Search your Handwritten Notes with Gmail OCR

One of the most useful features of Evernote and OneNote is Image OCR.  When you clip an image – be it a screenshot, a scanned business card, or a picture of the whiteboard – these tools automatically detect the text inside the image and make the image searchable.

Gmail Gets OCR to Search for Text Within Images

Gmail text search has always been very capable but some might not know that Gmail, like Evernote, also performs OCR on images contained in email messages. When you perform searches inside Gmail or Google Inbox, the results always contain matching images that contain the search keywords.

I tried Gmail OCR search against different types of images and the results were fairly good. Text recognition in Gmail works for both image attachments as well as inline embedded images.

Gmail could successfully find matching text inside product manuals with small fonts, scanned book cover and a handwritten note but failed with logos and some street signs.

Scanned Picture (Pass)

book-cover

Handwritten Note (Pass)

handwritten-note

Product manual with small fonts (Pass)

scanned-product-manual

Street Sign (Fail)

street-signs

Extract Text from Images from Google Keep

Google Drive and Google Keep are other Google products that offer you the ability to search for text within stored images. In the case of Google Keep, you also have the option to extract the text detected inside in an image and store it within the note itself.

google-keep-ocr.png

Developers can use Google’s Cloud Vision API, or Microsoft’s Computer Vision API, to incorporate OCR technology into their own apps with few lines of code.

Also see: Reverse Image Search on Mobile

Voice Dictation – Type with your Voice

Introducing the all-new Voice Dictation v2.0, a speech recognition app that lets you type with your voice. There’s no software to install, there’s no training required and all you need is Google Chrome on your Windows PC, Mac OS or Linux.

Dictation can recognize spoken words in English, Hindi, Español, Italiano, Deutsch, Français, and all the other popular languages. Another unique feature of Dictation is support for voice commands that let you do more with your voice. For instance, you can say a command like new line or nueva línea for inserting lines. You can add punctuations, special symbols and even smileys using simple commands in most languages.

This YouTube video will walk you through the Dictation app.

Open Dictation

How to use Dictation for Speech Recognition

Dictation stores everything in your browser locally and not a byte of your data is uploaded anywhere.  Speech recognition will be more accurate in a quiet environment and the built-in microphone of your computer should be good enough.

Open dictation.io in Google Chrome and choose your native language from the drop-down. Then click the microphone icon (or tap the Start button) to activate web speech and start speaking.

The first time you use Dictation, you would need to allow permissions to the website to access your microphone.  Also, make sure that no other browser tab is using Speech Recognition at the same time.

allow-microphone-access.png

As you speak, your voice is continuously converted into text in real time. There are no limits o and when you are done with dictation, you can click the “Stop” button or say “Go to Sleep” to turn off speech recognition.

Speech to Text with Dictation

Dictation supports speech to text as well so you can listen to the transcribed audio in any of the available voices. You can alter the speed and pitch of the playback with simple controls.

Publish to the Web

Dictation includes a WYSIWYG editor to help you format the transcribed text. You can copy the rich-text to the clipboard with a click and paste into other apps like Gmail or Microsoft Word with the formatting.

You also have the “Publish” button to anonymously publish your note to the Internet and this page can only be accessed by users who know the link.

dictation.voice.png

Convert Recorded Audio to Text

If you have an MP3 file that you would like to transcribe to text, Dictation can help you do that well. Choose the language on dictation.io, click the start button, then play the audio file on your mobile and watch as the words are converted into text in real time. See demo.

Dictation – The Technical Stuff

Dictation uses the HTML5 Web Speech API that is currently implemented only in Google Chrome on the desktop. For Text to Speech, it uses the SpeechSynthesis interface of the Web Speech API that is available in Chrome, Microsoft Edget and Firefox.

The rich-text editor is built with Quill while the voice command interface is made possible with Annyang. Dictation uses the Github API to publish dictated notes online as anonymous gists.

How to Embed Music in your Google Slides Presentation

Audio can bring your presentations to life especially in a kiosk setting where slideshows play unattended in a continuous loop. If you have recently made the switch from Microsoft PowerPoint or Keynote to Google Slides, the one important feature that you might be missing inside Google Slides is audio.

Both Keynote and PowerPoint make it extremely easy for you to add audio to a presentation. You can embed MP3 music files that play in the background for the entire presentation or you can record your own voiceover narration that is synchronized with the timing of each slide.

How to Add Audio to Google Slides

Google Slides do not support audio files but you do have the option to embed videos inside the individual slides. The workaround, therefore, is simple – place the video file on a slide, make it invisible and turn on the auto-play mode.

