Friday, December 28, 2007

Google Now Talks to AIM

This is something we've been anticipating for quite some time now. Google and AOL have now connected their Google Talk and AIM instant messaging networks. The only caveat is that you have to use the chat function in Gmail instead of the freestanding Google Talk program, but that's probably the most common version of Google's IM anyway. When you log into Gmail Chat, you can now sig into your AIM account and talk to all your AIM buddies, easy as pie.

New Terrain Layer in Google Maps

Google Maps now includes a new Terrain layer that combines the regular street maps with information about the surrounding terrain. Also new are street level photos for several new cities, including Minneapolis and Indianapolis.

Google Maps for Mobile Knows Where You Are

There's a new feature in the version of Google Maps for mobile phones, called My Location. Using either your phone's built-in GPS function (if your phone has built-in GPS, that is) or triangulation from the nearest cell phone tower, My Location lets you highlight where you are on the onscreen map. Just press the 0 key and look for a blue dot -- that's you!

New Google Video Homepage

The repositioning of Google Video continues. The new Google Video homepage now focuses on trends and rankings, with a new section for "hot videos" that includes the most blogged, most shared, and most viewed videos. Check it out!

Share Google Reader Items with Friends

Google is getting more social. Case in point: Google Reader now automatically subscribes to the list of shared items from your Google Talk friends list. Your friends will also see your shared items, but you can remove those you don't want to read your favorite posts.

Search for Faces with Google Image Search

Here's a new advanced search option for Google Image Search. Go to the Advanced Search page and select Faces in the content types section. This restricts your searches to images that include faces only, using Google's proprietary face recognition technology. It's a great way to limit your image searches for pictures of people!

Play Videos from Google Universal Search Results

You probably know that Google now displays links to videos on its search results page, thanks to the new universal search features. But did you know that you can play most videos directly from this page, without linking to the video first? Just look for a Watch Video link in the video description; click this link to play the video.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

New Version of Gmail

Google has updated its Gmail web-based email application. The new version has a slightly different interface, a new contact manager, the ability to filter messages based on various criteria, and is IMAP-compatible. It's the IMAP thing that's most interesting; IMAP lets you keep all your email messages in sync between multiple devices. It's a big deal if you use an iPhone or other mobile device to check your Gmail on the go.

Google Notebook Adds Labels and Bookmarks

It's now a little easier to organize the data you store in Google Notebook. Google has added label and bookmark features, which most people should find useful

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Google Shared Stuff

Here's something new. If you go to this link, you can add a Share/Email button to your web browser's Favorites list. Then, when you find a page you want to share with others (via email or a social networking site, such as Digg), just click the button. If you have a Google Account you also create a Google Shared Stuff page which you can publicly share with friends and family, full of all your favorite pages and links. It's a nice way to share your favorite stuff!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Google Presentations

Google has finally launched the Presentations component of Google Docs. (Yes, it's now just Google Docs, no longer Google Docs & Spreadsheets.) You can import PowerPoint presentations 10MB or less) or create your own presentations online. Functionality is less than that of PowerPoint, but that's to be expected. Collaboration features, however, make the deal. You and your colleagues can edit a presentation simultaneously and, of course, multiple invitees can view the presentation over the web. When viewing a presentation, everyone can participate in a group chat via Google Talk. Expect additional features to be added in coming weeks and months.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Googlepedia Second Edition Now Shipping!

Just published: The new second edition of Googlepedia: The Ultimate Google Resource. This new edition is updated with everything new at Google in the past year, including YouTube, Blogger, Google Reader, Google Maps, and the like. The new edition is a big honkin' 822 pp. long, and sells for $34.99. Look for it at a bookstore near you, or read more (and order it) online: Googlepedia web page.

Google Reader Search

If you use Google Reader to keep track of your RSS feeds and such, you can now search across all your feeds via a new top-of-page search box. Nice!

