Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Google Photos updates in 2019: Faster, Better, Changes, and New Features

Google is changing and improving Google Photos all the time. Since the 2d edition of the book was published in June of 2018, I have been keeping a list of all the changes.

You are updating your Google Photos app aren't you? 

If you're not sure, here's a video on How to Update Google Photos.

Here are my picks for the most significant recent updates.


Many updates don't have new features at all, they just say, "We made fixes so the photo gallery loads faster" or "We made it even faster to back up and sync your photos." or "We made the Albums tab load faster." or "We improved loading speed of the photo editor." or "We improved loading speed of the photo gallery."
It's true! Over the last year, Google Photos has gotten faster, significantly faster.

Menu Changes

The Assistant menu is gone, in it's place is "For You." For You refers to the creations that Google sends to you. Creations like stylized photos, collages, movies, Remember this Day, and Then and Now pictures. The For You menu is also where you'll find buttons to make your own creations.
Manage your Library: This is a new option on the main, 3-line, menu. Other items that used to be under Assistant, like suggestions for fixing sideways photos and archiving receipts are now found in "Manage your LIbrary."

The 3-dot menu: When you have one photo open, you used to have a drop-down menu by tapping on the 3 dots in the upper right. Now, when you tap those 3 dots, it's the same effect as swiping up on a photo. All the options that used to be on the 3-dot pull-down menu are now horizontal below the photo.
These options will vary depending on the photo that is open
Open in Snapseed: If you use the Snapseed editing app on your phone, you will notice that the Open in Snapseed option has moved.
Your Account and backup status: The account that owns the photos being viewed is now the circular avatar of your account in the upper right corner of the app. It used to show up at the top of the page after tapping the 3-line menu. It still does on the iOS version, but Android uses the new method of showing your account at the top right. 

Also, your backup status has moved. Words like "Backup complete" or 18 to backup, or "waiting for Wi-Fi" were visible just by viewing your photos. Now, on the Android version, you need to look at that round account image. You'll see a checkmark when backup is complete, an up arrow when uploading is occurring, and an X when backup is turned off. If you tap the account icon, you will see more information about backup status as well as managing your account.

Month View: You used to be able to pinch the screen on both iOS and Android and get to a condensed year/month view. Each month took no more than about 1/2 inch on the screen so you could easily see a whole year with just a swipe or two. It did that by truncating your photos. If a month had 500 photos, it only showed 28 tiny photos. That condensed view is no longer available. Now when you pinch the screen to month view it won't shrink down that far, if you have 500 photos in a month, it keeps them all viewable and you'll have to scroll several screens to get to the next month.
Here is what the "year at a glance" view used to look like:
This "year at a glance" view no longer exists


At the top of your photo library on mobile devices, you now see a set of circles with photos labeled 1 year ago, 2 years ago etc. Tap on one of those and you'll see photos from the current week in the specified year. It's a fun way to relive the past.
Learn more: Resurface Old Memories with New Feature of Google Photos

Manual Face Tagging

When Google Photos misses faces in your photos, you can now manually add them to the people albums. This new tool also allows you to remove people or to change the people album to which they are assigned.
Learn more: Google Photos and Manual Face-tagging

Motion/Live photos - pick the best frame

If you've been using burst shots to be sure you get the right expression or position of your subject. You should try this new feature instead. Take live photos (aka motion photos) and you get a few seconds of video along with your photo. Now Google Photos allows you to see that video portion frame by frame and pick the best frame to be a new still photo. This is great for photos of people where they may be caught with their eyes closed. You can find a frame from the video portion where all eyes are open.
Learn more: Google Photos can capture one frame from a live or motion photo

Google Drive no longer syncs with Google Photos

Most people who use Google Photos don't even use Google Drive and, if they do, they probably didn't know about the ability to sync photos between Google Photos and Google Drive. If that describes you, then this change does not affect you.
However, among the people who did understand this feature, many used it to sync photos from their phone -> to Google Drive -> and then down to their computer. That process no longer works.

Learn more: Google Photos and Google Drive will no longer automatically sync your photos and videos. 5 things you can do and 1 you can’t.

