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Google Classroom goes mobile in this month’s Google Apps updates [February]

Notable new features:


  • Google Classroom mobile app
  • New Hangouts features, such as “away message”
  • Docs, Sheets, and Slides added to the App Launcher

    Upcoming changes to NPAPI support in Chrome, impact on audio dialing in Google Talk

    In September 2013, Google announced their plan to remove NPAPI support from Chrome, a change that will improve Chrome’s security, speed and stability. They gave some more details on timing and expected changes last November. The first of those changes will take place with the launch of Chrome 40 to the stable channel, currently planned for next week.

    Currently Chrome supports NPAPI plugins, but with the exception of a small number of whitelisted extensions―including Google Talk―they are blocked by default unless the user chooses to allow them. With the launch of Chrome 40 to the stable channel, They’ll no longer use the whitelist to allow certain NPAPI plugins to run without requiring user approval. As a result, people using Google Talk on Chrome 40 will see a ‘Plug-in blocked’ notification in their browser bar, requiring a one-time approval in order for the Talk service, specifically audio calls, to function. The approval will be recorded and remembered.

    If this approval is not granted, users will also be prompted to run the plugin within the Talk UI when attempting to make or receive calls.

    When They launch Chrome 41 to the stable channel in March, this approval will be required every time the browser is loaded and with the launch of Chrome 42 in April, NPAPI support will be disabled by default in Chrome. At that time, audio calls in Talk will start operating through the Hangouts dialer (and will require Google Voice to be enabled for standard telephone calls. Hangouts Chat does not need to be enabled for the Hangouts dialer to work).

    In preparation for these upcoming changes, Apps admins from domains using Google Talk on Chrome 40 should inform their users to expect to see the ‘Plug-in blocked’ notifications. Longer term, this is a useful opportunity for admins to consider switching from Talk to Hangouts Chat, which does not require a plugin on Chrome.


    New status menu, bandwidth control for Google Drive for Mac/PC

    Google Drive for Mac/PC syncs any or all of your files to Google Drive on the web, making them available anywhere, at any time, on any device. It also provides secure cloud-based storage for your files.

    A new version of Google Drive for Mac/PC is rolling out this week, featuring a new, more visually rich status menu. The menu allows people using Google Drive for Mac/PC to more clearly follow their sync status, including guidance on already synced files, files currently syncing and files yet to be synced. When you hover over a recently synced file, you’ll see an icon that saves you steps by letting you share it right from the menu:

    You can also now choose to limit how much bandwidth Drive consumes while syncing your files for those times when you need extra bandwidth for something else. You can do that in the Advanced section of the Preferences menu.


    A Classroom mobile app and new desktop options for teachers

    Today Google is launching a native Classroom mobile app for both Android and iOS to help teachers and students be more collaborative in the classroom and save even more paper and time:

    New with the mobile app, students and teachers can:


  • Snap a photo: Right from the assignment page in the mobile app, students can snap a photo and attach it to their assignment.
  • Share from other apps: Students can also easily attach images, PDFs and web pages from other apps to their assignments.
  • Offline caching: Class streams and assignment information are automatically cached every time you open the app with an Internet connection, so that you can see them when you don’t have a connection.

    They’re also launching two new desktop features to help teachers stay organized as they head into the second half of the year:


  • Teacher Assignments Page: On Classroom for desktop, they’re launching a teacher assignments page, where teachers will be able to get quick access to any assignment, see how many students are done and mark assignments as reviewed.
  • Archive Classes: Google also knows that classes don’t go on forever —that’s why today they’re launching the ability to archive classes. Archiving a class will remove it from the home page and make it read-only — teachers and class members can still view valuable information in archived classes, but can’t make any changes or turn in assignments.


    Docs, Sheets, and Slides added to the App Launcher

    As announced last month, the Docs editors―Docs, Sheets, and Slides―have now been added to the App Launcher. The editors icons are on the first screen of the App Launcher, along with your other Google Apps products:

    Groups and Contacts were moved to the ‘More’ screen to make room.


    Images in frozen sections in Google Sheets

    People using Google Sheets will now be able to add images to frozen sections. This is helpful for prettying up invoices, reports and other spreadsheets where you want to feature a logo or image:

    To insert an image in a frozen section, select a cell in the row and click on Insert > Image. You can then resize and move your image to fit the section or rows as needed.


    Better search experience for Hangouts in Gmail

    To make it easier to find and connect with your work contacts in Hangouts in Gmail, Google will now display them as a distinct group as you start typing in the search box. The work contacts will appear below any contacts (work or personal) that you regularly Hangout with, so you can always find your most frequently contacted colleagues and friends.


    Search improvements in the Gmail iOS app for Google Apps customers

    Google Apps customers using the Gmail iOS app will now see query suggestions when searching their email. The query suggestions are shown in a drop down as a query is typed and are tailored to the content in your email, so you can save time and get the information you want faster than ever before―same as the experience in Gmail on the web:

    Note: This launch does not apply to Google Apps for Government customers


    “Last seen” indication in Hangouts

    To make it easier to know when people using Hangouts are available to chat, Google has added timestamps as part of status (e.g. ‘last seen 2h ago’), indicating when one was last using Hangouts:

    Individuals can control whether this info is shared from Hangouts chat settings.

    This feature is now available on Hangouts in Gmail (gradual rollout), as well as on the latest versions of the Hangouts Android and iOS apps.


    Custom status messages on the Hangouts iOS app

    As launched recently for Hangouts in Gmail, the latest version of the Google Hangouts iOS app now includes the ability to add custom status messages and see the status messages of others in the Contacts view. Status messages can be added via the settings menu.

    Note: status messages shared on one device will also apply to other devices on which one is signed in with their Hangouts account.

    This feature is coming soon for the Hangouts Android app.


    Easier guest access to Hangouts video calls on iOS

    Last year, Google announced a new feature for Hangouts on the web allowing Google Apps customers to share links to Hangouts video calls so that external meeting guests may request to join if not explicitly invited. This feature helps external guests avoid errors when joining with alternate Google accounts.

    The latest release of the Hangouts iOS app now has the same functionality, allowing external guests using the app to join Hangouts video calls from their mobile device with a meeting link provided by the organizer.

    Anyone in the same domain as the Hangout can make a video call externally accessible with the link
    Video calls that are shared with the link require someone in the Apps domain of the Hangout video call to accept those requesting access on the web

    This feature will be coming soon to the Hangouts Android app


    Gmail labels in Google Vault email search results

    To make it easier for Google Apps admins to locate specific emails in Google Vault search, Gmail labels are now included in search results. Admins can now view both system labels―i.e. the status of the message as viewed by the user – Unread, Inbox, Spam, Sent, etc―and user-applied labels:

    To view Gmail labels and basic header information for a message, click show details in your Vault search results.

    Gmail user label metadata will also now be included in XML file exports to aid with deeper analysis.


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