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November 27, 2014

7 More Android Apps Added to Chrome Web Store

Google announced that 7 new Android apps were added to the Chrome Web Store. OMG Chrome found 6 of them: Couchsurfing (travel), Overdrive (borrow ebooks), Cookpad (share recipes), Packpoint (travel), Homeaway (vacation rental property listings), AnkiDroid (learn flashcards).

These apps are only officially available for Chrome OS, so you need a Chromebook to properly run them. If you use Chrome for Windows/Mac/Linux, you'll see this message: "This application is not supported on this computer. Installation has been disabled."



Google developed an Android Runtime for Chrome, so almost any Android app can run in Chrome without manually porting it. Apps are gradually added to the Chrome Web Store because developers update their apps to work better in Chrome for desktop. "The app code is all running on top of the Chrome platform, specifically inside of Native Client. In this way the ARC (Android Runtime for Chrome) apps run in the same environment as other apps you can download from the Chrome Web Store, even though they are written on top of standard Android APIs," informs Google.

Unfortunately, Chrome Web Store doesn't have a collection for Android apps. You can only find apps also available for Android, but the page includes many bookmsrks to web apps.

Just in case you want to install Android apps in Chrome for Windows/Mac/Linux, there's an unofficial way to do that: use the ARChon Custom Runtime. "ARChon runtime lets you run unlimited number of Android APKs created with chromeos-apk on Chrome OS and across any desktop platform that supports Chrome." Install ARChon Packager on your Android device to generate Chrome packages from apps installed on your phone or tablet.

More Gmail Categories

Gmail automatically categorizes messages. Right now, there are only 4 categories available: social, promotions, updates, forums and they match Gmail's inbox tabs. Even if you disable Gmail's inbox tabs from the settings, you'll still see the list of categories in the right sidebar.


When you click the 4 categories, Gmail adds the following queries to the search box: [category:social], [category:promotions], [category:updates], [category:forums].

If you used the new Google Inbox app, you probably noticed some other categories: travel, purchases, finance.


They're also available in Gmail if you search for: [category:travel], [category:purchases], [category:finance]. Travel groups email confirmations from sites like Booking.com or Expedia, the purchases category shows order receipts from sites like Amazon or eBay, while the finance category shows bills, PayPal payment updates and more.


You can add the 3 categories to Gmail's interface by enabling the Smartlabels feature in Gmail Labs. The 3 smartlabels were added back in January.


If you want to see these categories in Gmail's mobile apps, you can add some filters that automatically label messages. How to create a Purchases label?

1. Go to Gmail's inbox in the desktop site
2. Click the small arrow from the search box that shows advanced search options
3. Type category:purchases in the "Has the words" box
4. Click "Create filter with this search"
5. Check "Apply the label", pick "New label" from the list and type "Purchases"
6. Check "Also apply filter to matching conversations"
7. Click "Create filter".


Use the same steps to create labels for Travel and Finance, but replace Purchases with Travel or Finance in step 3 and 5.

{ Thanks, Greg Bullock. }

Android's Email App Links to Gmail

Now that the Gmail app for Android lets you add non-Gmail accounts and works like a generic email client, the Email app is no longer necessary. When you open it, the app shows this message: "Email has moved. The Gmail app now lets you view all of your email accounts." You can tap "Take me to the Gmail app" and check "Always do this".


There are a few advantages for Google: it only has to bundle a single mail app from now on, the Gmail app is constantly updated in the Play Store, there's a consistent interface for both Gmail and the mail client.

Gmail could already import messages from other accounts using Mail Fetcher, but that's a tool for power users who fiddle with Gmail's settings. "Gmail's Mail Fetcher feature first imports all your old messages to Gmail and then continues to bring in new messages sent to your other account. You can add up to 5 accounts, including Gmail and other email providers."

Email is another AOSP app that bites the dust and is replaced by a closed source Google app, just like Music, Calendar, Browser, Camera and more.

Find Your Purchases Using Google

Google uses confirmation messages from Gmail to show helpful information about your purchases in Google Now, Google Search and other Google services. That's not a new feature, but there are some ways to make it even more useful.

If you're signed in to your Google account, you can search for [my purchases] and Google shows your latest purchases from sites like Amazon, eBay, Google Play and more. Click one of the items to find more details, including tracking links, prices and links to email receipts. Click "show 10 more results" to see more orders.


You can filter your purchases. For example, you can search for [my purchases amazon de] to find your amazon.de orders.


You can also search for [my purchases from June 2013], [my purchases from last month], [my purchases from yesterday] and more.


This also works for searching purchases by name: [my purchases led], [my purchases shirt], [my purchases Samsung].


How to find your receipts from Gmail? Just search Gmail for [category:purchases] and you'll find all the confirmation messages detected by Gmail. It's interesting to notice that not all of them are used by Google Now and Google Search.

November 25, 2014

YouTube HTML5 Loop

YouTube's HTML5 player uses some tricks to hide the standard menu that's displayed when you right click a HTML5 video. This menu includes features like looping videos, enabling browser controls or saving videos.

I've found a way to enable this menu in Chrome: just right click the video twice in the same place. The first right click will trigger YouTube's contextual menu, while the second right click will display browser's menu. Features like "save video as", "copy video URL" don't work, but you can use this trick to watch videos on repeat. Just click "loop" and you can watch your favorite YouTube video over and over again. To deactivate repeat, right click the video twice and click "loop" once again.


Obviously, this only works for YouTube's HTML5 player, but it's enabled by default in Chrome and most YouTube videos use it. It doesn't work for embedded videos.

There are other ways to loop YouTube videos: from adding videos to playlists to using the "loop" parameter, installing extensions or using sites like Infinite Looper.

