Tag Archives: Google

Take control of your Android – Tasker!

2 Aug

With my growing love towards great open world of Android and it’s being hard to cover them in one, I decided to start a blog series – Take control of Android. This series will primarily deal with the various tools and methods that helps to automate practically any task on Android. Also, there will be some tools discussed that will add ease of use and remote access to Android. Even if you happen to know a few things, I surely hope you’ll learn something new in this series.

Today, the app in discussion is Tasker – arguably best task automation tool available on Android platform. Tasker is not free though, and you’ve to shell out Rs. 346.94 to get your hands on it. But I must say, it’s totally worth it’s price and you won’t regret buying it.

Once downloaded and installed, you can create Profiles which contains Tasks to be automated. One example is shown below –

Now, although Tasker is automating tool and is supposed to do repeated task with ease, the app itself is not that easy to use. There is small, not much I assure you, learning curve associated with this app. So, let me walk you through Tasker by creating one simple automated task.

For our purpose, let’s create a task to send SMS when we create Missed Call from our Favorite contact. Remember, this task will only send the SMS when a call is missed by the person who is in your favorite contact list. For everyone else, no action will be performed. So, let’s get started.

Click + on Profiles menu and give it some name. A new window will pop up asking to select First Context. First context is the condition which will be satisfied to execute the task. In our case this is a missed call from favorite contact.

Now select State in the menu and then select Phone and finally Missed Call.

Now select favorite contacts, either by typing C:FAV or by using search icon above the text box. Click check mark, and you’ll be presented with Tasks screen.

Now click new task, and in next screen click + icon. You’ll now be presented with Action categories.

Choose Phone option here and scroll to bottom to select Send Sms option. Now type in the number of contact to whom SMS is to be sent, and the message and click the check mark. You’ll see the new Task created. Now click the check mark of this screen to have your profile configured.

Now, whenever you receive a missed call, the phone will automatically send the predefined text to the given contact.

You can add multiple tasks to the profile as well. Also, you can further customize the task by having Exit Task (task which will be performed once the main task is performed), moving the existing task to Exit Task, Change Task or Unlink Task. Just long press the task menu and you’ll get these options.

One of the coolest features of Tasker is the ability to export task in various formats, but the most promising being able to export them as an app. Just long press any of the task and select Export. Now select As App in next screen.

For app creation Tasker App Factory is required. If you haven’t installed it already, Tasker prompts you to install it. Also, the task must have an icon for this process to complete.

Once prerequisite is met, the export process will be started. Once the process finishes, the app will be ready and an icon will be shown, which on click, installs the new app.

This was just one example to simplify your life by automating the task, Taskers have many such arsenals under it’s belt. For example, for me, it automatically turns on the WiFi and disables the mobile internet when I reach home or the office. For rest of the places, it does the opposite.

Although, Tasker is very handy, very powerful and very versatile app, there’s a few gripes while using the app. I’d like you to know it before you spend your hard earned money on this app –

  • Tasker doesn’t catch the location with ease. So, the location based tasks may fail sometimes.
  • There are too many screens involved in creating single profile.
  • Corollary to above, developers might have provided with pre-defined profiles, those which are very commonly used.
  • Help should be bundled with the app rather than being online. Demo examples would be great.
  • Has a learning curve that can fend away novice users.

There are areas where Tasker shines compared to other automation apps (their review will come soon) –

  • Unlike some, Tasker is completely offline utility and doesn’t require external server to host tasks.
  • Already feature-rich Tasker, can further be enhanced with the help of plugins, which is abundant.
  • Memory usage of Tasker is quite less and doesn’t drain the battery much.

It’s clear that Tasker is quite powerful utility and it’s stated flaw is not as much as it’s benefits. But if you still want to have review of other similar tools before buying Tasker, I suggest you to check this blog in a while. I’ll covering a lot of automation tools.

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Outlook web mail is here!

