Friday, October 24, 2008

Google Adds Gmail Emoticons, Picasa 3 Video Editing And More

Google has been hard at work adding new features and making changes to several of their products. Most of the news focus this week has been around the release of the new G1 Android based phone, as well as Android market, however Google has been busy making some lesser know changes.

For isntance, Gmail will now feature emoticons. Long gone are the days of simple black and white mail that has dulled down Gmail for years. You'll now have the option to add in all the smilies, winks, waves (and a wide variety of other things) that you want.

Picasa 3, is another Google product that hasn't seen much of the limelight lately, however earlier this week the Official Google Photos Blog announced Picasa isn't just for photos anymore. Picasa 3 has added video support so users can easily manage all that newly shot video footage, just like it you would your Picasa photos.

Videos appear right alongside photos in your Library. But when you double-click any video, you'll enter the "Edit Room", which gives you playback controls and some straightforward editing features:
  • Zoom the video size with slider, play your video in full screen or rotate a video -- just like you do with photos.
  • Find a particular frame interesting? Go ahead and click the "Take Snapshot" button, and Picasa will capture the frame in its native size, saving it in a "Captured Videos" album for you.
  • Want to trim your video? The "In" and "Out" buttons allow you to set start and end points for your clip, or you can simply drag the two triangle markers under a video. Don't worry about making a mistake -- just like with its photo editing features, Picasa provides full Undo and Redo. If you're happy with your edits, and want to save the polished results, just click "Export Clip". Picasa will save a new copy in your "Exported Videos" album.
  • Did your digital camera generate a massive file for a short video? Many cameras don't do a great job compressing videos for easy sharing, but Picasa can help. When you click "Export Clip", Picasa will compress your movie into a smaller file, which saves disk space and makes uploading much faster.
If you'd like to get a little more creative with your video -- or turn a photo album into an entertaining slideshow movie with music, captions, and more -- be sure to check out the new Movie Maker tool in Picasa 3. The Movie Maker tool shines at creating fast, simple videos and helping you share them without a lot of fuss. To get started, simply select a few photos or video clips, then click the "Movie" button. There's lots of customized touches you can add:
  • Use different transitions like Pan or Zoom to create cool effects when going from one slide to the next.
  • Got MP3s? Add your own music soundtrack to your slideshows.
  • Select your video quality: create a YouTube-friendly videos at 320x240, or render High-Definition videos at 720p or 1080p.
  • Mix and match photo and video clips in your movies -- don't forget you can use the built-in webcam tool to create video, too.
  • Movie Maker lets you easily add title slides and end credits, but you can also use the text and collage tools in Picasa to get creative, and make the perfect photo slide to introduce your movie.
  • Like collages, you can always revisit a movie to make changes, add new pictures, or swap out the soundtrack. To do this, click the "Edit Movie" button at the top of the edit room when playing or viewing movie.

For you trick-or-treaters out there the Google Maps team has a nifty suggestion for anyone who is planning on heading out trick-or-treating next Friday, or who has kids that are: make a My Map of the route! Trace lines for which paths to take, and put icons to mark the important stops along the way, and share it with others so they can contribute too. And while you're plotting out your route, you can turn on Street View to make sure there are sidewalks, or get a feel for distances distance using walking directions.

Interested in WiFi-based geolocation? The Google Gears team has announced improvements in the Gears Geolocation API . They have just released a new version of Gears,, which contains an enhanced implementation of the Geolocation API. This new version uses WiFi access point signals to return significantly more accurate results, making it a lot more useful on laptop computers.

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