Demo: Google Slides with Audio

Step 1: Prepare the Audio File

You can use free tools like FFmpeg or Audacity to convert your audio files into video. Then upload the converted file to either Google Drive or YouTube. I would prefer Drive since the playback won’t include any pre-roll advertising.

Embed Video in Google Slide

Step 2: Put audio inside Google Slides

Open Google Slides, go to the Insert menu and choose Video. Here you can either select the file from your Google Drive or switch to the “By URL” tab and paste the link of any public YouTube video.

Step 3: Turn on auto-play mode

Now that your video is embedded in Google Slides, right-click the video and choose Video Options.

google-slides-video-embed.png

Check the setting that says “auto-play when presenting.” If you are using synchronized voiceover narration, you may want to change the start and end time of the video as well.

Step 4: Hide the video player

Since you want the audio to play in the background, it may be a good idea to completely hide the video play from the slide. There are two ways to achieve this.

You can select the video play, drag the resize handles inwards so that the player size becomes too small to be noticed. An even better option is to place the video player outside the slide area so it’s still part of the slide but won’t show during the presentation.

google-slides-music.gif

That’s it.

Click the Share button to get the link to your Google Slide presentation. Replace /edit in the URL with /present and you have a direct link to the presentation mode – see a live example.

Also see: Convert Google Slides to Animated GIFs

You take any existing video from YouTube, place it on the slide in invisible mode and then turn on the auto-play mode so that the audio plays as soon as the slide is in focus.

How to Embed MP3 Audio Files In Web Pages with the help of Google Drive

Audio hosting websites like SoundCloud or Anchor.fm make it easy for you to embed audio files in your web pages and blogs. Just upload your file – like an MP3 song or an audio podcast – to any of these sites and they’ll provide the HTML embed code that you can copy-paste in your web template. Simple!

If you have been storing your MP3 files inside Google Drive, you can embed the files directly from Drive without having to upload them to another website. The Drive MP3 player can be embedded on any website that supports IFRAME and the list includes Blogger, WordPress, Medium or even the new Google Sites.

Also see: Embed YouTube as Audio Player

Step 1: Upload the MP3 to Google Drive

Open drive.google.com and upload the MP3 to your Google Drive. After the file is uploaded, right-click to share and set the sharing permission to “Anyone on the Internet can find and view”.

Step 2: Generate the Player Embed Code

The Google Drive URL will have the following structure:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1234xyz/view?usp=sharing

Now all you have to do is replace /view with /preview and wrap the modified URL in an IFRAME tag as shown below:

<iframe 
  frameborder="0" 
  width="400"     
  height="200"
  src="https://drive.google.com/file/d/1234xyz/preview">    
</iframe>

Here’s a live example. The embedded MP3 player has volume controls, play/pause buttons, seek bar, no Google branding, it works on mobile and the play also auto-detects and displays the duration of the music file.

The MP3 file is hosted on Google Drive and embedded here inside the IFRAME tag.

Transform your Google Slides Presentation into an Animated GIF and Tweet

TallTweets was created in 2010 to get around the 140-character limit of Twitter. You could write a note of any length and TallTweets would squeeze it into a single tweet by posting your text as an image. Now that Twitter offers a native solution in the form of threaded tweets, it is time to pivot.

Introducing the all-new Tall Tweets app for Google Slides. It will help you convert your presentations into high-quality animated GIFs that you attach in an email, embed on a web page or share on Twitter right within the Tall Tweets app.

Watch the video tutorial to get started.

Tweet Google Slides with TallTweets

To get started, open talltweets.com, sign-in with your Google account and select any existing deck from Google Drive. The TallTweets app can convert an entire deck into an infinitely looped GIF or you can choose to convert individual slides of the presentation into PNG images.

gif-google-slides.png

You have several options to customize the generated GIF images. You can specify the width of GIF images (the height will be calculated automatically to preserve the original aspect ratio) and you can also speed up or slow down the GIF slideshow by changing the time interval between slides.

Skip or Re-order Slides in GIF

One unique feature of the GIF maker is that it gives you an option to change the sequence of slides in the generated GIF.

google-slides-twitter.jpg

Let’s assume your presentation has 6 slides. If you leave the sequence input box blank, it would render all slides in the GIF in the order in which they appear. However, you can skip slides, re-order them or even change the length of time of individual slides.

  • 1,2,3,6 – Will skip slide #4 and #5
  • 6,5,4,3 – Will reverse the order of slides
  • 1,2,2,2,3,4 – Will extend the duration of slide #2

When you launch Tall Tweets for the first time, it will require you to authorize access to your Google Drive so that it can pick your Google Presentation for generating the slides. It generates the GIF locally in your browser and no byte of data every leaves your Google Account.

The app uses Google Apps Script to convert your presentation slides into images, the GIFs are generated on the client side using Yahoo’s Gifshot library while the front-end UI is written in React.

