Handy Google apps you've never used (Feature)
By Jay Dougherty Apr 24, 2010, 2:06 GMT
Washington - By now, most know that Google is about far more than search. Gmail, Google maps, and Blogger are used widely. But those apps are just a hint of what this Internet behemoth offers under the hood of its famous search engine. Here's a rundown of some useful Google gems that you may not know about--but probably should.
Smartphones are what's hot in technology today, and that fact isn't lost on Google. The company has ported some of its best applications to the mobile market. It's just that finding them isn't always easy, and many people still use a smartphone's often clunky built-in browser to access the web and perform simple searches.
Google Mobile changes that. Just point your phone's browser to http://m.google.com, and download the Google Mobile app. Once installed, this handy smartphone app works with the speed of most other smartphone applications and the simplicity that Google is known for.
With Mobile, you can conduct speedy web searches either by typing or by voice, and you can also use its handy links above the Search box to access your Gmail, Maps, News, and Reader apps as well. If you use Google on your notebook or PC, it's likely that Mobile will quickly become a frequently used app on your smartphone as well.
You might have read about Google Docs - the online word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation package - but you probably haven't tried it. It's time to change that.
The fact is that Google Docs has grown a lot since its introduction several years ago. The word processing module is intuitive and surprisingly robust, the spreadsheet will be instantly usable for Excel junkies, and the presentation program will suffice for all but the most glitz-happy PowerPoint fans.
What's more, you can use Docs to edit existing documents you might have created with Microsoft Office applications or other popular business productivity software. So you can use Docs to work on files on the road or to make them available to you from work or other locations. With the 1 gigabyte of storage space that Docs gives you for free, it's even possible to use the service as a free replacement for a USB thumb drive that you would otherwise have to carry around.
Perhaps the best part of using Docs is that you don't even have to sign up for it. If, like many, you already have a Google account for Gmail or some other Google service, just go to http://docs.google.com and click Create New or Upload to get started. There's a Help system available, but if you've used another productivity application, you probably won't need it.
Why go back to Google repeatedly to search for some product, person, or keyword? With Alerts (http://www.google.com/alerts), you can get the latest search results automatically, either as a periodic e-mail messages or via an RSS feed.
Let's say you like to keep abreast of anything new that's happening with your favourite sports team. Instead of searching for the latest news every day, set up a Google Alert. Go to Alerts, type in the team's name in the Search Terms box, and use the other drop- downs to select the type of information you're looking for (news, blogs, video, etc.), how often you'd like the updates delivered, and the address to which the updates should be sent.
That's it. If you have a Gmail account, the alerts will automatically be routed to your Gmail inbox. If you'd prefer that the results be sent you some RSS reader you have, you can configure that as well.
If you regularly visit a handful of social networking sites and a few newspapers every morning looking for the latest updates, why not just have Google Reader aggregate that information in one place? That's the idea behind Reader, which is both remarkably easy to use and effective.
Just log on to Reader (http://www.google.com/reader), click the Add a Subscription button, and type in the name of your favourite forum, blog, or news site. Keep adding subscriptions until you've included everything you want to stay abreast of.
Then use Reader as a kind of 'recent posts' list. You can quickly scan headlines, along with a snippet of the actual article text, without being bothered by the site's ads or other distractions. Want to see the full text, posting, or blog entry? Just click the title, and you're whisked off to the original site where the content appears. If you'd like to share what you enjoy with others, you can even send things you have 'favourited' to Facebook, MySpace, Digg, Twitter, or a number of other social networking sites.
Some people want to remain anonymous on the web. Others couldn't if they tried. When someone searches for your name on the Internet, what do they find? If you want to exercise some control over the answer to that question, it'll be worth your while to use Google's Profile creator (http://www.google.com/profiles) to fashion a personal profile.
Your Google profile can contain as much or as little information as you desire. If you use Profile, you can add photos, links to other sites, or an encrypted e-mail address which allows people to e-mail you without revealing your true address. The more information you provide, the higher up in the search rankings you'll likely land when someone searches for your name. Leave Profiles alone, of course, if you want to continue to fly under the radar and you're happy with what people find when they conduct a search using your name.