GOOGLE DOESN’T EXACTLY have a publicity problem. But it does have a product problem, in the sense that since it puts its name to a bazillion products, some of them inevitably fall under the radar, and not necessarily through any fault of their own.
That wouldn’t matter, except that the Powers That G have a bad habit of killing features and services that don’t get enough love. Can I get an “amen” for Google Reader? Yeah.
So in the interests of hanging onto the products I use and need, here are the top 5 Google things you should all start using so they don’t discontinue them. Thanks. Appreciate it.
Gmail Undo Send
Everyone’s sent an email and immediately wished they could take it back. Gmail has the best system for doing this – rather than one of those weird “this message was recalled” emails, the Undo Send feature holds your email in the outbox for your choice of five to thirty seconds before sending.
This gives you ample breathing space to spot typos, realise you’ve clicked ‘reply all’, or worst of all, used the phrase “kind regards.”
Undo Send used to be one of the Gmail Labs features, meaning an experimental thing that you could choose to switch on. But it was so brilliant that it made it into the main product, so you’ll now find it under Cog > Settings > General > Undo Send. You can choose 5, 10, 20 or 30 seconds for the wait period – I’d recommend the full thirty. Sometimes you don’t notice you’ve put “hope your well” until the 29th second.
Gmail Labs in general
Now that Undo Send has graduated from Gmail Labs to the General settings, it’s made room for other great ideas to take its place. Labs is the sandbox for fully-fledged features, and you can find some handy features in there that might improve the way you use email.
They change a lot, and Google provides a big disclaimer that they might break or vanish any time. But – touch wood – I haven’t had any problems yet.
Things you can currently turn on in Labs include a Mark As Read button (for people who hate having unread emails but don’t want to open all the stuff they’ll never read), Unread Message Icon (for the opposite people: this adds a little message count to the Gmail icon in the title bar), and even a thing that moves the chat box from the left to the right, like Facebook’s. Mmm, so much tinkering goodness.
Google Docs templates
No one should spend a single precious moment of their life trying to make their CV look halfway professional when these exist. Google’s made heaps of useful templates that they really don’t advertise, and unlike the Microsoft Office ones of old, they don’t mostly date from the same time as terms like “clip art” and “desktop publishing.”
There are different templates for each product. In Google Docs (ie their Microsoft Word-alike), you’ll find the CV templates as well as reports, meeting notes, newsletters, even lesson plans. But the best ones, in my opinion, are in the Excel-competitor Google Sheets.
In the Sheets templates, you’ll find a wedding planner, annual and monthly budgets, to-do lists, travel planners, team rotas, timesheets, invoices – and they’ve been prepopulated with wizardry that adds all the totals up for you.
Annoyingly, Google’s hidden them really well. To see the templates for your product of choice, go into Google Drive, click New, then choose Docs, Slides or Sheets and move across to the next menu. Click “from a template” and enjoy.
I bang on about this a lot, because it pretty much changed my life. Google has its own free to-do/notes app, and it is amazing. If this one’s ever discontinued I’m going on Google strike forever.
Keep has free Android and iOS apps, and works in web too. This means you can easily jot down something you want to remember and it’ll sync across all your devices instantly. You can make to-do lists with proper, working tick boxes. You can colour-code and add clickable hashtags (!) and drag to rearrange and pin things to the top and add voice memos and pictures and drawings and oh god it’s the best, please use it so it never goes away. Thank you.
Send and archive
Another well-hidden feature of Gmail. This adds an extra button to reply emails, so instead of just “Send,” you also have “Send and archive.” This magical button – as the name suggests – sends your reply and files the conversation at the same time, so it vanishes out of your overstuffed inbox (but of course, isn’t gone forever).
Since I turned this on in all my email accounts, replying to people has been somehow much more fun. It feels like throwing the ball back, and on a psychological level it’s made me feel much better about the sisyphean task that is email. Until they reply, of course.
At this point, I think I should get commission for showing people Word Lens. Google paid $$$ for the technology, implemented it into Google Translate, and then basically didn’t tell anyone. Word Lens lets you hold up your phone camera to something written in another language, and see it right there on your screen in English. It is ridiculously sci-fi and cool, and has saved me from ordering black pudding on business trips several times.