Google Book Search Virtual Library

Google Book Search now lets you create a virtual online library of your favorite books. Add a book to your library by searching for it and then clicking the Add to Library link. Or you can import a list of ISBNs. Your choice.

This creates a list of the books you've selected. You can share your book list with others, thanks to the list's public URL. You can also categorize your books, write reviews, and rate the books. Cool!

What Time is It?

Here's a new query option for Google search. To display the local time for any location in the world, simply enter the query what time is it in location. Google then displays a OneBox result with the current local time.

Blogger Play

Here's a cool new Blogger-related toy. Blogger Play is a site that displays the most recently-uploaded photos to Blogger blogs, in a never-ending slideshow. It's a great time waster!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Google News Videos

Google News is now more than just text stories. Google has added news videos from CBS, Reuters, the BBC, and other sources. The videos are actually hosted by YouTube, and accessible from the Google News site.

Embed Google Maps on Your Site

Google has finally added a much-requested feature to Google Maps, the ability to easily embed any Google Map you create into your own website. It's similar to the way you can embed YouTube videos; on each Google Maps page you now find HTML code to both link to the map and to embed the map. Just cut and paste this short little snippet of HTML into your web page or blog, and Google will embed the map onto your page. It's easy enough just about anyone can do it. Good job, Google!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Google Video Refund Update

When Google decided to close down the Google Video Store, which lets you buy and rent videos, it initially said it would close down access to purchased videos almost immediately and refund users' purchases via a Google Checkout credit. Users balked at this; they wanted continued access to the videos they'd bought, and thought the Google Checkout credit was a blatant promo for Google's own payment service. Google has responded to the complaints by (1) Extending access to purchased videos for the next six months (2) Refuding all user purchases, from day one, to their credit cards, and (3) Keeping the Google Checkout credit as a kind of "we're sorry" bonus to users. That's a fast and above-the-call-of-duty response to user complaints, and shows a very customer-focused attitude on the part of Google management. Good decision!

Video Ads in YouTube

Google has finally figured out a way to serve video ads in YouTube. For videos from selected partners, YouTube now displays an ad overlay that appears about 15 seconds into the video. The overlay takes up the bottom half of the screen; you can click to close the overlay, or it will disappear on its own after 10 seconds. To view the associated ad, just click the appropriate part of the overlay.

Right now, these ad overlays are added only to videos from YouTube's major content partners, and Google shares the ad revenue with those partners. You don't have to worry about Google popping an ad onto your own personal video. (At least not yet, anyway.) The response to this development is divided -- advertisers love it, while the YouTube community hates it. And so it goes.

Google Sky

Google Earth isn't Earth-bound any more. The latest version of Google Earth (new download required) includes a feature called Sky, which includes high-resolution images of hundreds of millions of stars from more than 200 million galaxies. The images are gathered from a variety of giant telescopes, including the Hubble Space Telescope.

To switch to Sky mode in Google Earth, click the planet icon on the toolbar. Alternately, pull down the View menu and select Switch to Sky. Click on any point in the sky to zoom into a closer image, and to display information about that star, planet, or galaxy.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Google Pack Adds StarOffice

Google Pack, Google's bundle of assorted applications, has a new component. Google Pack now includes StarOffice, Sun's collection of office applications. Designed to compete with Microsoft Office, StarOffice includes word processing, spreadsheet, database, drawing, and presentation applications. And, as part of Google Pack, it's all free. (Standalone cost: $70.)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Google Video to Stop Selling Videos

Google has stopped selling and renting commercial videos (mainly TV shows) on its Google Video site. Google Video remains open, just without the TV shows for sale.

