Google Android Gets Improved Apps for Drive, Chrome

The Google Drive App promises to be simpler to use, while the new Chrome for Android app delivers easier Web searching.

Google's Android team has unveiled new apps to improve the company's Drive and Chrome services for Android users.

The new Google Drive app for Android now incorporates several changes to simplify its operation for users, wrote Denis Teplyashin, a Google software engineer, in a May 22 post on the Official Android Blog.

"The process of creating and accessing your stuff shouldn't be, well ... a process," wrote Teplyashin. "To help you find the content you care about, Drive files will now be displayed in a clean, simple card-style. You can swipe between files to see large previews that let you quickly review and discover the information you're looking for. And if you want to keep some Drive files on your Android device, you'll now be able to 'download a copy' from the actions menu inside settings."

Also highlighting the new version is the ability to now keep track of important paper documents such as receipts, letters and billing statements, he wrote. "Simply click 'Scan' from the Add New menu, snap a photo of your document, and Drive will turn the document into a PDF that's stored for safekeeping. And because Drive can recognize text in scanned documents using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology, a simple search will retrieve the scanned document later. No more frantic scrambling through drawers looking for a receipt or digging through your pockets to find that business card—just scan, upload and search in Drive."

Users of Google Sheets also gain several new features, Teplyashin wrote, including the ability to adjust font types and sizes for a spreadsheet and tweak the cell text colors and cell alignment right from the app. Users can also now print anything from Drive with a Cloud Ready printer.

For Chrome for Android users, the good news is that using Chrome on your Android devices now includes improved search and full-screen browsing capabilities.

"Today's Chrome for Android stable update, now available on Google Play, makes searching on the go even simpler," wrote Google software engineers Yusuf Ozuysal and Milan Broum in a May 22 post on the Google Chrome Blog. "You can now see your search queries in the [search] omnibox instead of the long search URL, so you can easily refine them and view more results."

Another new feature is that Web pages now also display in full screen on smartphones, according to the post. "As you scroll, the top toolbar disappears so you can immerse yourself in the web page content. When you scroll up, the toolbar returns so you can get on to the next thing."

Still to come soon will be a Chrome update for iPhone and iPad users that will include a conversational search capability that will let Chrome search respond to spoken requests for information, according to the post.

That feature showed up in the Chrome 27 desktop Web browser on May 21, as it was released to users. The conversational speech capability is apparent on first glance of the new Chrome search box. Once updated to Version 27, users will see a small microphone icon on the right side of the search box that, when clicked, lets users verbally ask Chrome to help with a search.

The conversational search feature was unveiled earlier in May at the Google I/O 2013 Developers Conference, where it was announced as an upcoming capability in Chrome. Google apparently wasted no time bringing the feature to Chrome.

Presently, the feature requires users to click on the microphone icon to make their verbal requests. But over time, users will be able to perform searches by voice alone—without the need for a click of the microphone, according to Google.