The folks at Google are busy bees indeed. In the first quarter of 2014, they launched new services, acquired companies, and updated many of their most used and loved apps. If you’ve had difficulty in keeping up with this gigantic entity, it’s time to catch up. Chances are there are some new, valuable features in the apps you love most, and you’re missing out if you’re not in-the-know.

Google’s Biggest Changes This Year (So Far)

For starters, Google plopped down a whopping $3.2 billion for Nest Labs, a manufacturer of network-linked thermostats and smoke detectors. This became Google’s second biggest transaction in the company’s history. Prior to this behemoth transaction, their second biggest was just over $3 billion for ad network DoubleClick, back in 2007. The purchase of Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion is by far their largest and most talked about deal, and marked their big foray into the mobile market.

In addition, Google launched an app called Chromebox, which connects with Google Hangouts to provide reasonably priced video conferencing. This has become a great resource for virtual teams, and continues to amass a fair amount of loyal users.

Tips on Utilizing the Latest Google App Updates

Besides these acquisition and new app launches, 2014 has brought a slew of valuable updates to existing Google products. See the list below to see which new features are most relevant to your world.

1) Google+ Email Controls

If you use both Gmail and Google+, you are now able to email others that have accounts on both apps without knowing the recipient’s actual address. This is especially useful if you’ve just made an important work-related connection but did not get the new contact’s email address. To trigger an email, the sender must follow the recipient on Google+ first. Not interested in receiving email in this more anonymous fashion? Access your Google Settings; the feature defaults to on, but you can protect your privacy and block this ability.


2) Download Valuable Data

Google has previously allowed download access for all data on apps like YouTube, Messenger, and the Google+ stream; now users can do the same from their Calendar or Gmail accounts as well. In total, 19 of Google’s apps now allow the data to be downloaded onto the user’s desktop.

To trigger this feature, visit the Google Takeout section, click “Create an Archive”, then select the relevant apps.

3) Edit images

If you use the Slides and Drawings apps, you now have the ability to crop and edit images from within. In addition, you can edit images to add a border, or crop your image to a specified shape. These features go a long way to make Slides and Drawings more adept at creating stunning proposals and charts.

4) New Gmail Promotions Tab

Google has also launched a new trial opportunity for folks wanting to test out the updated promotions tab in Gmail. Because promotional emails are often ripe with rich media, including lots of flashy images, Google is testing a more Pinterest-esque view of these emails. Images are currently buried in the body of the actual blast; this update brings them more front and center in the actual listings.

If you’re interesting in testing out this new feature, visit the promotions tab field trial page. Selected participants will then see a new grid view in their promotions tab only; and fear not, if you’re not a fan of the new image-heavy look, you can toggle between this and the current text-only view.

5) New Add-Ons in Docs

Users of the popular Google Docs and Sheets programs may have noticed that back in March, a new “add-ons” feature was enabled. Add-ons are widgets and tools developed by Google’s various partners. They add new features and abilities within the creation of spreadsheets and documents.

To trigger these, locate the add-ons tab in the menu bar of any document or spreadsheet created within Google’s framework. Click the “Get Add-Ons” option, and take a gander at all the available offerings. Once you select an add-on and install it, it will then be accessible across all your existing docs and sheets, and of course for all newly created ones as well.

Some of the most useful add-ons to date include Merge by Mailchimp, which gives marketers the power to send targeted emails directly from Google Docs. Letter Feed Workflows is great too – this tool allows you to connect your docs to all appropriate team members, and creates an Approve button to streamline approval processes.

6) Google Apps Referrals

Finally, for those loyal users of Google apps that have far-reaching networks, consider becoming a part of the Google Apps Referral Program. Essentially, Google is paying folks to bring them new apps subscribers; if a new customer touts you as the referrer, you’ll get a cash bounty. For more information on how you can benefit from this affiliate program, and the related requirements, check out this comprehensive article about the Google Apps Program.

Have you noticed any other new Google features that aren’t listed here? If so, let us know!


(original article)