Save Your Time With 10 Underused Google Features

Here are ten time-saving features in Google products we shouldn’t do without.

A Checklist of Google Tasks

Google Tasks

Google Tasks has often brought me back when my brain had gone for a walk. It could be one of the more underused tools to create actionable tasks from your emails.

Matt Cutts, the well-known Google engineer thinks so. He uses Google Tasks to manage his to-do list and supercharges it with extensions like New Tab to Tasks and Better Google Tasks. The latter gives the utilitarian Google Tasks a more pleasing face. You can also try out Improvements for Google Tasks which gives you labels and keywords to highlight the important stuff in your task list.

As long as it is around, you can also use these five methods to use Google Tasks on your desktop.

Remember the Video Meeting

Add a link to a Google+ Hangout to any Calendar event in one click. It’s a little setting that saves a mail or two. Often, I have sent a separate mail to tell someone about a Google Hangouts meeting. Or the video meeting has slipped my mind till the last instant (an emergency if you have to declutter the room viewable by the web cam).

Add Video Call to Google Calendar

Set up a future Hangout in three simple steps:

  • Go to Google Calendar. Click Create.
  • Enter the details for your event.
  • Click Add video call. With all information in place, click Save.

Others can also add a video meeting to an event if the calendar is shared between the participant.

Inbox Zero with Archive & Quick links

I think we worry too much about Inbox Zero. Gmail has two handy (and often underused) features that can shovel all messages behind the curtain while not losing track of them.

The Archive button on top banishes all emails from your sight while keeping them intact in the All Mail folder. But how do you keep track of the important ones you need to come back for later?

Quick Links is the little hero in Gmail Labs. Quick Links helps you save any messages you want to read for later.

Quick Links from Gmail Labs

Enable Quick Links from Gmail Labs. If you don’t see it on the left sidebar, click on the three little dots (Gadgets). Open any email you want to read for later. Next, click Add Quick Link in the bottom left of the screen. Give a descriptive name in the box that pops up with the link to the email.

Gmail Quick Links

Now, you can recall that email from anywhere in your inbox with just a click. How difficult is Inbox Zero with Archive, Labels, Quick Links, and the powerful Gmail Search at your beck and call?

Read Email Faster with Gmail Auto Advance

There’s no running count of how many times the Gmail Labs “Undo” feature has saved my bacon. This feature is a face-saver. There’s also an Auto-Advance Lab feature which is a time saver. It’s recommended for people with hefty inboxes.

Gmail’s behavior is to return you back to the inbox whenever you delete, archive, or mute a conversation. Enabling Auto-Advance takes you straight to the next (or previous) email whenever you delete or archive a message. The little seconds saved do add up when you wading through hundreds of messages.

Gmail Auto-Advance

Enable it from Gmail Labs (Gear icon > Settings > Labs). Definitely enable it if you are on an inbox springcleaning spree.

Don’t Mind the Dots

You didn’t get the email ID you wanted and had to tweak it with a dot or two. Try spelling that out over the phone with a lot of background noise. Gmail aliases nix that annoyance and prevent misdirected emails.

If your email address is, that’s the same as

Go with the latter when giving it to someone over the phone. The “dot-less” version of your email ID makes it easy for everyone.

Save Tabs for Later

Too many tabs are resource hogs and add to the clutter. They are also a worry if you have to close them without losing their whereabouts. Tab management extensions like Layout Manager address this problem. But then here’s a simpler workaround that doesn’t involve bloating your Chrome with another extension. The secret lies in the humble bookmarks folder.

Add a new bookmarks folder to your bookmarks (either the bookmarks bar or the menu). I named mine “All Saved Tabs”.

When you want to save all your open tabs for later, right-click on any tab in your browser and select Bookmark All Tabs… You can also use the shortcut — Ctrl-Shift-D.

Bookmark All Tabs

Select the created bookmark folder as the location. Give your tab group a specific name — this creates a new folder within your “All Saved Tabs” folder. You can save your tabs with the same method in Firefox.

To restore your tabs, simply right-click on the group (folder) that you want to restore and click on “Open All Bookmarks.” This workaround is also helpful if you sync your bookmarks across devices.

Auto-generate Passwords in Chrome

Auto-generate passwords in Chrome

There are many ways to set up secure passwords. Throw this experimental Chrome feature into the mix for some quick sign-ups. The Lastpass “competitor” saw light of day back in 2012 and it’s still not certain as a permanent fixture. Dive into Chrome’s secret settings and enable it for some quick and secure passwords. The random method is no different than the one created by apps like LastPass.

It’s a simple and just has three steps.