1 Aug

Finally, Microsoft has decided to go for more aptly named Outlook.com for it’s web mail service. It’s quite fitting and more professional naming compared to older Hotmail or Live Mail.

For those of you who wonders if someone really uses any other web mail other than the giant GMail, I must say it’s personal preference. For me, Outlook web mail (or Live Mail, or Hotmail. Huh!) is always very fluid, distraction free, and very integrated service. All the online features can be accessed from single ecosystem (I’ll come to that later), quite unlike GMail. There’s hell lot of space thrown, at least for previous users, and you can use them the way you want – for mails, or for any other files. Social integration is unparalleled too. But at the end of the day, it’s personal choice that matters.

With the new Outlook Web Mail, Microsoft has really stirred the web mail market with new freshness. The new Metro styled UI and loads of features really worth a good look for everyone. Let me walk you through Outlook.com with screenshots –

The Outlook.com opens with Metro style and at the same time minimalistic view, the way email should be.

Welcome Screen

Switching to other features is easy. Just press the drop down next to Outlook logo (appears on hover) and see the option to go to desired place. Visual and easy!

Following is the Skydrive and Calendar views, not much have changed here –

Contacts has been updated to new Metro style. Viewing, adding or editing contact is plain simple. You can also connect to various social networks to enrich your contacts and have them in one single place.

Composing mails is easy and it’s one of the prettiest screen I’ve ever seen in any mail service or client :). Since the contacts are socially connected, contact’s image is fetched when you search for them. This one screen has me sold!

On main screen, if you click the message icon, you can connect to Messenger. Instant messenger appears on the right hand side and is quite easy to use.

You can also choose where to reading pane – Off, Right, or Bottom.

Further mail settings can be customized using setting icon, next to messenger icon.

Finally, on top-rightmost position is your account and profile settings. Clicking it, reveals the profile picture, linked accounts, log out options and links to account setting.

 

Now, something better to know. You can create alias for your existing email – this way you can avoid @hotmail or @live email addresses in lieu of @outlook. Fun right? Just head over to Alias Change option, and input your desired alias. You’ll then receive confirmation mail telling your alias is created, and you’ll be having brand new email address!

Finally, one last thing – Although most of the mail actions are given in top ribbon, there’re few more of them. In order to access them, just click Actions, on top-right of the mail. It’ll pop open the menu like below to give you further actions to perform.

Behold the new Gmail !!

21 Oct

Well, it’s nothing like everything in Gmail has changed overnight and you should start expecting a Milky Way on its page, but the how else I’m supposed to attract your attention, hmm? And no, Google hasn’t launched a new iPhone, iPad or Android version of Gmail, it’s for your browser. What’s wrong with some people? 😕

Now as you’re reading, let me tell you something quite cool. Gmail is rolling out variety of changes on Gmail and they’re quite awesome. Some of the features are much awaited and some are just to add cool quotient to already great mailing solution (it’s not just a website, mind it!).

So let’s begin with what’s coming in new Gmail update, shall we?

Note: All images are courtesy Unofficial Google Blog post.
 

Google has changes a lot in User Interface and user experience without changing much in overall design. The upcoming design will still be usable in the same way it’s used to be to have experience consistent.

Here is the features in details:

1. The overall UI:

New Gmail Inbox

The UI is similar to Preview/Preview (Dense) theme which we can use currently. (Go to themes and select Preview/Preview Dense). The addition to this UI is that the whole interface can resize and adjust to the screen size. I know, interface is not something you’re really bothered about, but it’s update by Gmail UI team, oops!

2. Conversation:

New Gmail Conversation

The conversation is nothing new, but just a mail-chain. It’s just plain and boring earlier. Finding who said what was tedious as well. With new changes, you can have quite cleaner conversation and photo against the contacts to easily recognize who said what. Now that’s something, which will take all the clutter out of my Inbox!

