Opera 57 for Android: improved offline pages and data saving controls

Opera Software launched a new version of the company’s mobile web browser for Google’s Android operating system today. Opera 57 for Android introduces several improvements and new features including improved data saving controls, options to customize the storage location for offline pages on the device, faster Speed Dial access, and more.

The update is available on Google Play already; users who use Google Play may check the list of updates in the Store to pick up the new version of the mobile Opera browser.

The browser launches a “what’s new” page on first start after the update has been installed that lists the new features. Users who have enabled the data saving feature of the browser in previous versions may notice that it is now highlighted in the browser’s address bar.

The new data saving badge provides quick access to the data saving feature and its settings. Opera users may turn the feature on or off from the new management interface and configure the handling of images there as well.

opera 57 android

Android Opera users who have had troubles using the browser’s offline pages functionality in the past because of storage space restrictions may now set the storage location. Opera for Android used internal storage in previous versions but that can now be changed so that external cards or storage locations may be used to store offline pages in the browser. Any open page in the browser can be saved to the device with a tap on Menu > Offline pages.

Another new feature in Opera 57 for Android is auto-completion for Speed Dial pages. When text that is typed in the browser’s address bar matches a Speed Dial page set in Opera, it is auto-completed automatically so that users only need to hit the Go button to open that page; this may speed up access to Speed Dial pages further for users who prefer to type in the address bar.

Opera will prompt users when it notices that YouTube is loaded in the browser; the prompt allows users to switch to the YouTube app instead to watch the video or browse the site. A tap on “no thanks” denies the request.

Last but not least, Opera Software improved the browser’s built in crypto wallet by including support for Web 3.0 websites with crypto domains as well as .eth and .xyz using IPFS. Users from Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong may now also buy cryptocurrency in the browser (which users from the United States and Scandinavia could for a while).

Now You: Which mobile browser do you use, and why?

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Google introduces improved cookie controls in Chrome for Android

Google plans to improve cookie controls of the company’s Google Chrome web browser for Android. The company launched SameSite cookie changes in Chrome 80, released in February 2020, and has recently added new options to Chrome Canary for Android including an option to block all cookies in the browser.

Current versions of Google Chrome for Android devices provide limited cookie controls. The only options provided are to “allow sites to save and read cookie data” and to “block third-party cookies”. Chrome users may add site exceptions to allow or block cookies set by specific sites.

The new cookie controls add two more options to the mobile browser. Besides an option to block third-party cookies in the browser’s Incognito mode, it is now also possible to block all cookies.

google-chrome android cookie changes

Google does not recommend the latter but the option is there. The main change is the introduction of an option to block cookies in Incognito mode. The cookies toggle of current versions of Google Chrome for Android is turned into the two options “allow cookies” and “block all cookies (not recommended”.

The new Cookies page of the Chrome browser provides an explanation of cookies; useful to users who are not tech-savvy. It states:

Cookies are files created by websites you visit. Sites use them to remember your preferences. Third-party cookies are created by other sites. These sites own some of the content, like ads or images, that you see on the webpage you visit.

The new cookie interface is not enabled by default, not even in Chrome Canary at the time of writing. It is necessary to set a flag to enable it. Here is how that is done:

  1. Make sure you run at least Chrome 82 (currently Canary).
  2. Load chrome://flags in the address bar of the Android browser.
  3. Search for cookies.
  4. The flag “Enable improved cookie controls UI in Incognito mode” enables the new option when you set it to Enabled.

Open the Site Settings in the settings afterwards and there the Cookies options to set the new preference for cookies in the mobile browser.

The second cookie related preference that you may see on the experimental flags page, “enable improved UI for third-party cookie blocking” adds a new option to the preferences of the browser to toggle third-party cookie blocking.

If you want better controls, you may want to check out better browsers such as the new Mozilla Firefox browser or Brave for Android.

Now You: do you block third-party cookies? (via Techdows)

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Firefox Preview 4.0 Stable brings uBlock Origin support

Mozilla released Firefox Preview 4.0 on March 9, 2020, the latest stable version of the upcoming re-interpretation of Firefox for Android. The new browser version is only available on the project’s GitHub webpage at the time of writing and not on Google Play.

The Google Play version is at 3.2.1 currently while the GitHub version brings the version of the mobile browser to 4.0. Users who want to upgrade to the new version of Firefox Preview Stable right away may download the APK file from the releases page and install it manually. It is necessary to allow the installation of apps from unknown sources to do so though.

Mozilla highlights several new features in Firefox Preview 4.0 including initial extension support, inclusion of the uBlock Origin extension by default, improved login management, and options to bypass certification errors.

firefox preview 4.0

One of the main new features of Firefox Preview 4.0 is initial support for browser extensions. While officially limited to the content blocker uBlock Origin, Mozilla promised that it would improve support throughout 2020 to integrate full extensions support in the new mobile Firefox browser.

