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A new Chrome feature automatically mutes multiple tabs

A new Chrome feature automatically mutes multiple tabs...

One of my favorite features of Chrome—that has since landed on other browsers—is the volume icon that appears when a tab is playing audio. Google took it one step further when it made it possible to click that icon and mute the noisy tab. Now, Google’s blazing a trail again with a new feature in the Chrome developer (Dev) channel called “manage audio focus,” as first spotted by Ghacks. This new feature automatically silences browser tabs that aren’t in use. Imagine you are on Facebook later today. You open a bunch of stories you found there in new tabs. Unfortunately, some of those new tabs have autoplay videos. Suddenly, a cacophony of news reports and how-to tips are coming through your headphones. With “manage audio focus” enabled, only the tab you are actually looking at will make noise. Well, more or less, but we’ll get to that in a second. This feature is only available in the Chrome Dev channel—an experimental version of Chrome that can have problematic bugs from time to time. If you’d rather stick to the mainstream, super-stable version of Chrome, don’t sweat it. I’ll update this story once the feature goes mainstream. For those who would like to be a little daring, check out our earlier tutorial on how to switch to different versions of Chrome—it’s easy. Once you’re on the dev channel, copy and paste the following into the address bar: chrome://flags/#enable-default-media-session. Look for the headline “Manage audio focus across tabs”—it should be highlighted. Click the drop-down menu below it and select Enabled. Now click the blue Relaunch Now button that just appeared at the bottom of the Chrome window. You’re all set to start using this feature. Open up Facebook and YouTube. Let the YouTube video start playing with sound. Next, move to Facebook and...nothing happens. That’s because the second tab hasn’t started playing audio yet. Scroll down your news feed until you hit a video (if your news feed is anything like mine it shouldn’t take long). As soon as that Facebook video starts autoplaying, the YouTube video stops. Now if you want to hear sound on Facebook you’ll have to unmute it since autoplaying videos start muted, but that’s just a quirk of the social network. Humor me and turn on the Facebook video’s sound, and then with the Facebook video playing go back to YouTube. Hit the play button on YouTube, the Facebook video stops. Magic. There are a few downsides to this feature right now: It only works with HTML5 video. If you hit a site that plays Flash (awkward!) the video will keep on playing sound and all. There is a version of this feature that silences Flash, but as this is the Chrome Dev channel Google currently flags the “Flash focus” option as “experimental.” In other words, it’s probably not worth the trouble at the moment. The good news is that most websites use HTML5 for video and those that do use Flash often fall back to HTML5 if Flash is disabled. The other problem is that this feature can fail from time to time, but it works well enough to be usable right now. If you’re not sold on the feature yet, or don’t want to switch Chrome channels, try using an extension that lets you manually mute multiple tabs pumping out audio. ...

Google's new PhotoScan app will transform your prints into digital images

Google's new PhotoScan app will transform your prints into digital images...

Google is offering a new solution for turning your old prints into digital photos. A new app called PhotoScan enables you to scan your prints with a smartphone and then save them to your Google Photos library. Google says the app will even detect the edges, straighten the image, eliminate glare, and properly crop it. Once the process is finished you’ll be able to access and edit the images right from the Google Photos app. You can get PhotoScan now in the App Store and Google Play. Speaking of Google Photos, there are also a few new tools for editing that are also rolling out. There’s a new and improved auto-enhance, some new filters, and more sophisticated editing tools. The Keyword There are more options for adding some filter-powered flair to your pictures. When you go to edit a photo you’ll see more options for tweaking the lighting, such as exposure, contrast, whites, highlights, and shadows. Additional tools are found for editing other elements of your pictures. The Keyword You can make more detailed edits with the new tools inside of Google Photos. The new tools are rolling out to the latest version of Google Photos for Android and iOS. The impact on you: PhotoScan is a pretty clever way to digitize old photos, which is often a challenge as you have to spend a long time using a scanner or send them to a specialized store for this service. The app also is a nice hook for Google Photos, as it may introduce a lot of people to the service since that’s the storage location for all of those new digital memories you create. ...

Google is launching RCS messaging on Sprint, with other carriers on the roadmap

Google is launching RCS messaging on Sprint, with other carriers on the roadmap...

The days of boring ol’ SMS may finally be coming to a close.  Google announced Friday that it’s launching Rich Communication Services (RCS) messaging for Android phones on Sprint. If you Google’s Messenger app, you’ll be able to flip the feature on and get real-time typing notifications, high-resolution photo sharing, read receipts, and other features. Google is supporting the new Universal Profile, which lets RCS services inter-operate between carriers and regions. The Keyword A better messaging experience is finally on the way. The switch may already have been flipped by the time Google made the announcement, as an Android Police report included screenshots from some Sprint users who were already being notified about the change. Android Police Look for a notice if enhanced services are coming to your Messenger app. If you’re one of the lucky ones to get the upgrade, you’ll apparently have to disable battery notifications, and then you’ll be able to toggle on a setting to “enable enhanced features.”  Google says it’s partnered with 58 carriers and manufacturers, which means that RCS could eventually hit a subscriber base of 4.7 billion people. The company’s purchase of Jibe is a key part of this effort, which is to build a universal platform for advanced messaging that any carrier can support. Android Police Once RCS shows up, you’ll be able to flip on specific features inside of Google’s Messenger app. We’ll be sure to keep tabs on the major U.S. carriers to see when they’re planning to jump aboard. Verizon support would also be key, considering that Google partnered exclusively with Big Red to sell the Pixel in carrier stores. The impact on you: It’s RCS, not Allo, that will bring the ubiquity of iMessage-style features to all. The reason iMessage works so well and has such wide adoption is twofold—it's the default messaging app, and it seamlessly supports both SMS and more advanced iMessage features. RCS has a similar approach, and can bake those type of helpful features like typing notifications and messaging over Wi-Fi without the need to sign up for another messaging service. ...

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