Friday, July 8, 2011

Google Products Updates Round-up

Over the last two weeks Google has rolled out a bunch of updates and new services. Rather than writing a post about each one of those updates and new services, I've put together this round-up to summarize some of the key points.

The biggest news, which you've probably heard by now, is that Google launched a new social networking service called Google+. I was only able to get into Google+ this morning despite the fact that people had been inviting me to join since the launch last week. The basic premise of Google+ seems to be that you can create groups (what Google is calling circles) with whom you share information in the form of written updates, images, videos, and links. It's kind of like making lists in Twitter except that you not only specify who you see updates from in your circles you also specify who you share with through your circles. Google+ also includes options for video chatting which they call "hanging out." You can also "huddle" with a group of your contacts. Huddling is the Google+ term for instant messaging with a circle. Like I said, I'm just starting to explore Google+, but so far it seems a little more streamlined than the failed Google Wave. I think for educators at this point the most promising feature is Circles for sharing. Learn more about Circles in the video below.



Google Maps got a face lift last week just as I was showing some features to some teachers. Beyond the cosmetics of the layout changes which I think are minor, there are some important changes to note for people who create maps in Google Maps. First, you'll notice that "my maps" has been replaced by "my places." To create a new map now you have to do so under the "my places" label. The other change of note for map creators is that Google seems to have removed the option for "view in Google Earth." In the past clicking "view in Google Earth" would produce a KML file that you could download and reuse in Google Earth. I often used that feature to transition people from creating in Google Maps to creating in Google Earth. Keep track of all Google Maps and Google Earth updates on the Google Lat Long Blog.

Google Docs received a couple of enhancements yesterday. Google has tweaked the mobile settings to allow for easier sharing of documents from mobile devices. This is good news, but from my experiences using the Google Docs Android App they still have some work to do to make it as good as the experience you get in your standard web browser. The other enhancement Google Docs received yesterday is that you can now caption videos within Google Docs. To do this you need to upload your video to Google Docs. Keep track of all Google Docs updates at the Google Docs Blog.

Everyday more and more people are accessing the web on mobile devices. To address the need for better viewing of sites and blogs on mobile devices Google now makes it easier to create mobile versions of your Blogger Blog or Google Site. Learn how to activate mobile designs in Blogger here. Click here to learn how to activate mobile designs for Google Sites.

Finally, those of you who use Blogger should expect a change to your dashboard and blog post editor in the near future (my guess is before the end of 2011). If you go to draft.blogger.com to sign into your blog you can try out the new look now. I'm using the new editor to compose this post. And while it is visually more like creating a word processing document, I have been experiencing an annoying lag due to the auto-save enabled by Blogger. Hopefully, that is resolved before they force all users to the new interface.