Understanding the New Google Photos

By Chantal Bechervaise

I have been using the new Google Photos since it launched about two weeks ago. Google Photos is a new, standalone storage app for photos and videos, with some cool new features that were previously only available in Google+.

Automatically Backup Your Photos and Videos

I admit that I forget to backup my photos to the cloud from my phone, tablet and Chromebook. I usually remember when I go looking for a particular photo to email to a friend or to post on Twitter and realize it is not on the device that I am using. I have a Homer Simpson moment – ‘Doh!’ – and have to figure out where I can find the original photo.

Now with Google Photos, I can automatically backup my photos and videos from across all my devices just as long as I am logged into my Google account. I don’t have to worry about which device the photo was originally on. I can access all my photos on any of my devices and even my desktop.

Tip: You can also upload all your old photos from your desktop with the Google Photos Uploader by going to photos.google.com. The desktop version is available for Windows and Mac users.


Google Photos provides free, unlimited storage but will automatically compress photos that are larger than 16 megapixels, or videos larger than 1080p. If you would like to save and store higher resolution photos, there is an option available in Google Photos called ‘Original.’ These images will then count against your Google Drive storage.

Google Drive allows you to sync and save up to 15 GB free of charge. After you reach 15 GB, Google Drive will prompt you to pay for extra storage space ($1.99 a month for 100 GB or $9.99 a month for 1 TB). I am currently using the free, unlimited option with my photos. I find the compressed versions fine to sort through and share on social media.

Let the Organizing Begin

Once you have uploaded or taken a bunch of pictures and have saved them in Google Photos, this is where the fun begins. Google Photos will use facial recognition and geotagging to sort and organize your photos into the following categories: people, places, and things. You can further organize your own photos into albums and timelines, referred to as ‘stories’ in Google Photos.

Having your photos organized by category also helps when you are trying to locate a particular photo. For example, if I am trying to find a photo of my dog, I can do a keyword search using the word ‘dog’ or by the place the photo was taken (e.g. ‘beach’).


This is my favorite feature of the new Google Photos. If you missed the Assistant when opening Google Photos, you can locate the menu on the left hand side of your screen. It is accessed by either a slide-in panel (on the app or website) or by simply swiping to the right across the main gallery view page.

Photos-AssistantAssistant provides information about your photos using cards similar to those used by Google Now. These cards provide information, such as your photos are being backed up, your phone is waiting to charge before uploading photos, and when new ‘Creation’ cards appear.

Creation cards indicate some sort of action that the app would like you to perform or accept. I received a creation card for a color photo I took of the parliament buildings in Ottawa. It provided me with an option to save it as a black and white photo. You can accept the action or suggestion by tapping on the card or dismiss it by swiping it away.

Most of the time there will be no actions to take and the Assistant will display the message ‘All caught up.’ You can set up notifications in the Assistant menu so that you don’t need to check for Creation cards all the time. The app will notify you if there is anything that needs your input.

One of the best uses of Assistant is when you have taken a lot of sequential photos of the same thing. Sometimes you might take a series of photos from slightly different angles or to capture that ‘perfect’ action shot. Assistant can take those photos and compile them to create an animation or collage.

Assistant will also detect pictures that are similar and stitch them together to create panoramic shots. Even if you are on vacation and didn’t intend to take a panorama of the beach, Assistant will detect the similarity of the photos and location and create the panorama for you.


As with all cloud services, security and privacy can be an issue. According to Google, Google Photos provides the same security and privacy as their other products. Google will not share your information with others unless you explicitly choose to do so. I recommend using strong passwords for your Google account to help protect information across all their products. If you are not sure how to create a safe and strong password, read this article.

You can learn more about Google Photos on their About Page or leave a comment/question below.

CBechervaise67Chantal is located in Ottawa, Ontario. She is passionate about everything related to the World of Work: Leadership, HR, Social Media and Technology. You can read more from Chantal at her TakeItPersonelly blog or follow her on Twitter @CBechervaise.