Friday, August 10, 2007

More Storage

By default, Google gives you a lot of storage space for their various products -- 2.82GB for Gmail, 1GB for Picasa Web Albums, and an undetermined amount for Google Docs & Spreadsheets. But if that's not enough (and it never is), Google has rolled out a new "extra space for pay" plan. Now you can purchase extra space that gets shared between all Google online products (Gmail and Picasa Web Albums today, Google Docs & Spreadsheets soon). Rate range from $20/year for an extra 6GB to $500/year for an extra 250GB. I like the idea, but the rates seem a little high, especially when you can buy a 200GB hard drive for around $100. Still, it's worth considering if you store a lot of data online. Learn more and purchase storage here.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Customized Directions on Google Maps

Google Maps now lets you customize the directions it generates, to avoid or include certain roads or locations, or to route around bad traffic. To customize directions, simply drag any point on the purple directions line to a new location. Google Maps automatically recreates the directions and creates a new destination for the point you added. To remove a destination, right-click on any of the markers on the route and select Remove This Destination.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Google Maps Street View

In case you missed it, Google Maps is now displaying Street View 360-degree photographs of selected major cities (New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas, etc.). Just click the Street View link and you see a ground-level photo of the current location; use your mouse to pan left and right around that point. It's probably more cool than useful, and has generated some privacy concerns, but still worth checking out.

Google Docs & Spreadsheets: New Interface

Google Docs & Spreadsheets is sporting a new folder-based interface. This should make it easier to store and find documents you're working on. Check it out!

Google Voice Local Search: Now with Maps

Remember 1-800-GOOG-411, AKA Google Voice Search, Google's free voice service aimed at replacing paid 411 services on your mobile phone? Now you can use it to send maps to your cell phone. Just dial a (free) call, tell it what you're looking for, then say "map it." Google will then send you text message with the details of your search plus a link to a map of the location you asked for.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Googlepedia: Radio Interview

I was recently featured on the Let's Talk Computers radio program, talking about Google and Googlepedia. Listen to a podcast of the interview here.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Google Gears

Google just announced a new API, dubbed Google Gears, that will let developers move web-based applications to the offline world. The first application of Google Gears is in Google Reader, which is now available in a freestanding (i.e., non-web) version. Expect a Google Gears version of Google Docs & Spreadsheets sometime soon, which will let Google compete more directly with Microsoft Office.

Google Spreadsheets Charts

Sometime in the past few months Google has added basic charting capability to its Google Spreadsheets application. Check it out -- it's relatively easy to use.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Universal Search

Google has instituted what they're calling Universal Search. What this means is that when you enter a query into the main Google Searh box, you get results from all over the Google empire -- Web Search, Image Search, Blog Search, News Search, Google Maps, you name it. If the result is relevant, it shows up on the results page. (Which means you might not see results from all the search sites; if you enter an address, or example, you'll get Web and Maps results, but probably not News and Image results.) You can filter your search results by clicking the appropriate link (Web, Blog, Image, etc.) in the information bar at the top of the results.

Universal Search is kind of cool, in that it puts all your results in one place; you don't have to jump from one part of Google to another to see the results. It's also relatively transparent, which is good.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Personalized Homepage is Now iGoogle

Lots happening at Google today. Google finally got some marketing smarts, renaming their Personalized Homepage to iGoogle. Google has also introduced a Gadget Maker function so anyone can create simple gadgets to put on their iGoogle page. Finally, Google is launching location-based personalized search results; if you've defined a default location in Google Maps, you'll see results of any Google search based on that location.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Recommended Searches

Google is adding some automated "recommended search" features to its basic search. First, on the Google Toolbar, you'll now find a button that looks like a pair of dice; click this button to go directly to a site that Google thinks you might find interesting, based on your past searches. (I view this as a variation on the old "I feel lucky" link.) Second, if you use the Google Personalized Home Page, you can add a Recommendations tab that displays recommended sites, also based on your past searches.

Goodbye Froogle, Hello Google Product Search

In the aim of consistency, Google has changed the name of Froogle to Google Product Search. They've also changed the interface a bit, making it a tad more Googlized.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

YouTube Videos in Your Blogger Blog

New feature in Blogger -- the ability to add YouTube videos as a sidebar element to your blog. Use the Blogger Dashboard to go to the Template tab, click Add a Page Element, and then select Video Bar. This lets you add a vertical bar of YouTube video clips, based on defined search elements.

