Two quick and simple tech tips for April (Gmail & instant mobile photo uploads & new MS Office apps)

BattleoflexingtonengravingApril is a little more than half way done. I’m way overdue for a post, and I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t feel very, very disconnected from life on the internet.

Well, I guess that’s partly not true at all. I’d say it’s more like a disconnect from the more meaningful forms of participation and communication on the internet.

You know like arguing on message boards over really important stuff like, What’s better, The Voice or American Idol?, or who will win the console war?’ Xbox One or PS4, and does the Wii-U even have a chance? and will the iPhone continue forcing its users to use magnifying glasses while Samsung unveils phone after phone that are as large as cinema screens? And of course, I deeply miss posting on this here little algorithmic channel.

So let me start April off with a couple of quick tech tips. These tips should benefit writers on a budget, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and pretty much anyone else who may have kids or whose life is filled with precious moments, and wishes to share their joy by sharing snapshots of these occasions or their precious DNA—not by publicly polluting everyone’s Facebook feed with unremarkable moments in human history—but through proper and discreet channels of yore. The old school “more private” way…you know, email.

Gmail & instant upload of mobile photos

Say you’re using your PC and want to upload a photo from your mobile device and attach it to your email through Gmail. Before you’d have to grab your phone, find the pic you want to send, and then attach it your app of choice. Now, when using the Gmail client through your browser on your PC, you’ll have instant access to all the photos contained on your mobile device without even touching your mobile device–that is if your photos are backed up by any of the services Google provides at the moment (I’ll get to this shortly).

 

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From your PC, Gmail now allows you to instantly attach a photo from your smartphone or mobile device.

 

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All the photos from your smartphone or mobile device will appear in this window. Even the dirty, disgusting, decrepit ones you don’t want your co-workers or family members to see (that is unless you think you’re a damn sexy beast and the world deserves to see you in all your glory). So be very, very wary when you access these photos on a large monitor to make sure Snoopy Macdougal isn’t peering over your shoulder.

 

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“Is this photo of a cow some kind of message or are you lying to me after uploading a bunch of stock photography by trying to convince me that you actually have a life or could afford an actual vacation?”

 

For anyone who uses Gmail and an Android device, like me, this is awesome news! My primary Gmail account is my primary Google account and it’s also the account that ties up the array of Google services I currently utilize on my Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

If you own a Note 3 or any other Android smartphone or device, I cannot tell you how much I endorse using Gmail as your go-to email client. If and when you decide to make the switch, and once you’re done with the semi-difficult part of importing/exporting your contacts and notifying your contacts of your change in email, things in life that have become somewhat dependent on technology, become absurdly easier.

For example, your calendar becomes instantly accessible everywhere and can be accessed or edited from a PC or a mobile device. Alarms and notifications of events or messages will now pop up on your PC and Chrome browser. Bookmarks on your phone synchronize with the bookmarks on your PC (and vice versa). If you use Google Drive, all your drafts, documents, spreadsheets, or whatever else you store on your Google Drive can be accessed or edited instantly on your mobile device just as if it were your PC. What’s even more impressive is that it’s all done on the fly, automatically, and without pressing a single button.

Also, your photos get automatically backed up with the underutilized and underrated Google photos app that many users most likely have no idea it’s even on their phone. You should go on there now and check out the cool, yet creepy, auto-produced videos of all your cherished and not so cherished moments you’ve recorded. Google has also baked some neat visual effects and music into these videos too.

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This is the creepy, yet cool Google Photos app you probably had no idea was on your phone. (Click top left hand corner where it says photos, then choose ‘Auto Awesome’.) This app also somehow became the best amateur director/video editor in your household too, without requiring you help pay down its student loans either.

 

Now for you iPhone/iOS users who use Gmail, you can install the Google+ app and activate the automatic backup feature that backups all your photos automatically to your Google+ (which is the same thing as your Google account anyway) in the settings. Don’t worry though, this won’t automatically post any unwanted photos onto your public Google+ page, you still need an extra step or two to make sure this happens.

Go ahead and get on your PC and mix and match to your heart’s content that photo album you always wanted. You can now instantly send those pics from 10 years ago that always have been on your hard drive along with the more current ones on your smartphone.

Directly from the cow’s…err horse’s mouth, here’s Google’s official blog post with more info on this here little neat feature.

 

Microsoft Office brings Office Online apps to Chrome 

This isn’t necessarily something new. Chrome users always had the ability to access Microsoft Office apps through the Chrome store, but it wasn’t easy, and only the most tech savvy Chrome or Chromebook users took advantage of this feature. However, Microsoft realized you can’t make money off pride and decided to go mano a mano with Google’s free office app offerings by allowing users to  access Outlook, OneNote, Powerpoint, and most importantly, Word as a Chrome apps.

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MS Word now available as an app through the Chrome webstore. Cheapskates everywhere rejoice, or more like Microsoft joins the real world and stops competing in an imaginary marketplace, yay!

 

 

For writers on a budget, why is this a big deal? Well, if you’re familiar at with Chromebooks, they’ve pretty much eviscerated the notebook category of small and cheap laptops. I currently own a Samsung Chromebook series 3. I bought it for $250 and I got free 15 free Go-Go flight passes as well as a 250GB upgrade to Google Drive, not a bad deal. Remember, they don’t run Windows, instead their OS is and runs everything through the Google Chrome browser, which is has access to tons of apps and features that are growing by the day. Chromebooks are also cloud-based laptops.  You’ll need an internet connection to utilize them at their fullest. Aside from the drastic differences, the keyboard on my Series 3 Chromebook is one of the best I’ve ever used…no joke, typing on the Chromebook feels effortless after marathon typing sessions. However, before Word was available, Chromebook users had to use Google Docs, which is far from bad, it’s pretty damn neat and your edits are automatically saved to the cloud without pushing a button, however, it’s slow as molasses when it comes to editing and adding to any document that’s more than 10 pages long. I’ve tried the new Word extension, and it is miraculous in its ability to be lag free whenever you’re writing cloud-based documents, plus it has all the extra features I use to format a document before I publish that Google Docs seems to lack at the moment.

You could also upload and access any of your documents that might be stored on your OneDrive account—Microsoft’s proprietary cloud storage solution. They’ll give you a few free gigs of storage with any MSN, Hotmail, or Outlook account.

So if you’re a writer, or not, who’s on a budget and prefers MS Word and doesn’t want to splurge on a Windows 8 based PC or laptop at the moment and won’t mind settling for a functional and affordable Chromebook, I can’t think of a better solution right now.

Read more on MS Word and MS Office Apps for Chromebook here

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