Get prints made straight from the app

4X6 quality print photos can now be ordered straight from your Google Photos app on your phone, or the website on your computer. Select the photos you want, tap/click the shopping cart in the upper right and follow the prompts. Pick up your prints at Walmart or CVS. Additional Print sizes 5X7 and 8X10 added as of 12/4/19.
Learn moreOrder Photo Prints within Google Photos

Displaying your Google Photos on Chromecast devices just got easier with "Photo Frames"

This one is only on Android. It allows you to select which photo albums you want to display on Chromecast or Google Home Hub screens. Before this, you had to use the Google Home app and "ambient mode" to specify which albums to show. 
Now you just open the Google Photos app on your Android device, tap the 3-line menu and choose "Photo Frames." There you will see all the displays on your network. Select one and then choose whatever albums you want.
If you don't know what we're talking about watch Episode 108 of our "What Does This Button Do?" YouTube show. 

Markup - Android only

Text on photos is something that a lot of people have been requesting for a very long time. It's now here - kind of. The feature is called "markup" and it's only on the Android app. Open one photo and tap the edit button Edit, now you should see a new 4th button for markup - it looks like a squiggle, tap that and you'll see your markup tools. You can draw, highlight, or type. You can choose from 7 colors - the first one is black, you can't see it because the background is black, but it's there! This is a great start, but be aware that there are no options for fonts, or text size. What you see is what you get.

Crop Document

This one is also Android only. It is a special editing feature meant for receipts, business cards, or full page documents. When you snap a photo of a receipt, for example, it's impossible to get just the card. You get the background as well, and the card may be a bit distorted depending on the angle you were holding your phone. Open the photo, tap the Edit button Edit, then the 9-dot grid and "Crop Document."
Learn MoreIf you take pictures of receipts, you'll like the Crop Document feature in Google Photos

Edit movies on computer

There are 2 ways to create a movie:

  1. Make it yourself using a mobile device
  2. Google Photos makes it for you if you click the For You section and choose Movie, then select one of the automatic style movies
If you have a movie already created, you can now use the Web version of Google Photos to edit it. Until November of 2019, the only way to edit a movie was on a mobile device.
I applaud this update, but am disappointed that more new features have not been added to the movie maker capability of Google Photos.
Learn MoreGoogle Photos movie maker needs more features

Sorting Albums

Little things can make us so happy! If you have a lot of albums in Google Photos, you've probably noticed that you have no control over how they are listed. The one at the top of the list is one that has the most current photos in it, as the photos get older, the albums are listed further and further down.
Now, when you view your album list, you will see
If you tap that, you will get 2 more choices: Last modified, and Album title. Last modified means that the last album you worked with will be at the top of the list. Album title means that they will be sorted alphanumerically.
This new feature is great, BUT, it doesn't go far enough. When you choose a photo and want to add it to an album, you tap the + and choose Album to get the list of albums. Here you have no choice about how they're sorted, there's just a section called "All Albums" and they are in order by most recent photo - period. My workaround for this is to find the album first - using search - then Add to album Add to album and pick my most recent photo. I will remove it later, but for now, that will make it appear on the top of the list when I am adding new photos.

Direct Sharing of Photos, like in a text message thread

Direct Sharing a photo(s) directly to a contact starts a conversation rather than creating a shared album. Here is the official announcement. It's important to realize that this method only works when both sides are using Google Photos. You just select the photos, tap the Share button  or Share then tap the icon of the person you want to share with. You will see a text message-like conversation start. The next time you share with that person, you'll be taken back to that conversation thread.
For more info, see article: Using Google Photos you can now share photos with a conversation just like texting

Searching now includes text found in photo

  • Just open Google Photos on your Android, iPhone, or on the Web
  • Click on the search bar at the top and type  welcome  or any word you think will be found in your photos
  • Press Enter on computer, or the checkmark or search button on mobile.
  • Did it find any?
In my Google Photos, searching for "welcome" results in lots of State border signs. In our travels around the country, I always snap a photo when we cross a state line, of the "Welcome to _______."

That's a lot of changes, right?! And, guess what? There will be much more to come. Be sure to sign up for the free newsletter (see form in right sidebar) to stay informed on Learning Google Photos! 

Chris Guld is President and Teacher-in-Chief at She has been in computer training and support since 1983. She is now a Product Expert for the Google Photos Forum, owner of the blog, and author of Mrs. Geek's Guide to Google Photos
She loves to teach! If you want to learn, you’ve come to the right place.


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