Google Photos Releases a Major Update

Marc Schenker By Marc Schenker  |  Mar. 03, 2016

Google Photos, Google’s picture and video-sharing and storage service, has been upgraded to give users a bunch of new features aimed at improving ease of use. The changes affect both the desktop-web version and Android.

First up is what’s happening on desktop. Users who’ve been upset by Google Photos’ decision to abandon the Snapseed-based picture-editing tool of Google+ when Photos broke away from the faltering Google+ now have a reason to rejoice: the company has redesigned Photos’ editing tool, offering users more flexibility.

Previously, Google+ users had a fair answer to Adobe’s Photoshop when it came to the editing prowess of Google+’s Snapseed-based tool. While Snapseed is still around as an Android app, web users of Photos can now edit in a more practical way.

You’re now able to move between different images that you’re editing, and you won’t lose work completed. Photos will just save the changes, and, when you’ve finished making edits, you can click on either “Done” or “Revert to Original,” should you choose not to keep the changes.

A new aspect ratio selector brings more flexibility into the mix as well. It allows users to crop to four, distinct sizes: square, original size, 4:3 and 16:9.

Before these updates, Photos had some picture-editing options, but they were limited. For instance, you were able to manually change brightness and color and apply a few predefined filters. Images could be cropped, rotated vertically or horizontally, angled up to 45 degrees to the left or right. All of your changes could then be applied and permanently saved or discarded by returning the image to its original condition.

The company also announced on the same day design changes to its Android app. The biggest addition is the presence of a new bottom bar that makes switching between features like Assistant, new Albums and Photos a cinch. The end result: You can use more of your time to look at pictures instead of flipping between these menus. Even tapping your selections has been made more efficient due to the addition of bigger buttons at the top of the screen in Assistant.

Albums used to be known as Collections, a change made to reflect user feedback. Albums comes with a scrolling carousel on top that provides instant access to shared places, people, albums, device folders, movies, collages and animations. The company promises that these changes will be made available on iOS soon.

Earlier, these features were stashed off to the side in a sidebar, but the new interface means greater accessibility, as simply getting them right from the footer menu will be a boon to app navigation.

Initially, Google built Photos into the Google+ social network, but its failure to ever really find traction and begin competing with a powerhouse like Facebook caused the company to focus instead on Photos, leading it to be offered as a standalone service. With these new features, the company is certainly reinforcing its commitment to its picture and video-sharing and storage service.