3. Improved Search:

New Gmail Search

New search options gives users finer control over their search. This feature (UI) seems much like what Outlook offers. Though I must tell you, all these search features are already present in Gmail, but now Google has taken steps to make it more accessible to the user. Now, I hope, custom searches in Gmail will go main-stream. Ugh, I generally don’t search much on Gmail, it’s no big deal for me, but definitely not a deal breaker (I must be mad for that)!

4. Adjustable Lists and Chat window:

New Lists and Chat layout

Now you can easily adjust lists and chat window to suit your need. You chat more, make the chat screen bigger and vice-versa. Also, even if you don’t always adjust yourself, Google will do it for you. I’ll let it pass, your views?

5. High-definition image themes (Sorry no pictures for this):

In addition to the modification made in UI department, Gmail has also added support for high-definition  themes, which essentially is a high-def image in the background on the new theme, something you can have right now as well, albeit in low-def. Blah, blah, blah! Who cares UI that much? 😛

Want to have closer look? Just view this video:

When will new Gmail will roll out? Well, there is no official word yet, but going by the Google distribution policies, I think it’ll start rolling in few days time (they generally don’t announce way to early). Till then, it’s the old Gmail you’ve to live with!

Google’s Kill date announced!

15 Oct

We’ll it’s been in news that Google is killing majority of it’s side projects. Today it added few more to be switched off lists. It’s quite clear that Google is moving to it roots and don’t want to try and experimental features as of now, at least for common public. It’s concentrating more on it’s competitive markets such as Ads, Search (Bing is pitching against it), Android (pitching against iOS, Symbian, Blackberry, Windows Phone 7), and Google+ (pitching against Facebook). As it’s clear that the competition is huge and in some places (Search for example) and it still has to grow in other (Social Network), Google simply can’t afford to distract itself.

In today’s blog, Google mentioned switch off of some other features.

  • Code Search, which was designed to help people search for open source code all over the web, will be shut down along with the Code Search API on January 15, 2012.
  • In a few weeks we’ll shut down Google Buzz and the Buzz API, and focus instead on Google+. While people obviously won’t be able to create new posts after that, they will be able to view their existing content on their Google Profile, and download it using Google Takeout.
  • Jaiku, a product we acquired in 2007 that let users send updates to friends, will shut down on January 15, 2012. We’ll be working to enable users to export their data from Jaiku.
  • Several years ago, we gave people the ability to interact socially on iGoogle. With our new focus on Google+, we will remove iGoogle’s social features on January 15, 2012. iGoogle itself, and non-social iGoogle applications, will stay as they are.
  • The University Research Program for Google Search, which provides API access to our search results for a small number of approved academic researchers, will close on January 15, 2012.
  • In addition, later today the Google Labs site will shut down, and as previously announced, Boutiques.com and the former Like.com websites will be replaced by Google Product Search.

Clearly these are the product, we more likely to forget (Buzz, anyone?). But there are a handful of few things, I simply don’t want to discontinued. Take Labs for example. I can hardly figure out a power user who hasn’t turned any of the Labs features on, Google’s Translate API, which was free earlier, now costs you. This doesn’t feel good. As a general user it may not be much, but for a power user it’s some what great loss.

At least, Google should ask it’s user if we really need something. There are products which we need, but not on daily basis, Google should preserve that.

Google’s Kill date announced!

15 Oct

We’ll it’s been in news that Google is killing majority of it’s side projects. Today it added few more to be switched off lists. It’s quite clear that Google is moving to it roots and don’t want to try and experimental features as of now, at least for common public. It’s concentrating more on it’s competitive markets such as Ads, Search (Bing is pitching against it), Android (pitching against iOS, Symbian, Blackberry, Windows Phone 7), and Google+ (pitching against Facebook). As it’s clear that the competition is huge and in some places (Search for example) and it still has to grow in other (Social Network), Google simply can’t afford to distract itself.

In today’s blog, Google mentioned switch off of some other features.