  1. Launch Google Chrome. Type about:flags in the Omnibox. Note: about:flags or chrome://flags is a URL in Chrome that reveals hidden settings and allows you to try new features in Chrome while they are experimental.
  2. Scroll down the list till you find the field Enable password generation. Click the drop down menu and select Enabled.Enable Chrome Password
  3. Relaunch the Chrome browser. Every time you register for a new account, you should see a key icon on the password field. Clicking the icon creates an automatic password. You can also save the password in Chrome.

Delegate Your Email

You wouldn’t trust your Gmail to someone else. I hear that having a real-life Jeeves is a luxury, but a virtual assistant can be a huge time saver. In the collaborative economy, any help is welcome to manage your inbox overload. If you are concerned about security, setting up a second email identity to handle specific emails could be useful. Permissions can be revoked anytime.

Gmail allows you to delegate your email and calendar tasks to ten people. Google Apps users can specify 25 users. Google shows you the steps to set up email delegation and the restrictions that are in place. A similar approach works for Google Calendar.

Precise Selections with Caret Browsing

Maybe you are a keyboard ninja. Or just don’t want to rely on the mouse too much. Turn on Caret Browsing which is an advanced accessibility feature in Chrome. The caret is a moveable cursor to select text. Use the arrow keys to move through webpage just like a word processing document.

To activate Caret Browsing install this accessibility extension. Toggle it on and off with F7. Use arrow keys to move through the page. Press Shift + arrows to select text. Open URLs with the Enter key when the caret is on the links.

Caret Browsing

With practice, text selection is more precise if you do a lot of copy and paste. I am not a virtuoso on a laptop track pad, so I turn it on for better productivity on small screens.

Your Own Google-Powered Search Engine

A custom search engine is a sniper rifle. A custom search engine that targets a bunch of your favorite sites is like a multi-barrel rocket launcher. Google Custom Search can be created for your own blog or bookmarked as a public URL. CSE comes in two flavors – paid and free with limitations. The free version limits you to 100 search results, but for individual needs it should be enough.

Google Custom Search

Create a simpler free version that has a public URL. Save it as a bookmark and share it with others on your team. A custom search engine is a timesaving shortcut when you search a few select sites regularly. Searching by recent date and relevancy helps narrow down to the topics you are looking for.

How to Geek has an in-depth tutorial that shows you the simple in’s and out’s.

The Seconds Add Up

The “underused” bit is relative. But often, shiny new apps sidetrack our attention while the solution could be hidden in plain sight. Even a little setting change to increase the number of search results to 100 per page ends up saving time. The best productivity tool is the one that just works for you. Do these work well enough?

Tell us about the tip or feature that changed how you negotiate your life with Google tools. Which is the Google service that you would love to know more about?

By Saikat Basu

Google search results now offer up cocktail recipes and more

search, knowledge graph, cocktails, margarita

In addition to enhancements like in-line site searches, purchase history and more, Google is now introducing another feature to its search results. As part of its ongoing expansion of Knowledge Graph, Google is now offering up recipes and information on your favorite cocktails.

The new search feature will offer up step-by-step instructions on how to make just about any cocktail out there. It is also adding in some suggestions for finishing touches, garnish and even the products you serve it all in. While meal recipes have been part of search results for a while now, reports suggest Google engineers have received requests for cocktail results for some time.

Because of its link with Google’s Knowledge Graph, these aren’t just a set list of cocktails, but rather the ones most popular online. Google is keeping its cocktail results fresh and relevant for its users by analyzing search data and cross-referencing it from the most popular and reliable sources. This will allow its cocktail results to be ever changing and always offer new recipes and instructions.

drink google search serves cocktail recipes

The service is rolling out on both the desktop and mobile. Fire off a simple search query like “How do I make a Margarita?” to test it out for yourself.


Report: In June, Apple will Debut New Apple TV with App Store and Siri

Report: Apple Debuting New Apple TV with App Store and Siri in June

(Illustration by Yahoo Tech)

All of the pieces are falling into place for an overhauled Apple TV, and we may just see one come June. According to BuzzFeed News, Apple is planning to debut a revamped Apple TV at its World Wide Developers Conference. The new box will reportedly support third-party apps, voice control with Siri, and presumably the internet-TV service that The Wall Street Journal described earlier this week. BuzzFeed says that the new device will likely include more storage and a version of Apple’s latest mobile chip, the A8.

Apple’s more serious entrance into the living room has been long awaited. And, really, it’s about time. The Apple TV has been a nice but overly simple box for most of its lifespan. The addition of an App Store, which BuzzFeed says will be included, would make it dramatically more capable and interesting, allowing apps and games to take over an entire TV. If Apple’s long-rumored internet-TV service makes an appearance as well, the Apple TV would quickly become a major play for the living room. BuzzFeed reports that the Apple TV will include basic home automation features, too, however some are already built into the model that’s shipping today. Apple recently reduced the price of that model to $69.


