Google Photos gives you a personal picture assistant

Want an assistant?
The Google Photos app has an assistant to help edit photos.
Chicago Tribune

Google Photos

Free for iOS and Android.

What it is: Google Photos is the American Express of apps: Don’t leave home without it. The app has a treasure chest of photo aids from auto backup to editing tools, organization and an assistant that automatically creates animated images, movies and stories (like a digital travelogue) from your best stills and videos. You are notified when a project is ready and, like a Hollywood mogul, you decide whether to scrap or save it.

How it works: Initially, you must have a Google account and allow the app to access your photos and use your location. The assistant goes to work during or within days after a trip creating movies, animations, etc. You can also click the "+" to create your own projects. And when a photo needs editing after autofix tweaks color and light, all you may need to do is crop.


Why it’s great: Google Photo’s editing tools leave Apple’s editor in the dust. And no app offers an assistant like Google Photos. If you travel frequently and usually fall behind on projects, the assistant’s automatic creations will inspire and help you. Sometimes after it creates a story, all you need to do is delete a photo or two and add a narrative. Now you can share a trip immediately rather than years later or never. And when you want to find a photo, you can search by face, place or thing as well as by day, month or year.


Free for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry and Nokia Asha.

What it is: a mobile messaging app packed with tools so you can make free calls to other members, send audio messages, share photos and videos from your photo library, and shoot them in the app.


How it works: After creating an account, you invite friends to join, so you can communicate at home or when you are overseas on a trip. Then you can call, chat, send pictures and videos, or leave an audio message for your Line friends.

Why it’s great: Before I went to Japan, I began using Line because my Japanese friends had recommended it. I actually like it better than WhatsApp because of its free stickers. I like having animated bears and rabbits convey my thoughts. And when I used it in Japan to share photos and videos with friends and family, it seemed faster than WhatsApp. The transmission quality of both audio and video calls was great.

Why you might hesitate: If I type, “Want to go get a hamburger,” several hamburger icons will appear. If I choose one, it wipes out my text instead of only replacing the word “hamburger.”

Weather Live

$1.99 for iOS, including Apple Watch) and $1.99 at Amazon or $2.99 on Google Play for Android.

What it is: a weather app so rich in detail it’s like having a weather person in your pocket. It provides weather in your current location, along with details about future destinations.

How it works: When you open the app, it offers the weather in your current location. But you can add other destinations to figure out what to pack for a trip, etc.

Why it’s great: Weather Live has the most elegant display of any weather app I have carried. It offers current temperature and what the temperature will be in three-hour increments over the next 21 hours. The screen also shows barometric pressure, chance of precipitation and visibility. And if I slide the bottom bar, it shows a detailed seven-day weather forecast.


Terry Gardner is a freelance reporter.

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