How to Embed the Facebook Customer Chat Widget in your Website

Looking for a simple and free alternative to popular live chat software like Intercom or Zendesk chat? Well, the new customer chat widget from Facebook Messenger is here and anyone can embed these widgets on their website to engage with visitors in real time.

Facebook Customer Chat widget, if you are new, lets people chat with businesses without leaving the website. The widget works on both desktop computers and mobile phones. The business owner needs a Facebook Page and all the visitor needs is a regular Facebook account.

There’s no learning curve or complex installation. The visitor clicks the Facebook icon on your web page, type their message and you (the business owner) get an instant notification on your Facebook Page. If you are online, you can carry on the conversation with the visitor on the Facebook website or inside the Facebook Pages Manager app on your phone.

If you would like to give Facebook Customer Chat a try, go to Digital Inspiration, wait for the page to load and click the Facebook messenger icon in the lower right corner to start a conversation.

How to Embed Facebook Customer Chat

Facebook Chat App

Step 1: To get started, go to developers.facebook.com and click the “Add a new app” button to create a new Facebook app.

Step 2: Give your app a name and click the Create button to get your own App ID. It is simple sequence of digits like 1839871239373637.

Step 3: Go to your Facebook Page, click the Settings tab, choose Messenger Platform, Whitelisted domain, enter the full URL of your website and click Save. You can also enter multiple domains if you wish to embed the same widget on multiple websites.

facebook whitelist domain

Step 4: Get the Facebook Page ID of the specific page that you wish to connect with the customer chat widget. All customer interactions will show in the inbox of this page.

Step 5: We are almost done. Open your website template and copy-paste the following code in the footer of your template. You need to replace the App_ID from Step 2 and Facebook Page_ID from Step 4.

<div class="fb-customerchat" page_id="PAGE_ID"></div>

    <script>

      window.fbAsyncInit = function() {
        FB.init({
          appId            : 'APP_ID',
          autoLogAppEvents : true,
          xfbml            : true,
          version          : 'v2.11'
        });
      };

      (function(d, s, id){
        var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];
        if (d.getElementById(id)) {return;}
        js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id;
        js.src = "https://connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js";
        fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);
      }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));
      
    </script>

That’s it. Your Facebook Chat widget is now live on your website. If you are not seeing the Facebook messenger logo on your pages yet, clear the cache and make sure the website domain is listed in the domain that you have whitelisted in step 3.

Greeetings and Out-of-office Messages

With Facebook Messenger Chat, you can set a welcome greeting that will show up instantly as soon as a visitor initiates a conversation. Similarly, you can set up an away message that will be displayed when you are unable to join the live chat.

To configure these messages, go to your Facebook Page, Settings, Messaging and update the Response Assistant section.

Note for Adblock Users

Please do note that the widget is served via Facebook. Thus, if you are using any adblock add-on that blocks social plugins from loading, the chat widget may not show up for you.

How to Create Personalized Documents from a Google Spreadsheet in Minutes

Introducing Document Studio, a powerful Google add-on that lets you effortlessly generate documents and reports using merge data stored inside Google Sheets. It can also create documents with live data from Google Forms submissions. The generated documents can be automatically sent inside personalized email messages using built-in Mail Merge.

There’s zero learning curve and you can work inside the familiar Google Docs environment. The documents can be produced in PDF, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and several other formats. The generated files are uploaded to your Google Drive, they can be instantly shared and there’s also an option to send files directly to the printer via Google Cloud Print.

The uses cases are endless. Businesses can streamline workflows and send professional looking invoices to customers. A school teacher can print individual exam certificates of every student in her classs. An instructor can generate personalized training handouts for attendees.

Getting Started with Document Studio

It takes 3 easy steps to get started.

  1. Create a template inside Google Docs, Google Sheets or Google Slides and add placeholders, such as {{Name}} or {{Address}}, for merge fields.
  2. Create a Google Sheet with the source data. The column headings will correspond to the placeholders in the template while the rows represent the records.
  3. Install the document merge add-on and follow the wizard to produce the documents. Document Studio will create one document per row in the sheet.

Document Studio includes a WYSIWYG email editor to help you send the merged documents to one or more recipients inside personalized email messages.

If your template is a Google Spreadsheet and it contains any formulas, they are re-calculated and evaluated in the generated document. You can also include unique images, Google Maps, QR Code images and PayPal payment links in generated documents with the help of simple spreadsheet functions.

In addition to document merge, the add-on can also be used for creating documents in real-time from Google Forms submissions.

