26. March 2013

After the depressing news about the demise of Google Reader, here are some good news from Google. Yesterday, an update for the Google+ Android app had been released and after several previous updates just with some minor improvements and fixes, the new version 3.6 came with some amazing surprises. For starters, the posting stream in both the circles and the communities has been slightly revamped without losing the “magazine”-look. Completely new plus-, share- and comment-buttons in style of the web interface have been added and even thumbnails of the commenters are displayed in the stream overview. The dynamic reformatting of the posts also seems to work much better now, although the right and left margins have become a little larger. But most importantly, the app now scrolls vertically in landscape mode instead of horizontally like before.

There are also two special changes in the streams which photographers on Google+ will love: 1) images are no longer randomly cropped into a square format and 2) tapping on an image directly leads to the gallery view while tapping on the post header calls up the single post view. The single post view has also been very much improved, now showing the header, the image in full width, the comments and a fixed one-line comment box on the bottom. The user profile view now shows the complete larger header image, but the user photo is still square, although it is displayed as a circle in the stream. The circle view now also boasts a very handy new addition: a header with nine thumbnails of people and a tenth box with the number of users in the circle. Underneath is a settings button, which calls up a long-missing feature from the web interface: in the Android app it is now possible to adjust how many postings of the circle are seen in the main stream. This is also present in the community, it can be found when the header is expanded.

There might be even more new features I have not yet discovered, I’ve heard that there are also new functions for moderating a community. I also don’t know which of these changes are present in the iOS version, since I’ve only used the Android app. All in all, it’s a brilliant update which makes many of the features from the web interface finally available on smartphones and tablets – and it shows how far developed Google+ on mobile devices really is in comparison to Facebook. The Android app also really works well on low-powered devices like my little Odys Xelio tablet – version 3.6 runs much smoother now and for some reason I was able to update it directly from the Play Store for the first time.

But Google has also been a little lambasted recently for the introduction of Google Keep, a little Android notepad app, which directly syncs with a special new section in Google Drive and can also be used from the web interface. It just does what it says on the cover: keep notes, but you can also enter lists, take photos and insert pictures. The layout is like a post-it collection, and while the functionality is totally basic, not much more is really needed to make it a very handy little program which is ideal for taking short notes or even transferring small texts or web adresses from a computer to a tablet. Of course there are other apps like Evernote, Note Everything or Handrite, but Google Keep beats them all for sheer simplicity.

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