Thursday, June 18: A Special WWEmoms Twitter Event

A Special WWEmoms Twitter Event


When:  TODAY, Thursday, June 18, 2015
7:00 – 8:00 pm ET
4:00 – 5:00 pm PT

Featuring WWE Superstar Titus O’Neill

‘Take Time to Be a Dad Today’

Join @WWEmoms and special guests WWE Superstar @TitusONeilWWE, Rowena Patrick, Vice President, Campaign Director, @AdCouncil  and David Miller, Social Media Manager @Fatherhoodgov TODAY at 7 pm ET as we discuss responsible Fatherhood and the various resources available at Fatherhood.gov!
WWE Superstars Titus O’Neil and Roman Reigns are inspiring dads throughout the country to get more involved in their children’s lives. WWE has joined the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families’ Office of Family Assistance, the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse, and the Ad Council to encourage dads to recognize their critical role and give them the resources to get more involved in their children’s lives.
The campaign communicates to fathers that their presence is essential to their children’s well-being and emphasizes that “the smallest moments can have the biggest impact on a child’s life.”
RSVP and attend the party for a chance to win:
a Nike FuelBand;
a Nikon Coolpix S8200 Digital Camera;
or a WWE Bundled Prize Pack, including a $100 WWEShop.com Gift Card!

(Click here to learn more about our Twitter chats. You must RSVP and attend the party to be eligible for a prize.)

  1. Email RSVP@theonlinemom.com (subject line: WWEdads) and include your Twitter ID
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed:  http://ow.ly/O5WPP
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#WWEdads) today between 7 – 8 pm ET
  4. Tell your Twitter followers!
PRIZE WINNERS will be announced during the Party!

(The Online Mom LLC receives a fee for participating in certain promotional programs for WWE.)

Apps to Get Your Kids Outside This Summer

By Tracey Dowdy

As a kid growing up on the east coast, summer meant long days outside playing with my sisters and our friends. Our moms shooed us outside after breakfast and we’d spend the day building forts in the woods behind our house, climbing trees, riding our bikes to the canteen, reading Nancy Drew mysteries on a blanket, simply filling our days with everyday adventures. We’d land at one friend or another’s house for lunch and stay out till dinner, then back out again until it was too dark to see and our moms called us in.

Since I’m obviously a dinosaur, someone for whom the technology of my childhood means a Casio digital watch, my summers look a lot different from what most kids experience today. Our kids live in a digital, virtual world. How do we get them to put down their devices and go outside to play? How do we convince them that planting seeds and watching them grow in the real world is more fun than watching on a touch screen? By giving them the best of both worlds of course!

These apps are designed to get your kids connected to the great outdoors. They’re fun, educational and limited only by imagination.

Disneynature Explore

disneynatureDisneynature Explore is an augmented reality app for kids taking them outside to explore the habitat of five realistic, animated animals. Kids choose Explore or Journal & Photos to learn about the animal’s habits, look for specific colors and patterns and take pictures of the environment. Audio as well as visual cues help kids through the activities, although kids may need your help for some of the options. There’s a special section for parents with important tips on starting conversations with your kids about the environment; for example the sea-turtle’s habitat is impacted by plastic bags in the ocean. It’s a great opportunity for parents to start a conversation about how we can be better global citizens and how something as simple as a reusable shopping bag can make a big difference. (Free – iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad)

Meet the Insects

meet-the-insectsMeet the Insects gives your budding entomologist the chance to get up close and personal with creepy crawlies. The app is organized into five main areas: Multimedia, Insect Story, Observation Journal, See Insects, and Quiz. The app is full of interesting facts, beautiful photos, illustrations, and media resources. Although packed with information, content is age-appropriate and easy for kids to follow. They can read, watch videos, check out images using the virtual magnifying glass, keep an insect journal, plus a host of other activities. Different versions are available in the app store: Water and Grass Edition, Village Edition, and Forest Edition. ($4.99 – iPad)

