Last week, Google updated its Profiles with a vastly improved appearance. Go ahead, compare it to Facebook profile pages, everyone else is. That said, I greatly prefer the streamlined look of Google Profiles and the lack of ads (at this time anyway) on the page.

Google Profiles launched two years ago, but was pretty rudimentary in look and use. I primarily filled out my profile so that I could add all of my connected social services in one place and, well, you might as well fill out a profile if one is available to increase your visibility in the Great Google Search World.

But now, with the changes, you can really mod your profile out, with pictures, more descriptions and a nicer look. Plus, the profile page is fitted out with two tabs: About Me and Buzz. Now, you can quickly tab over to see that person’s Buzz content, which is a welcome boost for the somewhat quiet social service. In the Buzz tab, you can then select posts, comments or likes to see the information you have interacted with and how you have interacted with it. It is a cleaner interface than Google Reader, and I can see myself going to the Profile page to quickly access my likes, for later reference.

Here is my updated Profile’s About page:

Do you have a Google Profile? Hit the link here to update it with the new editing features. Do you not yet have one? Hit that same link and fill one out. When Google gets around to really pulling its social act together, you will be glad you did.

UPDATE: I just saw this article over at the Google Operating System Blog – if you use unedited pictures for your profile but use the online editor, visitors can still access the entire photo. If this is a problem for you, consider editing your images on your computer before uploading. Thanks for the tip, Alex!

New! feedly Mini Toolbar Improves feedly Experience

Do you love feedly as much as I love feedly? If you have no idea what I am talking about, feedly (link here) is a browser extension that works with your Google Reader RSS subscriptions to filter and promote the material you are most interested in, all in a gorgeous magazine layout. I have come to rely heavily on feedly when I don’t have enough time to examine my entire formidable subscription list. I am regularly impressed with how feedly seems to promote the best information in my feeds and how easy it is to sail through my subscriptions.

I noticed a little text at the top of my feedly window today telling me about the new Feedly Mini. I followed the link (here) and learned that the mini toolbar has been updated and is available on Firefox and Chrome browsers. Of course I reinstalled my Chrome extension.

The mini bar does two things as you surf the Web (away from the feedly home page): makes sharing easy and it offers suggestions for similar pages so that you can subscribe to new sources with a single click. Access the popup box by clicking the grey feedly logo on the bottom right of your screen. Both the button and the pop up box are unobtrusive:

Take feedly with you wherever your web surfing takes you!

New Mr. Tweet – From Recommender to Social Director

Since the early days of the public microblogging service Twitter, it has been a challenge for users to figure out who to follow and whose tweets to read. The challenge is getting, well, even more challenging as the number of Twitter users grow. If only someone could just tell you “hey, go follow @so-and-so, they are talking about EXACTLY what you want to be hearing.”

I started using the third-party Twitter directory Mr. Tweet very early on in my Twitter usage, and I am coming up on three years of tweeting. I previously blogged about Mr. Tweet here in the Studio way back in the beginning (link here). I periodically go back and use Mr. Tweet when I feel the need to follow some fresh ideas and, for the most part, I appreciate the personalized suggestions the service yields.

Apparently, Mr. Tweet has not rested on its laurels of more than 400,000 users of the service. The Mr. Tweet blog (link here) just announced that there are major changes to the service on the way. An example of the new Mr. Tweet is live (link here). Mr. Tweet claims to have been listening to users who don’t really want to follow celebs on Twitter and would prefer to connect with members of their “communities of interest” in a more meaningful way. Gee, what a good idea!

From the screenshots, it appears the “new” Mr. Tweet will be more than a simple recommended user-type service. The new interface looks much more like interest-based social communities growing out of Twitter. You can post discussions, get answers from other members of the community, and see top users.

 

You can filter by current discussions, not yet answered, and all activities.

You will still be able to secure old-school Mr. Tweet service at http://classic.mrtweet.com.  But kudos to Mr. Tweet for its innovation – the new service looks to be a promising means for distilling down your Twitter-actions into the topical areas of greatest interest. By doing so, Mr. Tweet will allow you to see the top users in action, including how interactive they are with members of their chosen community. Looking forward to checking out this new, more social version of the service.