  • Code Search, which was designed to help people search for open source code all over the web, will be shut down along with the Code Search API on January 15, 2012.
  • In a few weeks we’ll shut down Google Buzz and the Buzz API, and focus instead on Google+. While people obviously won’t be able to create new posts after that, they will be able to view their existing content on their Google Profile, and download it using Google Takeout.
  • Jaiku, a product we acquired in 2007 that let users send updates to friends, will shut down on January 15, 2012. We’ll be working to enable users to export their data from Jaiku.
  • Several years ago, we gave people the ability to interact socially on iGoogle. With our new focus on Google+, we will remove iGoogle’s social features on January 15, 2012. iGoogle itself, and non-social iGoogle applications, will stay as they are.
  • The University Research Program for Google Search, which provides API access to our search results for a small number of approved academic researchers, will close on January 15, 2012.
  • In addition, later today the Google Labs site will shut down, and as previously announced, Boutiques.com and the former Like.com websites will be replaced by Google Product Search.

Clearly these are the product, we more likely to forget (Buzz, anyone?). But there are a handful of few things, I simply don’t want to discontinued. Take Labs for example. I can hardly figure out a power user who hasn’t turned any of the Labs features on, Google’s Translate API, which was free earlier, now costs you. This doesn’t feel good. As a general user it may not be much, but for a power user it’s some what great loss.

At least, Google should ask it’s user if we really need something. There are products which we need, but not on daily basis, Google should preserve that.

Aside

Get old Facebook UI back – Revisited!

5 Oct

Hi Guys,

I’ve covered a way to remove real-time news ticker and fixed nav-bar. Also, I’ve covered a way to get old Facebook UI back in my post, but it’s not working anymore. Today, I’m gonna cover most important part of Facebook – it’s News Feed Section!

As we all know, with Facebook’s recent update, the news section has gone out of hand of many people, as it’s started categorizing the news feed in various sections like New Stories, Recent Stories, etc. but which story is important to the user is not decided by us but by Facebook. And here comes the problem – we are loaded with lots of news which we don’t want to see and the news which is actually important to us is lost somewhere between useless feeds.

Well fret not! If you’re a Google Chrome user (I’m still to find the solution for other browsers), then I’ve a solution for you. Just download Facebook Classic chrome extension, install it and open/refresh your Facebook page. Now you’ll see only Recent Stories section with no blue triangle and the news feed organized in the old way! This will also remove the real-time news ticker, but it’ll be visible if chat bar is open. So just, close the chat bar and you’ll find good old Facebook back.

Aside

Beautify Google+ and boost usability (Chrome only).

15 Jul

Google+ is surely a current buzzword. Everyone is talking about it, even if they don’t get a invite!

Now once you’re on Google+, you may find a lots of things missing from it. Owing to its project status, we can’t expect Google to fix everything right away. The solution?

Use these great plugins for Chrome to beautify it and make it more usable than ever.

1. Stylish: This is amazing little Chrome extension. With this tool, you can beautify practically any website. But we’re talking Google+ here, so grab any of these themes as per your liking, and you’re done. A new, slick and quite beautiful Google+ is now waiting for you!

2. GTools+: This is nifty little tool can customize various parts of Google+, like making Google Bar sticky, having chat moved to Google bar, and GMail and Reader unread count in Google bar and many more. A must have.

3. +Photo Zoom: Isn’t this both obvious and expected? This extension does exactly as the name. It gives a small button on right side of Google bar to enable and disable zooming of any photo on Google+.

4. Start G+: You’ve quite used to Facebook and Twitter and although Google+ is nice, you don’t want to leave these social networks. Simple! Use Start G+. It provides Facebook and Twitter stream right in the Google+ window so that you don’t have to leave Google+ ever again!

5. Share+: Google+ is good and you can like others post as well, but what if you want to share these posts to other social networks? Don’t worry, Share+ has you covered. It gives you the option to share any post to various social networks.

Tell me what do you think of these extensions for Google+? Also tell me if you’ve some cool little extension for Google+ in mind. Till then, keep rocking!

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