The New Google Sheets

There's a new version of Google Sheets. "It's faster, supports larger spreadsheets, has a number of new features, and works offline," informs Google.

Just in case you're wondering how to enable it, you should go to Google Drive's settings page, enable "Try the new Google Sheets" in the Editing tab and click "Save". You'll get the new version of the application only for the files you create from now on. The existing files will still open in the old Google Sheets.

There are some missing features in the new Google Sheets (protected sheets, spell check, publishing) and this shows that this is an early release.

So what's new? You can create and edit spreadsheets offline in Chrome, just like in Docs and Slides. The new Sheets is designed with performance in mind and handles huge spreadsheets: it supports 2 million cells of data and all of the other limitationshave been removed. You're no longer limited to 256 columns per sheet. Other improvements: spreadsheets load faster and scrolling is smoother.

There are some new formula editing tools. "In the new Google Sheets, we've made it easier to build complex formulas in your spreadsheets. For example, you'll now see syntax highlighting, which shows you the argument in your function that you are working on, and you'll get more details on how to fix errors in your formula by hovering over them." Google also added 24 new functions, including SUMIFS, COUNTIFS, and AVERAGEIF.

Another new feature is called filter views and it lets you create, save and share filters, so you can get different views of your data without disrupting how others are viewing your spreadsheet.

"In the new Google Sheets, you can apply conditional formatting using a custom formula. This allows you to apply formatting to a cell or range of cells based on the contents of other cells."

You can also add a color to each of your sheet tabs, paste a rotated version of the copied cells from a column to a row or from a row to a column, restrict find and replace to a range of cells and apply custom formatting for currencies, dates, and numbers.

Google's Video Duration Experiment

This is a strange experiment: Google tests adding the duration of a video to the search result title. I've noticed this experiment by searching for [zero 7 in the waiting line]. Google seems to change the title only for YouTube videos, but not for all of them.

The duration of the video is already displayed on top of the thumbnail, so this is redundant.

9 New Languages in Google Translate

Google Translate supports 9 new languagesHausa (Nigeria, 35 million speakers),Igbo (Nigeria, 25 million speakers), Yoruba (Nigeria, 28 million speakers), Somali(Somalia, 17 million speakers), Zulu (South Africa, 10 million speakers), Mongolian(Mongolia, China, 6 million speakers), Nepali (Nepal, India, Bhutan 17 million speakers), Punjabi (India, Pakistan, 100 million speakers), Maori (New Zealand, 160,000 speakers). Google Translate now supports 80 languages and that's impressive.

According to Ethnologue, there are 80 languages with more than 10 million native speakers, 200 languages with at least 3 million speakers and 1,300 languages with at least 100,000 speakers. Google Translate supports all the languages with more than 100 million native speakers, 13 of the 16 languages that have between 50 and 100 million speakers, 4 of the 13 languages that have between 30 and 50 million speakers and 15 of the 47 languages that have between 10 and 30 million speakers.

10 New Chromecast Apps

The number of apps that support Chromecast has increased: there are 10 new apps and most of them are free. Here's the list: 

* VEVO (AndroidiOS) - music videos app, available in a few countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Spain, UK and US.

* Red Bull.TV (AndroidiOS) - videos and shows

* Songza (Android) - music streaming, online radio (there's an iOS app, but it doesn't support Chromecast yet)

* PostTV (Android) - news from Washington Post

* Viki (AndroidiOS) - "Korean dramas, Taiwanese, Chinese and Filipino dramas, Telenovelas, Japanese dramas and anime, American cartoons, NBC Universal, History Channel, A&E, E! TV shows, as well as movies from Indonesia, Hong Kong"

* Revision3 (AndroidiOS) - shows

* BeyondPod (Android) - podcast manager

* Plex (Android) - media player, Chromecast support only for videos, the app costs $5 (there's an iOS app, but it doesn't support Chromecast yet)

* Avia (Android) - media player, Chromecast support for local videos, music and photos, requires an in-app purchase that costs $3. I tried the app and it works well for local files, but the Google Cast API supports a small number of file formats

* RealPlayer Cloud (AndroidiOS) - movie player that stores your videos online, US and Canada only

"There's no need to huddle around small screens when you can share your own photos and videos using your phone, tablet, or laptop," mentions Google.