The homepage looks dead fancy in Spanish
As with all these products, Google needs to get way better at publicising them. Apple would be shouting about this feature from the rooftops, it’d have some fancy PR name like Understandroid (I don’t work in marketing, OK?) and they’d demonstrate it ad infinitum in their presentations, ads and product videos. Google just whacked it into the existing Translate app, put out a blog post and wondered why people don’t get enthused the way they do by Apple stuff.
To use it, just open the normal free Google Translate app (Android or iOS) and tap the camera icon below “tap to enter text.” Download the dictionary for the country you’re visiting before you go on holiday, and everyone will be your best friend when you get there.
Broken smartphone, tablet, laptop or other electronic device? Save money by taking it to your local Device Pitstop for repairs rather than replacing the whole thing. Watch this quick video featuring Device Pitstop Maple Grove to learn more:
Check out the latest addition to the 2-in-1 laptop trend, this time from Porsche Design. Read more about it in this article from theverge.com.
Porsche Design’s Book One is a beautiful alternative to the Surface Book
by Tom Warren
Microsoft surprised the world with its Surface Book hinge design, but it’s not the only company capable of creating a unique Windows-powered 2-in-1 laptop. Porsche Design unveiled its Book One at Mobile World Congress this week, and it took me by surprise. At first glimpse it looks very similar to Microsoft’s Surface Book, and side-by-side there are obvious similarities, but I got a chance to spend some more time with the Book One and discover exactly how it blows past Microsoft’s own design.
Porsche Design has teamed up with Quanta, Intel, and even Microsoft to produce the Book One. It’s an ambitious effort to move from phones and headphones straight into computers, and it’s going to be the first of many computing devices with the German sports cars’ famous brand name. Inside the Book One is a 13.3-inch QHD display, with Intel’s latest 7th generation Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of SSD storage. Porsche Design is only producing one model with top specs, and it’s planning to make it available in April priced at $2,495. That’s a lot of money for even a premium Windows laptop, but you’re really paying the cash for the design and the hinge.
Unlike Microsoft’s Surface Book, Porsche Design has gone one step further to create the ultimate laptop hinge. Visually it looks just like a gear box, and it pairs beautifully well with the brushed aluminum style of the entire laptop. The hinge works much like Lenovo’s Yoga range, allowing you to push the display 360 degrees and use it in a tablet mode. However, just like the Surface Book, you can also detach the display by holding down a button on the side of the device to transform it into a true tablet.
This hinge means the display closes onto the keyboard without any gap. Porsche Design has even added small rubber stoppers to the hinge so that you won’t scratch the laptop in the various modes it flips into. I tested the hinge out and it works really well, even for a pre-production device. It feels sturdy when the tablet is locked into place, and flipping it around has just the right amount of friction. It feels like this hinge is the type of approach Microsoft will take with the Surface Book 2 to remove the gap and make things even more flexible. Porsche Design has definitely beaten Microsoft to this design, and it doesn’t feel compromised or poorly engineered at all.
On the base of the Book One there is a USB-C port, two USB ports, and a microSD slot. It’s unfortunate it’s not a full SD card slot, but the addition of a USB-C port slightly makes up for that. Porsche Design has also placed a Thunderbolt-capable USB-C port on the tablet portion itself, alongside a headphone jack on the opposite side. Both are at the bottom of the sides of the display, which means you won’t have headphone or accessory cables dangling over the display like you do on a Surface Book. There’s also a precision trackpad and a Windows Hello camera so you can log into Windows 10 with just your face.
The weight of the Book One felt almost identical to the Surface Book, even just holding the tablet portion felt the same. Porsche Design’s stylus uses Wacom technology and even snaps magnetically onto the side of the Book One. I only spent an hour with the Book One, but overall I’m impressed with the design, and how Porsche Design has managed to improved upon the Surface Book hinge design. Porsche Design is promising around 14 hours of battery life overall, with just 3 hours if you’re using only the tablet portion, but we’ll have to review the Book One to find out how those numbers hold up. Porsche Design’s Book One will be available in stores in late April, priced at $2,495.