Friday, December 23, 2011

Google Docs and Sites 2011: A Year in Review


This year, we introduced over 100 new features to Google Docs to make creating, sharing, and collaborating in the cloud an even better experience.

In addition to the features you asked for the most, like page numbers and vertical merge, here are our team’s favorite improvements of 2011:

 Thanks for following along -- we look forward to bringing you more in 2012.

The new look is now the permanent interface for Google Docs, Docslist, Spreadsheets and Sites


The new look is now the permanent interface for Google Docs, Docslist, Spreadsheets and Sites. 

Major changes to your Documents List include -
- The Upload button is now an icon rather than a text button. It shows an up-arrow coming out of a hard drive.
- To access the Narrow by options, click the down arrow in the search box at the top of your window.
- To create a doc from a template, click the Create button, and select From template....


Major changes to Docs, Spreadsheets, and Sites include -
- Click the Share button to share your item with other people or modify the sharing settings. Options such as Publish to a web page and Email collaborators have moved to the File menu.
- The Share button will now show the visibility state of your doc when you mouse over it.
- Since Google Docs continuously saves your work, the Save button has been removed. The last updated time now shows near the menu bar.
- There's now a button that lets you navigate back to your Documents List, in place of the Google Docs logo. Mouse over the doc name, and click the left arrow icon to get back to your Documents List.

Updates to the Gmail app for iOS

When we launched the Gmail app for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, we said we were just getting started and would continue to release updates regularly. Today we updated the app with some new features and interface improvements.

We've added the ability to set a custom signature for your mobile messages and a vacation responder, both available through the gear icon at the top of the menu view. We've also improved labels with support for nested labels:




Additionally, if you are using iOS 5, we've changed the notification sound so that it’s easier to distinguish when you've received an email. 

We’ve also got another fun feature to make your language even more colorful (in a good way!). In the Gmail app and Gmail for mobile you can now open up a canvas and scribble a message that will be attached to your email. It's perfect for sending a quick sketch that is hard to express in words or adding a fun graphic to make your email more personal.

Scribbles support different colors, brush sizes, lines, erasers and spray paint. This example was created in the Gmail app on an iPad:




Behind the scenes, we're continuing to work on highly requested features like banner notifications, multiple login support and the ability to send-as from any account already configured in Gmail. We want to make sure these are done right as we continue to improve the Gmail app.

The update is available in the App Store and works on all devices running iOS 4+.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Free calling within the US and Canada through 2012


Google extended free domestic calls within the US and Canada for 2012.

Try Google presentations. No login required.


We recently launched a new version of Google presentations with many new features to help you create beautiful presentations together. We’ve added the new editor to our Docs demos to make it easier to test drive your presentation building skills.

Check out the new animations and transitions, get artsy with drawings, and show off your masterpiece to a friend or colleague. You can share the link in the demo with others and work on the same presentation together. No login required. No Google account needed. Just go to docs.google.com/demo to take it for a spin.


The new Google presentations continues to gradually roll out to all users. You can try it in the demo and if you like it, you canenable it in your Docs settings.

Designing Gmail’s new left navigation


One of our goals for Gmail's new look was to make Gmail feel more like a native application with independently scrolling panels rather than a website that scrolls as a single page. This design approach brings with it many advantages: the search box and primary navigation are always in the same place, your inbox unread count is always visible, etc. As with any design decision there were challenges with making this change. People with lots of labels might have their chat contacts pushed entirely off the screen and those with gadgets, like the Google Docs or Calendar gadgets, might have to scroll the left panel past both the labels and the chat contacts in order to see them. 

We went through a number of different design revisions to try and address these issues as elegantly as possible. We experimented with several accordion designs, which stack sections on top of each other but only allow one or two to be open at a time.



We also experimented with designs that involved only one scrolling region, but showed fewer entries per section.



The final design combines aspects of both approaches. It is a ducking accordion design with only two sections. The bottom section has two tabs, one for chat and one for gadgets, with room to add more tabs in the future. The upper section, which contains labels, expands to show all of the visible labels when you mouse over it. This allows you to see chat contacts but still give quick access to the labels. Best of all, you can easily adjust the balance between labels and chat to fit your own personal preference by dragging the divider between the sections up and down.



This design went through a number of iterations as well. We carefully adjusted the timing and triggering behavior of the expanding labels section to minimize accidental triggering. We noticed in usability testing that having the labels section expand when you are mousing over the Inbox label delete didn't work for everyone. We tweaked the system only to expand if you moved your mouse below the inbox label and keep it there for a moment. We also tried to ensure that if you are moving your mouse to click on a particular label or chat contact, that label or chat contact will never move out from under you.

The end result is a system that is more flexible, more responsive, and always keeps your chat contacts and unread count visible without adding a lot of complexity or requiring too much clicking around.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Hide morning and night hours in Calendar


How often do you have something scheduled at 3am? What about 10pm? If the answer is almost never, you might want to try out the Hide morning and night lab in Google Calendar.


With a simple drag of a slider you can fold all those empty hours into a single row to set the time range you want to hide. The folded rows still show all your events, just in more compact form.


We're launching this in Calendar Labs (Settings > Labs) to gather feedback on how people end up using this feature. So don’t forget to tell us what you think about this latest addition.