To enable the menu in Firefox, you can Shift click the YouTube player. There's no loop option, but you can find features like "save snapshot as", "view video" and more.

Chromebooks Bring 1 TB of Free Google Storage

If you planned to buy Google storage, you might decide to buy a Chromebook instead. When you buy a Chromebook, you now also get 1 TB of storage for 2 years if you redeem the offer by January 31, 2015. You would have to pay almost $240 for 1 TB of Google storage and the most affordable Chromebook costs $199: Acer Chromebook 11. You get the Chromebook for free and you still save about $40.


Until now, Google only offered 1 TB of storage for Chromebook Pixel users (3 years instead of 2). Chromebook Pixel is the most expensive Chromebook and still costs $1299 when you buy it from the Google Play Store.

You can argue that you won't actually save $240, since Google will drop the prices and 1 TB of storage will no longer cost $9.99/month in 2016. That may be true, but you still got a laptop and more than enough cloud storage for only $200-300.

Chrome Will Remove NPAPI Support in 2015

Google hoped to remove the support for NPAPI plug-ins this feature, but that will have to wait until next year. The NPAPI support will be completely removed in September 2015 from Chrome for Windows and Mac. NPAPI support was removed from Chrome for Linux in Chrome 35, back in May.


Chrome whitelisted some of the most popular NPAPI plug-ins like Silverlight or Google Talk. As their usage continued to decline, the whitelist will be removed in January and users will have to manually enable the plug-ins.

As you can see from the table below, the only plug-in used by more than 10% of the Chrome users is Silverlight and it's followed by Google Talk, which is still used by 7% of the Chrome users. Java usage declined from 8.9% to 3.7%, Facebook's plug-in usage declined from 6% to 3%, while Unity is only used by 1.9% of the Chrome users, down from 9.1% in September 2013.


In April 2015 NPAPI support will be disabled and Google will unpublish from the Chrome Web Store the extensions that require NPAPI plugins. Power users and business users will still be able to enable NPAPI using Chrome flags or Enterprise Policy, but only until September 2015, when NPAPI support will be completely removed. There's a deprecation guide for developers which offers a few alternatives to NPAPI, including HTML5, WebRTC, Chrome APIs for apps and extensions and Native Client.

NPAPI is a legacy technology that enabled a lot of powerful features, back when browsers couldn't play videos, handle video calls or run games. You had to install QuickTime or RealPlayer to play videos, install plug-ins for Google Talk or other video calling apps, install Java or Flash to play games. Now browsers are a lot more powerful and the features that are still not supported by Chrome can be enabled by more secure NPAPI alternatives like PPAPI and Native Client, which are unfortunately still only available in Chrome.

November 22, 2014

YouTube Videos in Google Play Music

A side effect of the YouTube Music Key service is that the Play Music app for Android/iOS and the desktop site started to show relevant YouTube music videos for the songs you are playing. There's a "watch video" button placed on top of the album art and a "start video" menu option (it's called "watch video" in the iPhone app).





Google Play Music for Android shows the video inside the mobile app, so it doesn't launch the YouTube app. Google Play Music for iOS opens the YouTube app.


In the desktop site, the YouTube player is overlaid. Press Esc or click outside the player to hide it.


I've checked a long list of songs and the "start video" option is available for many popular songs that have music videos. You can also find YouTube videos when searching for artists and albums.

November 21, 2014

Using YouTube Music Key

Thanks to my Google Play Music All Access subscription, I've been able to try YouTube Music Key, the new feature that transforms YouTube into the music streaming service with the largest collection of music videos.

If you use All Access and you have the latest version of the Play Music app for Android, you should see this message in Play Music:


Open the YouTube app and the most obvious new feature is the download button that lets you save almost any music video.


The "add video to Offline" dialog lets you pick the video quality: normal (360p), HD (720p). You can click "remember my settings" to no longer see this dialog.



The Offline section shows all your offline videos and playlists.


You can download entire playlists. The music tab from the "what to watch" section features a lot of music playlists, including Songza playlists.



The "background & offline" section from the settings lets you customize background listening, video quality, offline storage and lets you disable downloading videos when you're not using Wi-Fi.


By default, YouTube continues to play music videos in the background, but you can disable this feature or only enable it when using headphones or external speakers.


Use the music controls from the notification bar or from the lock screen. Pause a song, play the ext song from the playlist or go back to the YouTube app.



When you're offline, you can only use the Offline section and play the music videos you've previously downloaded.



Another benefit: whether you're playing music videos online or offline, the YouTube app won't show ads. It's important to keep in mind that the new features (offline playing, background listening, ad-free experience) are only available for music videos, not for any YouTube videos. In fact, they don't even work for all music videos, probably because of licensing issues. You'll find many videos that show this message: "background listening unavailable - this video cannot be played in the background".

New UI in Google Maps for Mobile Browsers

The new interface from the Google Maps mobile apps is now also available in the mobile browser. Just go to maps.google.com in your favorite mobile browser for Android and iOS and you should see an interface that closely resembles the UI from the native mobile apps.


"Bold colors and textures are in — and Google Maps is on trend, with a slick new style to make traveling with Maps even easier. Over the next few days, when you open up Google Maps on your Android or iPhone, you'll be greeted by bright colors and a fresh new design. This new look is all about creating surfaces and shadows that echo the real world; with Google Maps' new material feel, layers and buttons come to life so you know just where to touch to get directions, recommendations and imagery," explained Google a few weeks ago, when the new versions of the mobile apps were launched.



The mobile web app even has a "hamburger" menu that lets you enable layers like traffic, transit, bicycling and satellite.