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So, it’s 2014, and you’ve just returned from your Memorial Day vacation with hundreds (maybe even thousands) of pictures and videos taken with your smartphone, digital camera, Google Glass, or some other photo-taking device. Great, now what are you going to do with them?

You could spend a huge amount of time arranging them all into some sort of travelogue and posting it to a blog, perhaps. This would require carefully selecting your best photos and videos out of the multitude you took, arranging them in a nice order, adding captions, maybe screenshotting some maps showing your travel route and places you stopped along the way, and then getting all this onto your website with a pleasing layout. With some decent web editing skills, you might even be able to make it look half decent.

But honestly, who has time for all that? Wouldn’t it be great if you could just have a computer take care of most of the steps for you? Well, you’re in luck – say hello to Google+ Stories!

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With Stories, Google will automatically create a visual narrative of trips you take, events you attend, and more. It does this by algorithmically selecting your best photos, arranging them in a timeline, and adding in Google Maps-based images showing cities you traveled to and/or notable locations you visited. These Stories are already pretty great as they come, straight from Google without any input from you at all. But with a little effort on your end, you can edit them into a truly fantastic way to relive and and share your most treasured memories.

Before we get into the process of how to manually edit Stories, let’s take a look at the requirements for getting Stories automatically created for you. According to Google, Stories will work best if you do the following: Turn on Google Location History for Android or iOS; If you store photos on Google Drive, show your Drive photos & videos in your photo library; Use Auto Backup on your mobile device or desktop computer; Make sure Auto Awesome is on; Add your home & work addresses in Google Maps; Take a lot of pictures.

Once you get a notification that you have a new story ready, it’s time to do a bit of editing to make it truly impactful. We’ll first look at editing Stories on Android, and then go over what’s different on the desktop.

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Stories Title PageTo find all of the Stories Google has created for you so far, open the Google+ app on your Android device, click the bar that says Everything, and click Photos at the bottom (you could also instead open the Photos app for a shortcut straight to this point).

From here, you can either swipe in from the left side of the screen, or tap the icon in the top left corner to access the Photos menu. Tap Stories and you will be shown all of those that have been created thus far, in reverse chronological order. Tap on any story to open it.

The first thing that you come across that you can edit is the title. You will likely want to change this, as the default titles are a bit generic, things like, “Trip to Chicago” and “Saturday afternoon in Grand Rapids.” To change the title, simply tap on it, input a new title, and click Save.

You can then swipe to the left or tap the arrow in the bottom corner and you will see the first pictures or videos in your story timeline. Continue swiping to the left to see more of your story.

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If you long-press any picture or video, you are presented with three options. You can set that image as the cover photo (if you choose this for a video, the first frame of the clip will be used). You can choose to hide that moment, if you don’t want that particular pic/video to appear in your story. You can also choose to add a narrative caption to that photo/video.

Adding narratives is the key to making a great story, and can transform them from an interesting collection of pictures and maps into a way to truly let others share in your experiences. Google auto-suggests certain pictures for you to add narratives to, but you are able to add them to any photo or video you choose using the method above.

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If you don’t want to choose which moments to hide one at a time by long-pressing, or if you want to add in some photos that Google didn’t automatically select as your best (their algorithms, while incredibly good, are of course not yet perfect, and personal taste obviously plays into this as well), just tap on any of the empty gray space, then tap the pencil icon. From here, just tap the center of any pic or video to select/deselect it. Those with checkmarks will be included in your story. Once you have everything you want to include selected, just click Done.

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Tapping on any empty gray area also brings up a share button and a menu overflow button. The menu overflow button includes options to refresh your story (if you’re not seeing changes after you’ve made them), and to rebuild the story (useful if you’ve added additional pictures from another source after the story was built, and want them included as well.

Keep in mind, though, you will lose any edits you may have made when the story is rebuilt). You can also from this menu delete the story, send feedback, and get help with Stories.

In addition to photos and videos, you may also come across maps and locations in your Stories. The maps appear in Stories that are based on trips you have taken and show your place of departure and your destination. If you want to remove a particular map, just long-press it and choose Hide moment.

Locations that you visit may also appear in your stories, with the name of the location accompanied by a mini map. If an incorrect place is showing, tap the name of it to select a different place nearby, or to remove the location from the story entirely.

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And that’s it for editing Stories on Android. On the desktop, things are pretty much the same, with a few notable exceptions. You can navigate through your story with the left and right arrow keys, with your mouse scroll-wheel, or by clicking on the arrows that appear when you hover your mouse cursor near the sides of the window. To change the cover photo on desktop, click Change cover photo in the lower left corner of the title page.

Discovering the method for adding a narrative caption on desktop to a photo or video that Google has not automatically suggested you add one for took a bit of experimenting on my part, but I finally figured it out. To accomplish this, first hover your mouse cursor over the photo/video you would like to add a narrative to, and click Edit. This will bring you to the normal Google+ photo viewer. Click Add caption in the upper right, enter your narrative caption, and close the photo by clicking the x above it. Finally, refresh your browser and you will see your narrative added.

So, now that you have the perfect story made, all that’s left to do is share it! On Android, tap on any empty gray space and click the share icon. On desktop, just click the green Share button at the top of the page. You will also see an option to share at the end of your story on both platforms. Of course, sharing is not mandatory. You also have the option of just keeping your Stories private, as sort of a personal journal. Either way, Google just made documenting your life experiences a whole lot easier!

Website: Stories On Google+

About the author

Chris Foote

Singer, guitarist and songwriter for the Grand Rapids, MI based band, Ars Nova. Google Glass Explorer. Google Helpouts guitar lesson provider. Photographer. Transhumanist. Technology enthusiast. Enlightened Ingresser.