Rival smartphones in exchange for iPhones in Apple’s upcoming trade-in program

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In an apparent effort to boost in-store iPhone sales, Apple CEO Tim Cook is spearheading a trade-in program that’ll reward shoppers with gift cards to put towards the purchase of a new smartphone.

Sources familiar with the matter tell 9to5Mac that the unannounced recycling and trade-in program will notably accept both Android and BlackBerry devices. Trade-in value will reportedly be determined on the spot by Apple retail store employees based on the device, its condition and functional status.

The program is expected to get under way in the coming weeks which will give Apple enough time to train its retail employees. Said training programs will begin later this week, we’re told. The only other detail we’re privy to is that Apple employees will be able to transfer address book contacts from other phones to a new iPhone. Everything else, however, will have to be moved manually by the customer.

apple android iphones google iphone smartphone cell phone handset mobile phone trade-in phone trade-in program

The upcoming program is not to be confused with Apple’s iPhone Reuse and Recycle program. That one kicked off in mid-2013 in an effort to encourage existing iPhone users to trade in their older model handsets for something newer which, at the time, consisted of the iPhone 5, iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c.

Although convenient for shoppers, such trade-in programs are rarely the best way to go if you’re after top dollar for a used phone. Amazon, for example, offers instant quotes online and even covers the cost of shipping. But above all else, you’re likely to get the greatest return by either selling locally to someone you know, using Craigslist (be careful) or trying eBay.


A Luxury Smartwatch by Intel, Google, and Tag Heuer Team

In a surprise press event today in Switzerland, Tag Heuer, one of the more notable watch companies in the industry, announced that its next project would make the leap from traditional watches to smartwatches. But it’s not going to do it alone; the Swiss company is partnering with Intel and Google in the hope of giving the watch a technical and fashionable edge in the market.

To help announce the partnership, Tag Heuer CEO Jean-Claude Biver invited along David Singleton, Android Wear’s engineering director, and Michael Bell, one of Intel’s corporate vice presidents (and more importantly, the general manager of Intel’s New Devices Group).

The trio, along with Guy Semon, Tag Heuer’s general manager, didn’t offer many technical details about the new watch, unfortunately. At the moment, all we know is that it’s coming at the end of the year, with the pricing, specs, and features revealed shortly before the launch. We also know that the device will be running Android Wear, and Singleton confirmed that the partnership will produce the company’s first luxury Android watch.

Android Wear already runs on smartwatches created by LG, Samsung, Motorola, Sony, and Asus, but grabbing a prestigious watchmaker like Tag Heuer definitely gives the platform a new market angle.

But what about Intel’s part in all this? Based on our interview after last year’s IDF with Ellen Healy, Intel’s PR manager for wearables, Tag Heuer would seem to just be the latest partner in Intel’s effort to work with as many reputable fashion brands as possible to increase the demand for wearables (in this case, specifically smartwatches). Bell echoed that same sentiment at the announcement.

“We believe wearable technology is going to take off, but this is not something to be driven by tech companies only,” he said. “We believe that it requires a real partnership between established players in the space who understand customers and fashion and objects of desire.”

But that’s only part one of Intel’s plan. Even though its partners get support by utilizing existing technology, Intel has a roadmap for creating an SoC specifically for its wearables partners. What’s more interesting is that Healy noted that it won’t be just one platform for all of its products, so maybe we’ll see multiple variations of Intel wearable SoCs in the near future.

By partnering up with Tag Heuer, Intel gains another foothold in the wearables market. As long as you buy an Intel-powered wearable device, the company gains a profit. Before Tag Heuer, Fossil announced its partnership with Intel last September, and even with the partnerships, Intel already has its own smartwatch in the market called Basis, which works as a sleep and fitness tracker.

With this latest development, maybe other big watch companies will take the next step and talk to Intel to power their own wearables. It will be interesting to know how this luxury smartwatch will fare compared to Apple’s luxury smartwatch. Both devices are aimed at higher-end consumers, but the approaches are completely different.


Google in your Dashboard


Android users can download Android Auto on Google Play starting today.  To celebrate the occasion, Pioneer has introduced a long-awaited new line of receivers called Network Entertainment eXperience (NEX) that are compatible with Google’s new software.

Previewed last January at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, the NEX receivers are designed to work with all smartphones that run Android’s 5.0 (Lollipop) operating system or one of the newer software released since. After downloading a handful of Android Auto-specific applications, the driver is able to control nearly every function of his or her smartphone without touching the screen by using a microphone built into the receiver.

A 7.0-inch high-resolution touch screen displays relevant information on cards, a look inspired by the popular Google Now application. A purpose-designed version of Google Maps provides live traffic information, navigation and alternate route suggestions, while the driver can liven up his or her commute by switching to the AppRadio mode and launching a number of applications including Pandora and Google Play Music

Overall, Pioneer believes that its NEX receivers can make driving a lot safer by greatly reducing distractions.

