Google Services You Didn’t Know About

This entry was posted by on Friday, 11 May, 2007 at

Ok, so before you start making accusations, let me state that this blog represents the opinions of me, not my employer. My employer did not encourage me to write this post; I’m writing it out of honest enthusiasm for my company. You can accuse me of imbibing Kool-Aid, but if you know me, I’m not really that sort of person. I’ve definitely worked at companies before where I have not been particularly enthusiastic or proud of the products. Google’s corporate mission, though (“organize all information, make it accessible and useful”) really excites me. There are so many amazing products we have, and they just keep multiplying. Whenever I’m talking with family and friends about working at Google, they’re inevitably surprised by some service I mention: “So I was using Google [blah]…” … “What? I didn’t know Google had [blah]!”

So, because so many family/friends read this blog, this my opportunity to raise awareness about cool Google services you should be using, but might not have known about. The general theme here is that Google gives you the opportunity to put your entire ‘digital life’ — any information your produce/share/consume with anyone else — into their “cloud” of infrastructure, so that it’s always available from any computer you sit at.

Here’s a list of services I use all the time.

  • Web Search. Duh. This is what everyone uses already.
  • Gmail. Access your email from anywhere (web browser, mobile phone)… a lot of you probably use this too.
  • GTalk. Instant messaging. This works with your existing chat program, or inside Gmail, even, and shares your Gmail contact list.
  • Maps. See any location on earth, zoom in. Locate businesses. I’ve entirely stopped using the yellow pages now. (Also, if you really want your mind blown, try the Google Earth application, which goes into even more detail!)
  • Calendar. Put your schedule up, accessible from anywhere. Share it with people, invite them to appointments.
  • iGoogle. A custom home page. When you open your web browser to Google, all of your important information is there: local weather, sports, stocks, news feeds, games, etc. There are hundreds of ‘gadgets’ you can put on your home page… most of the services in this list have ‘gadget’ boxes you can embed onto your homepage!
  • Docs & Spreadsheets. If you’re collaborating on a Word or Excel document with a friend, stop emailing it back and forth. Instead, just let the thing live on Google, and invite any number of people to come edit the thing via the web.
  • Reader. If you read lots of blogs or news feeds, you can aggregate them all into one place and access from any browser. This is how I track my friends’ blogs.
  • Picasa Web Albums. Upload albums of digital photos to share with the world. I especially like this service because it does not require your friends to create an account (or log in) to see the photos! If you usue Windows, the normal Picasa program is a free download that organizes all your photos on your own computer, before you upload them.
  • Notebook. Take notes on sites as you surf around the web. Any sort of URL, text, or image can be copied to you notes, and the notebook is even cooler when you access it as a plugin to your web browser. Just click in the corner of your browser, and up pops your notebook!
  • News. Google searches through hundreds of news sites, groups similar articles together, and then presents an “summary” overview for you. It’s a really amazingly neutral way to track world news. When a big piece of news happens, I love to see the same story covered by ten different sources, all next to each other.
  • Desktop. Let Google index all the files on your personal computer. Then, when you do Google searches, it shows you stuff on your own machine too!
  • Toolbar. Add the Google toolbar to your web browser. It will make your life easier. Trust me.
  • Alerts. Interested in some obscure, specific subject? Tell Google, and it will act like a personal Press person. Everytime a new web page or blog post mentions your subject, you’ll get an email about it. It’s what allows me to keep track of what random people are saying about Subversion on the internet.
  • Code. If you’re an open-source programmer, put your project up on the project hosting service (which my team manages!). Or learn how to use the various Google services to write your own applications.
  • Groups. Hundreds of forum discussions. You can read them over the web, or you can subscribe and interact as a mailing-list. This is how I keep up with the interactive fiction community.
  • Sketchup. Download this program for free, and make amazing 3D models of stuff. It’s like CAD for the layman; I used it to plan furniture in my house.

Here’s a list of other cool services that I don’t use, but you might still love.

  • Blogger. Log in, create a blog. Anyone can do it!
  • Video/YouTube. Upload your movies to share with people.
  • Finance. Detailed analysis of stocks and companies. Cool interactive widgets.
  • Scholar/Patent Search. Search scholarly papers, or the whole body of U.S. Patents.

There’s so much stuff Google offers… okay, let the fanboy comments begin. 🙂

3 Responses to “Google Services You Didn’t Know About”

  1. My personal favorite: Google Co-op. Among other things, it gives you the ability to become Google — that is, to set up customized search results that your colleagues can then subscribe to. Say you’re a biologist with a database of species information. You can set up a Co-op trigger where the keywords are species names, and tell your colleagues to subscribe to it. Then when one of them does a regular Google search where the search string includes a particular species name, your database’s results for that species will come up in, say, a special one-box above or off to the side.

    Now if only Google would decide whether it’s “Coop” or “Co-op”. The URL is, but on that page it’s always referred to as “Co-op”, with a hyphen. But if you go to the corresponding URL:

    …you get a 404 Not Found error: “The requested URL /co-op/ was not found on this server.” (At least, this is true as of today’s date.)

    Know anyone in a position to fix that? 🙂

  2. eric h

    I use all but maybe half a dozen of those.

    So I’m a fanboy. So sue me.

  3. Andre J. Pluess

    It’s the simple things that have changed my life.

    Using Google Talk to keep in touch with friends I normally wouldn’t talk to – but when I see their green dot, I can shoot them a quick hello and check in. Also vice versa.

    Switching to Google Calendar has been the best thing ever. The ability to share my calendar with friends and co-workers – and to view theirs from any computer anywhere – this has been fantastic for SO many reasons. For someone like me (who is prone to poor scheduling) – Google calendar can not be beat.

    And finally – for someone like me who travels with over 1,000Gigs of hard drive space filled with sound effects, source recordings, music, mp3’s etc. etc. – the archiving features of GOOGLE DESKTOP gives me streamlined access to files in my libraries – which is key when I need to work quickly (which I often do.)

    Viva La Google.