I uninstalled Flash Player on my computer, now that most sites no longer need it. Adobe's Flash Player is still bundled with Chrome, so I had to disable it from the chrome://plugins/ page.
One of the only Google services that still requires Flash is Google Play Music, but only if you don't use Chrome or Internet Explorer 11. I tried opening Google Play Music in Firefox and Safari and got this message: "Missing Flash Player. You need the latest Adobe Flash Player to listen to music."
There's actually a Lab experiment called "HTML5 audio" in the settings and it's grayed out and disabled. It claims that it allows you to "listen to your music without the need for Flash. Support for this lab is still experimental, and it may not work in all cases," informs the description.
Well, it looks like the Lab experiment only works in Chrome, not in other browsers. It's hard to tell why HTML5 audio is still an experiment and not a regular feature that works in all browsers. YouTube's HTML5 player works well in most browsers and Google Play Music uses the same back-end.
There must be an internal contest at Google for creating Chrome extensions that save links. After "Save to Google" and "Save to Inbox", there's now a Chrome extension for Google Keep that lets you create notes about the page you're currently visiting. "The next time you're on a website that you want to remember or reference later on, use the new Keep Chrome extension to add it — or any part of it — to a note in Keep. Just click the Keep badge to add a site's link to a note, or select some text or an image and create a new note from the right-click menu," suggests Google.
If you have an Android device, you can now create notes directly from your favorite browser: just use the sharing feature and pick Google Keep. You'll be able to write your note right inside Chrome and other browsers, without having to open Google Keep.
Another useful feature in Google Keep: you can now add labels to your notes as #hashtags. For example, you can write: "#work #todo #readlater" and Google Keep will add 3 labels to your note. The nice thing is that Google Keep uses autocomplete, so you can quickly select an existing label. If the label doesn't exist, you need to click the "create" option and the hashtag will become a link.
Google Inbox has a new bundle called "saved". When you click it, you get this description: "Don't forget the articles, videos and other links you want to get back to. Use the Inbox Chrome extension or mobile share button to add links here."
Now you no longer have to send yourself messages with links to pages you want to read later. The links are added to the inbox and they're also saved as reminders. It's strange that you can't add links from the Google Inbox interface and you have to use a Chrome extension or the share feature from Android.
Another interesting feature groups the messages related to a Google Calendar event. "Inbox now gathers emails from a single event together and shows you what's changed at a glance. When you tap on an event, you'll see a comprehensive overview, all in one place," informs Gmail's blog.
Inbox has a new interface for newsletters, which highlights the articles, so you can open them faster. Apparently, the new interface is only displayed for newsletters you read often and it also includes a preview that's hidden after you've opened the newsletter.
YouTube gets closer to virtual reality. Last year, it added support for 360-degree videos and now it supports 360-degree live streaming. "And after years of live streaming Coachella for fans around the world who can't attend the festival, this year we're bringing you the festival like never before by live streaming select artist performances in 360 degrees this weekend," mentions YouTube's blog.
The new interactive live streaming feature will be especially useful for concerts, news and sport events. You can better understand what happens there by customizing your viewing experience and changing your perspective.
YouTube also added support for spacial audio, but only for on-demand YouTube videos (not for live streams). "Just as watching a concert in 360 degrees can give you an unmatched immersive experience, spatial audio allows you to listen along as you do in real life, where depth, distance and intensity all play a role," informs YouTube. There's a playlist of 6 immersive videos with spatial audio. "Enjoy these 360° and VR videos with spatial audio on Android devices. Spatial audio lets you listen to audio from all directions just as in real world. Put on headphones for the best listening experience," suggests the description of the playlist.
Google Play Music is no longer only about music, now it also lets you listen to podcasts. The podcasts section is already available in the web interface and it's rolling out to the Android app in the US and Canada.
"We'll connect you with podcasts based on what you're doing, how you're feeling and what you're interested in. Similar to our contextual playlists for music, we want to make it easy to find the right podcast - whether you're a podcast aficionado or listening for the first time," informs Google.
Here are some podcasts that are available: "Freakonomics Radio", "The Nerdist", "Radiolab", "Stuff You Should Know", "TED Radio Hour", "This Week in Tech", "WTF with Marc Maron", "Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!".
When you subscribe to a podcast, the Android app will automatically download the most recent episodes or notify you when there's a new episode.
Google Search has a new card for tracking packages. Google has always displayed a package tracking link when searching for a tracking code from UPS, USPS, FedEx and other carriers, but now you can search for [track package] and enter the tracking number. Click "Find carrier" and Google shows a link like "Track via UPS" or "Track via FedEx". If Google can't find a carrier, it will show this message: "Can't match this number to a carrier".
The same card is also displayed when you search for the tracking number.
Another option to track your parcels is to search for [my packages], [my purchases] or [my orders] and Google will show a summary of your orders, including the tracking links, but only if they're available in the confirmation emails. When you search for [track my packages], [track my purchases] or [track my orders], Google also expands the most recent order.
I paused a video in YouTube's app for Android and got this message: "paused videos keep buffering if you leave the app". There's a background buffering feature and YouTube shows the how much data has been buffered. For example, "buffering 11.8/39 MB". YouTube videos are actually cached, so that's the reason why YouTube's cache can become huge.
When YouTube caches the entire video, you'll receive a notification which shows that the video is "ready to watch".
This is useful if you have a slow Internet connection: play a YouTube video, pause it, leave the app and wait until the video is cached. Then you can watch it.
An article from Indian Express mentioned in December that "Google will introduce pause buffer feature soon allowing users to pause video, leave it to buffer, even leave the app or site and let it continue buffering". Google CEO Sundar Pichai delivered a keynote speech at a Google India event in New Delhi and announced a lot of interesting features: "tap to translate" will be released this year, "Google will crowd source the data for its translate feature", "1.4 billion Android users in the world", "free WiFi at 100 railway stations in India by December 2016", "Internet access to Indians in their own language is the focus for Google in India".
Google Drive's apps for Windows and Mac got better. You can now select which subfolders to sync with your computer. Until now, you could only select the top-level folders.
Google Drive's sync options show the size of your individual subfolders and the space remaining on your computer, just in case you're running out of free disk space. Another new feature shows a warning when you're deleting or moving a file that's shared with other people.
The latest version of the Google Play Music app for iOS brings a new icon, a timer feature in the settings and an updated search bar that helps you find music faster.
There's a new "sleep timer" feature in the settings, which stops the music when timer ends. For example, you can set the timer and play your favorite tunes for falling asleep. A similar feature is available in the built-in Clock app for iOS and it works for any music app.
The new app icon is less recognizable than the old one and it's also asymmetric.