Want Google in your dashboard? The Pioneer NEX starts at $700 for a more basic AVH-4100NEX model and tops out at $1,400 for the range-topping AVH-8100NEX unit. All models regardless of price come standard with a long list of features including advanced Bluetooth connectivity, FLAC audio playback and SiriusXM-Ready.

Pioneer is not the only company interested in integrating Android Auto into its products. General Motors, Volvo, Honda, Hyundai and Audi are among the 28 automakers that have voiced an interest in incorporating the technology in future models, so we suspect you’ll be hearing a lot more about Android Auto in the coming months.

Microsoft releases Office 2016, Skype for Business previews

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Get ready for a new selection of preview software from Microsoft to test out: today the company launched both the Office 2016 IT Pro and Developer Preview, and the Skype for Business Preview.

After being in a private preview program for several months, Microsoft is now “ready to expand the (Office 2016 Preview) program to our commercial Office 365 customers, an important milestone that gives IT pros and developers an opportunity to start testing the upcoming release.”

Some of the new features in Office 2016 include a refreshed, more colorful interface (seen above in a leaked version), improved search functionality, a wealth of technical and performance improvements to Outlook, expanded Data Loss Protection, and more. For business users, Microsoft hasn’t made any changes to Add-ins or Macros, which should help with compatibility.

At this stage, the Office 2015 Preview doesn’t come with the full selection of features that Microsoft expects to ship in the final version, although the company will continue to update the Preview monthly with new additions. Eager testers can join the Office 2016 Preview program here and download it today, ahead of the final version launching in the second half of this year.

microsoft office skype business preview lync skype for business office 2016

Alongside a preview of Office 2016, Microsoft is also launching the Skype for Business Preview. Replacing Microsoft Lync, Skype for Business features a familiar Skype interface and includes tight integration with Office for a cohesive productivity experience.

Anyone who is a current Lync customer can now download the Skype for Business Preview here through the TechNet Evaluation Center, with the final version set to roll out next month. The Skype for Business Preview is also included with the Office 2016 Preview, so if you want to test out both, you’ll only need to download Office.

By Tim Schiesser

AeroMobil aims to launch flying car in 2017, autonomous version to follow

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The flying car that we’ve all been waiting on is just around the corner. During a recent speaking engagement at SXSW, AeroMobil CEO Juraj Vaculik said he aims to launch his prototype flying automobile by 2017.

Having grown up under an oppressive political regime in Czechoslovakia that underwent a revolution, Vaculik said we now need a revolution in personal transportation. Self-driving cars are a step in the right direction but they’re only a partial solution, he said. The true answer is a flying car.

His current prototype, AeroMobil 3.0, is capable of taking off and landing on grass runways. Such setups could be installed near freeways and gas stations, he envisions, but making that a reality could be a difficult task.

For starters, the company would need to get local governments to agree to building flying car runways and navigate what’d no doubt be a bevy of regulations. Vaculik didn’t seem too concerned about the matter, however, noting that his vehicle will slot nicely into pre-existing categories for cars and planes. As The Verge notes, this would mean that you’d need a pilot’s license to be able to fly the thing.

The two-seater model he plans to launch in 2017 will be marketed to wealthy supercar buyers. While not giving a firm price, Vaculik did say the AeroMobil would cost more than a couple hundred thousand euros. After that, the company wants to put out a fully autonomous model with room for four.


Microsoft Confirms Windows 10 Will Arrive This Summer

Microsoft confirmed today that Windows 10 will launch this summer in 190 countries and 111 languages. Frustratingly, though, the company isn’t dishing an actual launch date for its hotly-anticipated new platform, but an interesting new nugget of information was let out today.

The company previously voiced its intention to offer free upgrades to “millions” of customers on Windows 7 or earlier, and China — a market synonymous with piracy — is a key focus of that initiative. Speaking at an event in Shenzhen, China, Terry Myerson — Microsoft’s Executive Vice President of Operating Systems — revealed that the Redmond firm will work with three of China’s most prominent software companies — Lenovo, Tencent and Qihoo 360 — to offer free upgrades to their collective customer base. That doubtless spans a huge number of potential users.

But, there’s more, Microsoft is also working Xiaomi — yes, the fast-growing Android phone company — in a partnership that will give selected owners of its Mi 4 the chance to “help test Windows 10 and contribute to its future release later this year.”

Xiaomi has a strong community of users — the company pushes software updates weekly and actively solicits user feedback —  and Microsoft is tapping into that to seed a Windows 10 Technical Preview for initial feedback.

A Xiaomi spokesperson told us that this is “an experimental program entirely led by Microsoft,” and we are trying to ascertain more information about the nature of this partnership. It sucks, but Microsoft and Xiaomi are being vague on this alliance, which, though thrown into today’s announcement as a low-key tidbit, could provide a fascinating indication of the future plans for Windows 10 on mobile.


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