Watch the video tutorial on YouTube or check the help center to learn more about Document Studio.

automate document workflow

Schedule a Phone Call to Yourself and Politely Escape any Boring Situation

You have been invited to a meeting that would last really long. You cannot say “no” but secretly wish that someone calls your phone in the middle of that never-ending meeting and rescue you from the boring situation.

Well, you can take the help of a human friend or use IFTTT, the versatile automation app available for both iPhone and Android. With IFTTT, you can easily create a workflow (applet) that would simulate a fake phone call to yourself at the scheduled time and help you smoothly exit that meeting.

What’s new then? The phone calling service has been part of IFTTT for some time now but it was earlier limited to the U.S. region only. The latest version of the IFTTT app brings phone calling to everyone outside the U.S. as well. Let’s get started.

phone-call-yourself.png

Schedule an Automated Phone Call to Yourself

Create a free account at IFTTT and enable the Date Time service and the VoIP Call service.

Next, create a new applet and choose Date Time for the “this” condition. The trigger should be set to “Every day” and then choose the time when you want your phone to ring. If you wish to receive multiple calls, you’ll need to setup multiple applets, one per call.

For the “that” action, choose the VoIP call service and specify any text message. The calling service will speak the message when you receive the call. That’s it. Make sure your phone is connected to the Internet else the IFTTT applet won’t run.

Also see: How to Schedule Emails in Gmail

Ring your Mobile Phone on Demand

If you forgot to set the scheduled phone call, IFTTT offers another good option to help exit a situation. You can tap the IFTTT widget on your phone screen and it will simulate a phone call. Here’s how:

Install the IFTTT widget on your phone screen. Next, create a new applet like before but set the “this” condition to IFTTT’s own Button widget. For the “that” action, choose the “Call my Phone” action and specify the text that will play out during the call.

That’s it. Tap the widget on the phone, it fakes a call and you can politely excuse yourself.

Google Domains Go Live in India – The Best Place to Buy Domain Names

Google Domains, if you are new, is a domain registration service where you can buy new domain names or transfer your existing domains from another registrar into the Google service. There’s no official announcement yet but Google Domains are now available in India without you having to use any hacks or proxy servers.

I own about a dozen-odd domains and they have been mostly purchased through Gandi, GoDaddy, Dreamhost, and BigRock. Last week, I purchased a new domain reverse.photos through Google Domains and, like most other Google products, loved the overall experience.

Everything is tied to your main Google account so there’s one less set of credentials to remember and the account is already secured with 2-factor authentication.

Google Domain includes intelligent and powerful search that will not only suggest domain names based on exact keyword matches but related words too. So a search for “blue widgets” will check the availability of “blue widgets” as well as “color widgets”, “white widgets” and “blueplugins”.

google-domain-search.png

Google Domains aren’t cheap (see pricing). The average 1-year domain registration fee is certainly higher than what other companies offer but a big advantage is that they do not charge you extra money for making your postal address and phone number private in the public WHOIS database.

There’s no transfer fee if you decide to move your web domain from another registrar to Google Domains but, as per ICANN rules, you’ll have to extend the registration period of your domain for an additional year. This additional year is added to your domain’s existing registration.

The most convenient feature, however, is shared domain management. Just like you can allow external users to access your shared Google Doc, you can add collaborators to domains registered through Google Domains and they can manage the domain on your behalf. You’ll continue to remain the owner of the domain but others can manage the DNS settings or renew the domain on your behalf.

google-domains.png

Google Domains offer a simplified, hassle-free interface for managing domains, includes privacy by default, the pricing is straight-forward and the domain be easily integrated with G Suite (Google Apps) for email. It might be worth considering when you are out to buy a domain for your next million dollar idea.

Get Email Alerts When New Employees Join a Company

Most people use LinkedIn to get email alerts for new job postings that match their interests but did you know that LinkedIn can also help track new hires made by a company? You can easily keep an eye on new employees joining your own company or a competitor.

linkedin-people-search.png
Also see: The Best Email Alerts Services

How to Set People Search Alerts on LinkedIn

Similar to job alerts, you can set up people alerts in LinkedIn and they will send you an email when new employees join the tracked company. You can track new hires by the parent company (e.g., Amazon) or limit your employee searches to a regional office of that company (e.g., Amazon India or Amazon’s Bangalore office).

To get started, open the LinkedIn website, click the search box, type the name of the parent company and choose the “people search” option from the autocomplete list (see screenshot above).

On the search results page, expand the Locations section and check the regions that you would like to track. You can select the country name, city,  geographic region or even make multiple selections.

Next click the “Create Search Alert” button and LinkedIn will send you a weekly email listing all the profiles that have joined the specified company in that week.

linkedin-location-search.png

The service obviously depends on the employee joining the company and he would have to update their existing profile for LinkedIn to know that they have made the move.