From what I tried, the most interesting apps seem to be Songza (for playing online music) and Avia (for playing local files).

Google Settings Page for Phone Numbers

Google's account settings page has an updated section for phone numbers that groups some features that were already available elsewhere. If you click "edit" next to "phone numbers", Google will show the phone numbers associated with your account.

You'll probably see a phone number associated with Hangouts. You can enable or disable this setting: "Help people who have your phone number find and connect with you on Google services, like Hangouts and caller ID by Google." You can edit the phone number, change the way it's verified or remove the number.

There's also a phone number that's used for account recovery. Google encourages users to enable this feature, but it's optional. For now, the account recovery page is not integrated with the account settings page, so it looks different and has a long URL. "We'll use your phone to do things like challenge hijackers or send you a text message to help you access your account if you forget your password," informs Google.

The phone number management page was added back in May, but now it's more functional.

Google's Animated Decorations for Christmas

Last month, I mentioned that Google's search results pages got some special decorations when searching for [Hanukkah] and [Festivus]. Nothing for Christmas? Todd Kuk, a reader of this blog, says he noticed an animated image when searching for [Christmas], [A Christmas carol] and other queries that include "Christmas". I tried these queries, but I don't see the ornaments.

The animated GIFs:

Todd also recorded this video:

Here are the decorations from 2011 and from 2012.

Connect Google Photo Spheres

Google Maps Views has a new feature that lets you connect your photo spheres andcreate constellations. "By connecting your photo spheres you can create even more immersive, 360° views called constellations. You can choose to add your 'constellations' to Google Maps, so people can explore your favorite places on Maps. Keep your constellations private or share them with others on Google Maps or Views," informs Google.

Just go to your profile in Google Maps Views, select the photo spheres and click "connect images". You can create something like this:

This article has more information about changing photo sphere locations, rotating photo spheres in the right direction and connecting them. You can use multiple photo spheres to create your own Street View imagery.

Here are some examples: Google BoulderAndroid BuildingCarrick-A-ReedDunluce CastleAsilomar Beach. Press the arrow icons to move between photo spheres.

Google Uses a Proxy to Load Gmail Images

This is one of those features that users will love and marketers will hate (or maybe it's the other way around?). Until now, Gmail didn't display the images from messages sent by people that aren't in your address book if those images had to be loaded from an external site. You had to click "display images below" or "always display images from..." to see the images. This was done to protect your privacy: embedded images could set cookies or include unique IDs and inform those who sent the messages that you've read them or that the email address is active. Many newsletters and spam messages include images.

Google found a way to address this issue: it will display all the images by default, but load them from a proxy server. "Instead of serving images directly from their original external host servers, Gmail will now serve all images through Google's own secure proxy servers. So what does this mean for you? Simple: your messages are more safe and secure, your images are checked for known viruses or malware, and you'll never have to press that pesky 'display images below' link again. With this new change, your email will now be safer, faster and more beautiful than ever," informs Gmail's blog.

"Some senders try to use externally linked images in harmful ways, but Gmail takes action to ensure that images are loaded safely. Gmail serves all images through Google's image proxy servers and transcodes them before delivery to protect you in the following ways: senders can't use image loading to get information like your IP address or location, senders can't set or read cookies in your browser, Gmail checks your images for known viruses or malware. In some cases, senders may be able to know whether an individual has opened a message with unique image links,"mentions Gmail's help center.

If the images are loaded using a proxy, the external server still receives a request and the sender can find if you've read the message. After all, this could actually be a good news for marketers: they may not get your IP address, but they'll know if you've read the message.