Audubon Guides Box Set

audubonAudubon Guides are the most trusted field guides in North America. This four-in-one app gives you a comprehensive look at all the flora and fauna in your backyard and beyond. The box set combines the guides for Trees, Mammals, Birds and Wildflowers with thousands of gorgeous photos, offers search capability by common name, (first, last, or scientific), and provides information on habitats and migration patterns. Nature Share allows users to track and note sightings by location and share via social media without ever leaving the app. Best of all, the photos, maps and calls are available without Wi-Fi making information accessible virtually everywhere. ($14.99 – iOS, Android)

DIY – Skills for Kids

DIYDIY – Skills for Kids is the companion app of the DIY website aimed at teens and tweens who want to design and create their own DIY projects – think summer camp arts and crafts time. Participation requires creating an account that sends parents an email for approval. Kids don’t need access to a workshops as the app offers projects for virtually any skill set – Backyard Farmer, Fashion Designer, Woodworker, Minecrafter, or Animator – everything from making a duct tape wallet to building a pond in the backyard. Kids can share images of their finished projects and earn badges that are posted at the top of their page.  The online community is supportive and parents get a message every time kids post. (Free – iOS)

National Parks by National Geographic

national-parksNational Parks by National Geographic is a comprehensive guide to 25 of America’s national parks from Acadia to Zion and points between. Whether you’re planning a road trip and looking to make the most of your visit or need a way to spend a rainy day, this app is a must. Stunning photos, thousands of points of interest with GPS coordinates included, where to stay, what to do, social media integration, collectible stamps – in other words, everything you’d expect from National Geographic. (Free – iOS/Android)

GeoCaching Buddy

geocachingIs there a better way to get your kids outside than taking the whole family on a treasure hunt? The answer of course is no! Geocaching is simply a real world, outdoor treasure hunt using GPS to find your coordinates. Geocaching Buddy helps you manage a list of caches from a variety of sites, includes an in-app compass, embedded images and log notes for paperless caching, calculates waypoints (coordinates), backs up your information by email, and even remembers where you parked the car so getting home doesn’t become a whole new adventure. ($7.99 – iOS/Android)

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Essential Smartphone Apps

By Tracey Dowdy

There are over a million apps to choose from in both iTunes and the Google Play store and, for many of us, choosing which apps are worthwhile can seem daunting. In addition, all smartphones come with native software, so how do you know if your navigation or messaging app is the best for your needs?

Thankfully, more and more developers are creating apps that are multi-platform, making it possible to use a PC and an iPhone but still have your apps available on both devices. I could have used the example of someone with a MacBook Air and an Android phone but those people don’t exist; they’re mythical, like unicorns or one-size-fits-all clothing.

So whether you have recently purchased a smartphone or you are looking to get more from the smartphone you already have, here are a few apps that will help you become more productive


As smartphones have moved away from single function devices and evolved into fully functional palm-sized laptops, it has become essential to ensure adequate file storage and accessibility of data. DropBox is arguably the best known cloud storage service: it works across multiple mobile platforms; it offers 2GB of storage for free; plus, you can earn up to 500MB for each referral you get (up to 18GB).

When it comes to storage, the new kid on the block is Copy by Barracuda. Also cross-platform accessible, Copy offers 15 GB of storage for free, while paid plans are also available. One of Copy’s best features is that they “split the bill” on shared files, since in reality the file is only hosted once. Instead of a 5GB file being counted against each person in the group, Copy splits the tally among the various users making your storage go even further.


WhatsApp (free for iOS, Android, Windows Phone) has quickly become the world’s most popular messaging app. Once downloaded, WhatsApp uses your phone number and integrates with your contacts to allow you to send texts, pictures, voice and video messages to individuals or groups. It also enables you to texts overseas with no additional cost or changes to your cell phone plan.

