Everybody is googling, but few explore Googles’ full range of services and applications. Some are even wary of all things Google. Despite the founders’ stated aim of making information sharing easier and more efficient, the giant has been criticised for enterprises that some perceive as threats to privacy. Whether or not you care about Google potentially gathering anonymous information about your computer usage or having custody of your files, it would be dumb to write it off.
How To Use Google As More Than Just a Search Engine
We all know how to google, though perhaps not the most efficient ways. Quick tips are: include character operators when you enter your query. One of the most useful is the minus sign. If you want to learn about tomatoes but don’t want your search results cluttered with tomato recipes, type in ‘tomato – recipe’. Also useful is the synonym operator (~). If you’re looking up wool carpets, type ‘wool ~carpet’ and it will also search for rug, mat and other equivalent words. To speed up simple searches, personalise your searches by specifying your requirements – for example, English only. And did you know you can do calculations by typing the sum into the query box? There’s a lot more to searching than meets the eye.
A useful feature for scholars and researchers is searching news, books and academic papers, rather than websites, at Google News, Google Books and Google Scholar. On a more frivolous note, Google Checkout allows you to centralise your online shopping, collating all your purchasing information from multiple sellers and letting you buy using only one account and password. The specialized search options and added services could fill a book. The point is that its worth digging a little deeper to see how you can optimize searching for your purposes.
You can do more than just look up places with Google maps. You can plan routes with Google Transit or even make your own personalized map. Google Earth allows you to travel from your armchair – prior to travel, or just for fun. You can even leave Earth and take a tour of Mars!
Google’s email programme (googlemail or Gmail) is a well-known application. You can also start your own discussion group with Google Groups and you can use Google to send text messages (SMS) to get search results sent to your phone. Gmail can be linked to a calendar-cum-organiser, amongst other features. A handy gadget for your email is a downloadable ‘notifier’ that sits on your desktop and lets you know when a new message arrives. A well-established Google feature for online diaries and business promotion alike is the self-explanatory Blogger service.
Google Documents and storage
Cloud computing is a new development: instead of buying software you access it online and store your documents on the provider’s servers. Great backup for when your hard drive dies. Applications available include word-processing and spreadsheets, a picture/graphics editor (Picasa) and tools for creating webpages (Page Creator). The plus of creating online documents is that you can share them online instead of producing them, emailing and then awaiting feedback.
These are just some of the features that you can access nowadays. There’s much more, of which Google’s Adsense deserves quick mention – either for people wanting to advertise or for bloggers and website owners wanting to earn by displaying ads on their pages. Don’t forget the feeds, finance information, weather forecasts and the myriad other options available. Wherever you turn, Google seems to have something cooking. No wonder there are concerns that they’re taking over the world – so proceed with eagerness tempered by careful assessment.