The uBlock Origin extension is not enabled by default but Firefox Preview users may enable it by selecting Menu > Add-Ons Manager > uBlock Origin. The list of permissions the extension requires is displayed then and a tap on “add” enables the extension in Firefox Preview. The extension can then be managed via Firefox’s main menu button. It is a bit harder to manage sites in the extension because of that but all functionality appears to be available.

As far as other major improvements are concerned, there are a few in the release:

  • Login Management improvements — Firefox Preview users may save and autofill logins, copy logins to the Clipboard, delete them, and perform other basic operations on the saved logins of the browser.
  • Top Sites –Top visited sites and favorite sites are now displayed on a New Tab Page. Options to remove top sites are included.
  • Bypass Certification errors — Certain certification errors may now be bypassed.

Now You: have you tried the new Firefox Preview already? What is your impression?

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A look at the new Rules system of Google Pixel

Google rolled out the March update to all supported Google Pixel Android devices recently and with it came a few changes and new features. One of these changes is a new rules system that Pixel owners may use to create automated rules. If you now think IFTTT (IF This Then That) you are in for a disappointment as the first release version of the rules system is quite basic.

Basically, what it allows you to do right now is to define automated actions based on location. Pixel owners who have installed the March 2020 updates for the device find the new options under Settings > System > Advanced > Rules.

google pixel automated rules

Note that you need to allow the app to always run in the background. Select next on the screen and then allow to give the app the permission.

First thing you will notice is that Google enabled suggestions to the rules system. Rules will be suggested automatically by the device “based on changes” made to the system setting. If you don’t want these, toggle the option to off to block that from happening.

A tap on “add rule” opens the rules creation configuration. There you find only a few options currently. What you may do is link one of the available rules to a Wi-Fi or a location.

  1. Tap on “Add Wi-fi network or location” to get started. Wi-Fi is the easier option of the two as you select one of the saved networks of the device. Location requires that you type an address and select a radius for the location.
  2. Once done, select one of the four available actions:
    • Turn on Do Not Disturb.
    • Set phone to silent.
    • Set phone to vibrate.
    • Set phone to ring.
  3. Select Add to create the rule.

You may repeat the process for additional locations. Rules are active automatically after they have been created.

Closing Words

The available rules are quite basic at the time of writing. While these may be useful to some, e.g. to set the device to silent when you enter your workplace or to ring when you leave work, functionality is too limited to be of much use.

Google limits rules based on location but not time of day or other events, e.g. activity on the device. The rules are limited to changing the state of the device but lack any other options. It is possible that the new automated rules system will be expanded in coming releases but Google has not revealed plans to do so.

 

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A Look at Microsoft's new Office app for Android

Microsoft published its new Office application for Android and iOS on February 19, 2020 designed to improve the Office experience on mobile devices. The new Office application was in preview for a couple of months but is now generally available worldwide according to Microsoft.

It combines the Office programs Word, Excel, and PowerPoint and introduces mobile-specific capabilities to improve its usability and functionality on mobile devices.

Installation of the Android application is straightforward. Note that it will only run on the “last 4 major versions of Android” and requires a device with 1 Gigabytes of RAM or more. Microsoft wants to collected additional data but you can deny that as you are prompted to allow it.

microsoft office android

It is not necessary to link the app to a Microsoft account but you can do so to get access to OneDrive and the documents stored there (the app supports other storage providers such as Box, Dropbox and Google Drive).

One of the greatest strengths of the Office application is that it contains the three apps Word, Excel and PowerPoint. These were previously available as standalone versions only and pretty good for viewing documents or making light edits.

Office uses less phone storage than the three applications and it introduces mobile specific features to extend use scenarios.

Microsoft integrated the company’s Lens technology into the app. Lens may be used for a variety of purposes including converting images to Word documents or Excel spreadsheets, scan PDF documents, or capture whiteboards.

The process itself takes just a few taps. Select Actions from the Office apps’ Home screen and select one of the available actions. Besides image to test and image to table, you will find options to scan and sign PDF documents, create a PDF from pictures, or to share files to nearby phones or transfer files to a computer.

Microsoft promises that it will add “new exciting features” to the Office application in the coming months. The company revealed some of these in the announcement.

  • Dictation support in Word with access to a toolbar to apply formatting and punctuation. Supported languages have not been mentioned, likely US-only in the beginning.
  • Excel Cards View to view and edit Excel data in a mobile friendly format.
  • Outline to PowerPoint to create a simple outline and let PowerPoint Designer turn it into “presentable slides” with “proper styling, formatting, and iconography”.

Closing Words

The new Office application worked really well during tests on a Google Pixel 3a device. The app was responsive and provided a good user experience. Viewing and creating documents worked as expected; it is still limiting compared to desktop use because of the smaller screen and lack of a real keyboard.

The integrated actions complement the app well and it will be interesting to see how everything turns out once Microsoft begins to integrate more mobile-exclusive features to the apps.

Now You: do you use an Office app on your mobile devices?

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