Phone Locator

If you’ve ever experienced the cold dread and blind panic of losing your phone, get some help because that’s not healthy! Once you’ve talked to your therapist, you need to download Find My Phone (free for iOS) or Device Manager (free for Android). Both apps allow you to locate your phone and, if necessary, remotely lock it down or wipe it completely, so your personal data doesn’t end up in the wrong hands.


Google Maps is my hands down favorite app for getting from A to B. I don’t have the science or test results to back it up but I know I am missing the gene that should provide me with a sense of direction. I could get lost walking around my kitchen table! Google Maps is user-friendly with a streamlined interface that not only offers a choice of routes by car, bus or walking, but maps in real-time, so if traffic is backed up or there’s an accident, the app will re-route you. The app features turn by turn instructions either on-screen or by voice, Street View if you’re in an unfamiliar area and don’t know what the location actually looks like, and the capability to book a reservation through integration with Open Table.

Waze, also owned by Google, takes a different approach by crowdsourcing much of the information, so up to the minute traffic data is more accurate. Waze also connects to social media accounts like Facebook and Foursquare and recently incorporated an Amber Alert feature. Personally, I use Google Maps if I’m headed somewhere I’m not familiar with, especially if I’m walking, and I use Waze to avoid traffic delays.

What apps do you use that you just can’t live without?

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

9 Favorite Apps for Planning and Organizing Vacations

By Chantal Bechervaise

School is almost out and it’s time to start thinking about family vacations and activities. There are many apps out there to help you plan a trip and stay organized. Here are 9 of my favorites – they will help alleviate the stress of planning and preparing for your next trip.

Not Sure Where To Go?

1)      Minube (Android and iOS)

Not sure where you want to go this summer? Need some inspiration? Then this is the app for you. Minube can help you discover the best things to see and do, book flights and hotels, and make restaurant reservations. Minube does not end there – use it to sort and store vacation photos as well.

Price: Free

2)      Pinterest (Android and iOS)

Pinterest is one of my favorite apps – and not just for travel planning. It is easy to waste (er…spend) quality hours on it. Search for vacation ideas and let your imagination soar! The guided search feature can help provide suggestions as you type in search requests. You can also create your own Pinterest boards with different destinations, activities and places to eat. Think of Pinterest as an online scrapbook that you can take with you everywhere.

Price: Free

3)      Gogobot (Android and iOS)

This is another great app which lets you brainstorm places to visit but also lets you build a sample itinerary which you can share with family and friends.

Price: Free

Road Trip

4)      Along The Way (iOS)

Going on a road trip instead of flying somewhere? If you are an Apple user, you will want to download this app. Along The Way will help you find and discover venues, attractions, and gems along the way to your destination. Instead of just searching around you, search your route for anything, including food, sights, recreation, and more.

Price: $2.99

5)      Gas Buddy (Android, iOS and BlackBerry)

Find the cheapest gas anywhere in the US or Canada. You can also search for gas by location and estimate the cost of gas for a whole trip.

Price: Free

All Booked – Stay Organized

6)      TripIt (Android and iOS)

This app is the place to put all your travel information and keep it in one convenient location. No need to worry about all the different emails with flight information, hotel bookings, car reservations, etc. You send all the information as you receive it to TripIt and the app organizes it into an interactive itinerary which you can pull up on your phone. The TripIt app also includes simple explanations on how to use it.

Price: There is a free version which is adequate if you don’t travel too much and works well for family vacations. The paid Pro version works out to be $50 a year if you want access to seat upgrades and flight alerts.

Don’t Forget to Pack

7)      Packing Pro (iOS)

Packing Pro is a list building tool which you can organize by category. Select what you want for your list from a catalogue of over 800 items. If the item is not in the catalogue, you can add it yourself. This app is also great for planning day trips and weekend getaways. Never forget that charger cable again!

