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I started using Google Photos after I reviewed it last year. It became my photo app of choice because I was amazed by its many new features including face recognition, unlimited free storage, and a fabulous photo assistant. I guess many of you also liked this full-featured app because in just one year Google Photos has amassed over 20 million active monthly users, making it one of the fastest growing consumer products in history.
Google has not sat on its laurels. Instead, they keep rolling out revisions and additions, and with each new version they add new capabilities. Unfortunately, Google has not made any big announcements about these new features. You just have to use it and keep exploring its many features. Here is just a sampling of how more you can now do with Google Photos.
First, the search feature has been unbelievably improved. As you can see from the screenshot below. You now see several recent searches, pictures of all of the people that Google has identified, types of photos, and locations. Included in types of photos are some very useful groups including: videos, selfies, screen shots, movies, animations, collages, creations, Google drive, and recently added.
As expected, the Google search is excellent. You can search by any combination of words. As long as you give people names, which I will cover later in this article, you can search for two people at the same time. You can search for a person and a place or a person and a thing. This is very, very useful if you have a large photo library. Google has thought of everything, you can search by year, color or even by emoji. Check this screen shot to see how Google Photos found all the birthday pictures when I entered the birthday cake emoji.
Another new feature is the ability to remove a picture from a group if Google has mistakenly identified it. To remove a photo or video from a group, just open that group and select the item you want to remove. At the top right, click more and then choose “Remove results”. This will not delete the photo or video from your Google Photos, it will simply remove it from that group.
To give a person a name or “label”, as Google calls it, you simply choose a face group and click “Who’s this?” as shown in this screen shot. Once this is done you can search for that person by name. If I name my own group “Sandy Berger”, I can also just search for “Sandy” as long as I am the only Sandy that I have named. Only you will see the private face labels you choose, even if you share those photos.
If you wind up with two groups of the same person, like one group when the person was younger and one when he or she is older, you can now easily merge the two. Just give them both the same name and Google will ask if you want to merge them.
Google has also added two new features that will help people show off their photos: slideshows and Google Chromecast support. As I write this users of the Desktop and Android apps can now display their photos in a slideshow. This feature is expected to also be available for the iPhone and iPad soon. To start a slideshow, just open the album, tap on a photo and select slideshow from the menu, as shown below.
Along with the slideshow feature, showing photos to a group just got easier. You no longer have to huddle around a tablet, phone or computer. You can now use a Chromecast to show your photos to a group on your large screen TV. Even if you don’t currently own a Chromecast, this $35 device won’t set you back much and it’s a must-have for anyone who wants to show off their photos from a recent trip.
Google Photos has always had the ability to cleverly combine similar images into an animated GIF. With more and more phones and cameras including a burst mode feature that takes several photos in a row, this feature has become even more useful. Google Photo’s Assistant will perform this task automatically. If you have started using the new Gboard keyboard, you can easily send these animated GIFs in an email or text message.
Google has made Google Photos a little easier to use with the addition of keyboard shortcuts for the desktop version. Just press Shift and the ? key to bring up the list of useful shortcuts.
Sharing options have also improved over the last year. Now you can also create a shared album for your family or other group. Every time someone adds a new photo, everyone in the group will get a notification and be able to see the new photo immediately.
Google has also greatly improved their help area for Google Photos. So if you haven’t looked at it for a while, be sure to check it out. You can find it in the Settings area.
My only disappointment with Google Photos is that I wish they had better editing and printing features. Since they had those features in the now retired Picasa, they might just add them to Google Photos. As the competition from Microsoft and Apple heats up, Google is sure to continue to add new features so they can continue to be a leader in the photo area. I’ll keep checking for new features hoping that this app turns into the perfect photo app for me.