Here's some text that has been removed from the Gmail help article:

When you receive an email that contains externally linked images, Gmail usually doesn’t display the images automatically. This behavior is designed to help protect your privacy; if we displayed the images automatically, it could potentially allow the sender of the email to see that the images are being fetched, and therefore know when you've read their message. But, if someone you've sent email at least twice sends you a message with images in it, you'll see the image by default (because the people in this group are likely people you know and trust).

You can still choose to manually authorize images by selecting "Ask before displaying external images" in Gmail's settings. This is especially useful if you have a slow Internet connection or you want to be extra safe.

So when will you get the new feature? "This new improvement will be rolling out on desktop starting today and to your Gmail mobile apps in early 2014."

Google Open Gallery

If you expand the list of services from Google's support page, you'll find an interesting service: Open Gallery. Clicking the link redirects you to the main Google support site.

I tried to find this service and searched for [open gallery]. Most of the results are about art galleries. Google actually has a service that brings museums online: Google Cultural Institute's Art Project. "Museums large and small, classic and modern, world-renowned and community-based from over 40 countries have contributed more than 40,000 high-resolution images of works ranging from oil on canvas to sculpture and furniture. Some paintings are available in 'gigapixel' format, allowing you to zoom in at brushstroke level to examine incredible detail," explains Google.

I've checked the source code of some Art Project pages and found this: "New! Artists, museums, galleries, archives: discover Google Open Gallery, powerful free tools to bring your content online." Google Open Gallery pointed to

UpdateGoogle Open Gallery is now available. "Google Open Gallery makes the technologies behind Google's cultural projects (Art Project, Historic Moments, World Wonders), plus additional tools, freely available to everyone to publish their artwork, archives, and other cultural content. Anyone, including individual artists and collectors, galleries and museums, and any organisation with an archive they want to share, can use Google Open Gallery." You only need to request an invitation.

Updated Google Settings Page

The Google Settings page has received a major makeover and switched to the card interface that's used in many Google services and apps. The page is more compact, better optimized for mobile devices and only focuses on the most important features. Advanced features like Google Dashboard or Takeout are linked from the "data tools" section. Google+ settings are available if you click "edit notification settings" and this page also has a new interface.

The security section lets you change your password and recovery options.

The language section lets you skip translations for one or more languages and also enable input tools.

While the new interface looks nice, I feel that there are too many links that send you to separate pages and the transition is not smooth. Here's an example for Google Takeout, which shows a "Data Tools" link that sends you back to the Google Settings page:

Auto Awesome Snow Shake in Google+ for Android

This is another fun feature for the holidays, but it's limited to the Google+ app for Android: "Shake your device while viewing one of your photos, and watch the snow fall. Shake it again to save your new snowy photo and share it with family and friends."

It's a way to manually trigger the Auto Awesome Snow effect for any photo.

You need the latest version of the Google+ app (4.2.4), which was released today. Blame staged rollouts if you don't have the new version. You can also manually download the APK file.

This is not the only new feature: "when you +1 posts in the stream, you'll see something lovely" (hearts). There's also a unified search box, a new section for less important notifications and separate "What's Hot" streams for different categories.

More In-Depth Articles in Google Search

For general queries like [global warming], [love], [Mandela], [China], Google shows some in-depth news articles at the bottom of the first page of results. Until now, Google only included 3 articles, but this has changed: you can click "more in-depth articles" and get 5 more articles.

Google also added some related queries you can explore to find other related articles. Clicking the "explore" links sends you to a page that places in-depth articles at the top, but also shows regular search results. Google adds &ida_m=1 to the search URL.

Google's Mobile Image Search Adds Menu

Google updated the mobile interface for Image Search launched in October. I've only noticed the change in Chrome and Safari for iPhone, but it doesn't seem to be an experiment.

Google now shows a three-dot menu with options like "visit page", "view image", "send feedback" and "search by image", instead of using links. You can still swipe to go to the next or previous image result and tapping the image sends you to the most relevant page that includes it.