Google+ is often the butt of many jokes in the tech world.
Google’s attempt at recreating a social network to rival Facebook or Twitter has largely failed to go mainstream. (Google would argue otherwise, pointing to engagement stats like shared news stories, YouTube comments, and the like.)
But buried beneath Google’s Facebook clone is one of the most useful tools on the Web. And you’d be crazy not to start using it.
It’s the photo tool, which can be used to store all your photos in virtual albums that are automatically organised and edited by Google’s impressive algorithms.
It’s better than Facebook’s photo albums. It’s better than Dropbox’s new Carousel app. It’s better than Flickr. And for iPhone users, it’s much better than iCloud, which is confusing to use and charges you for extra storage.
Google+ photo albums got a big overhaul last year, and I’ve been using the tool ever since. For me, Google+ is a pretty terrible social network since none of my friends are active on it. So instead of using Google+ as a way to communicate, I use it to store and organise all my photos.
You should too.
My favourite part about the service is how it automatically organizes your photos using data stored along with the images. Most smartphones and digital cameras these days store what’s called metadata inside the file, which includes the location a photo was shot plus the date. Google+ can peer into that metadata and automatically sort your photos. It makes everything much easier to find. It also automatically picks out your best photos and adds them to a section called “Highlights” for easy browsing.
For example, I took over 500 photos on a recent business trip to South Korea. Google+ organised them all very nicely.
Here’s what Highlights looks like:
I’m also a fan of Google+’s Auto Awesome feature, which can automatically detect photos taken in quick succession and create animated GIFs. Here’s one Google+ created for me out of a series of photos I took of my friends messing around at a bar:
Auto Awesome can also automatically remove blurred portions of images for a perfect photo and add effects like snow and twinkling lights:
Finally, there’s no limit to how many photos you can store in Google+. You can also store images at their full size, but it will count against your Google Drive storage limit. Still, Google is very generous with Google Drive storage. Each user gets 15 GB at no charge. That’s more than enough for the average user’s photo collection, and a lot more than the 5 GB Apple gives you for free with your iCloud account or the 2 free gigabytes from Dropbox.
If you’re going to make the switch to Google+ photos, my best tip would be to download the Google+ app to your iPhone or Android phone and enable automatic uploads. That means every photo or video you take will automatically upload to your account, so you don’t have to worry about missing a moment. (You’ll be prompted to enable automatic photo uploads when you first sign into the app. You can also switch it on in settings.)