Price: $2.99

You Have Finally Arrived At Your Destination

8)      Google Translate (Android and iOS)

If you are traveling to a foreign country and don’t know the language, this app can help you. Google Translate supports 80 different languages and also works offline, although you have to download a large data pack beforehand.

Price: Free

9)      Foursquare

This app is great at helping you discover things to see and do near you – monuments, museums, parks, places to eat, etc. It does not provide reviews like Yelp does, but it is an easy app to navigate on the go. Other Foursquare members generally leave useful tips for you.

What are your favorite travel apps?

CBechervaise67Chantal is located in Ottawa, Ontario. She is passionate about everything related to the World of Work: Leadership, HR, Social Media and Technology. You can read more from Chantal at her TakeItPersonelly blog or follow her on Twitter @CBechervaise.

Tech Gifts for Grads

By Tracey Dowdy

Finding just the right gifts for today’s tech savvy grads can be challenging. But whether they’re heading off to college in the Fall or about to start a new career, the perfect gift is out there and we’re here to help you find it.


Everyone loves a good pair of headphones and whether your grad will use them to listen to “Eye of the Tiger” during a workout or catch a favorite podcast on the way to work, there’s a vast selection from which to choose.  Your options range from less expensive but good quality JVC HA-S400 Carbon Nanotube headphones for under $30, featuring comfortable padding, fold-flat capability and excellent sound quality for the price point, all the way up to $400 Beats By Dre with high-end sound quality, noise cancellation and a maid that will clean your grad’s apartment. Okay, maybe not the maid part.

Choose tiny ear buds that you can tuck in a pocket or purse or DJ-style padded over-the-ear headphones. There are also behind the neck headsets, waterproof headsets, and a variety of wired and wireless Bluetooth options.


Depending on the level of ambient noise in the room, the speaker volume of my iPad is less than adequate. I’d describe it as a loud whisper, like when your Nana wants to tell you a secret. If you are going to play music from your mobile devices, external speakers are a must.

Just as with headphone options, there are a multitude of wireless speakers that provide high quality sound at reasonable prices. The Logitech X300 Mobile Wireless Stereo Speaker (under $70) features a built-in rechargeable battery that lasts up to 5 hours and has a built-in microphone that doubles as a mobile speaker for phone calls. The Sol Republic Punk (under $50) is water- and shock-resistant and offers solid sound levels for its small size with minimal distortion. It has a sizeable battery life (8 hours) and offers an extended wireless range of up to 60 feet.

Wireless Keyboard

Touch screens are great until you need to compose a long message or type out an email. Wireless keyboards are ideal for when you need to turn that tablet or smartphone into an impromptu computer. The Logitech K480 Bluetooth keyboard works across all platforms – iOS, Android, Windows – and can link with up to three devices at a time. It offers a built-in tray across the top which acts as a stand for most tablets or smartphones and at under $50 it’s a bargain.

If your grad is all about going green, the Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K760 pairs with up to three Apple devices and can be charged by any light source, so you never have to replace batteries.  At just under $80 it’s a little more expensive than the K480 and Apple’s own Wireless Keyboard which is priced at $69.

Streaming Media Players

Help cut the cord literally and figuratively when you send them on the way with alternatives to cable. Whether grads are on campus or moving into an apartment, many are choosing to bypass cable and stream their entertainment choices instead. Price at $100, the Roku 3 has a speedy processor, user-friendly interface, and offers over 2,000 channels, including Netflix, Amazon Instant, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, Pandora, MLB.TV, Amazon Cloud Player, Vudu and Youtube.  It can search across platforms for specific content, and the remote comes with a built-in headphone jack.

If your grad has a lot of Apple devices or has a significant library of music and videos on iTunes, Apple TV could be a better choice. Apple constantly refreshes content and has dropped the price of its Apple TV system to just $69.

It’s cliché to say but graduation isn’t the end, it’s the beginning. Heading out on that journey with fun and innovative technology in your backpack or briefcase can make that new adventure a little less scary and a lot more fun.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.