Google Presentations

Google is enhancing their Docs and Spreadsheets suite of online applications with a web-based presentation program. The application comes courtesy of Google's recent acquisition of Tonic Systems; it should launch late this summer.

Google Ads on Clear Channel Radio

Google as a giant ad delivery service marches on. The company just announced an agreement with the big (and, IMHO, inherently evil) Clear Channel group to serve advertisements to teh group's thousands of radio stations. Just another sign that Google is really an advertising company, not a search company.

Monday, April 16, 2007

New Article: Using Google Mobile

Check out my most recent article on the InformIT site: Using Google Mobile on Your Cell Phone. It's all about all the cool Google stuff you can do from a mobile phone -- maps, mail, searching, and more!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Google Acquires DoubleClick

In its quest to become the dominant advertising service on the web (or in the world), Google just announced the acquisition of web ad firm DoubleClick. DC targets web display ads, which supplements Google's context-based ads. It's a big $3.1 billion deal.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Interview with Eric Schmidt

Great interview at the Wired site with Google CEO Eric Schmidt. (Click here to read.) When asked about what kind of business Google is, here's how Schmidt responded:

Think of it first as an advertising system. Then as an end-user system - Google Apps. A third way to think of Google is as a giant supercomputer. And a fourth way is to think of it as a social phenomenon involving the company, the people, the brand, the mission, the values - all that kind of stuff.

As I wrote in Googlepedia, Goolgle is first and foremost an advertising company. Note how the word "search" doesn't appear anywhere in Schmidt's response.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Google Does Directory Service

This one may be a stretch, but you never know. Google is now testing directory service, the voice kind, for phone users. Just dial 1-800-GOOG-411 (1-800-466-4411) from any voice phone and speak your request. Google Voice Local Search, as it's called, is a voice-activated service that taps the same database used in Google Maps. It's a Google Labs project, so don't expect perfect service in all areas just yet.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Google Housing Search

Here's something new. Enter the query "homes for sale city" or "city real estate" and the search results page pops up with a Housing Search applet on the top of the page. Confirm your location, select a listing type (For Sale, For Rent, Foreclosure, or Room for Rent), then click the Go button, and Google returns a list of properties for sale or rent in that area. Google gets its listing direct from various partners and by searching the web. It's a good first start for making real estate searches that much easier.

Google Desktop for Mac

Google has finally released a Mac version of Google Desktop. Check it out here.

Create Your Own Map Mashups with Google My Maps

Google has just made it easier to create your own map mashups. (A mashup is a Google map overlaid with your own personal points and data.) When you go to Google Maps, you see a new tab labeled My Maps. Select this tab and then click the Create a New Map button. When the next page appears, select a point on the map, add a placemark for that place, assign a label and descriptive text, and then click the Save button. You can return to this place at any time by opening the My Maps tab and selecting the placemark. Very easy to do, and quite useful.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Zoom Into Google Maps

Here's a neat little Google Maps trick. To zoom in further than is allowed normally in satellite view, zoom in as far as you can and then click the Link to This Page link. When the URL appears, replace the "z" parameter with a higher value -- 20, 21, 22, or something similar. When the page reloads, you may see a closer zoom -- or not, depending on how detailed the available satellite map is. It's worth trying!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Real Time Flight Info on Your Cell Phone

Now you can text message Google and receive real-time flight info from Just send a text message to 466453 (GOOGLE) containing your flight number; Google will text back the status of your flight.

Google Mobile Search Updated

Google has updated the functionality of its Google Mobile search. The homepage for your cell phone has been simplified (fewer clicks to the info you want) and the results have been refined for more relevancy. Check it out here.

New Applications in Google Pack

If you're a fan of the Google Pack bundle, know that it now includes Norton Security Scan (to detect and remove viruses) and PC Tools' Spyware Doctor Starter Edition (to detect and remove spyware). Also updated is the Google Pack screensaver, now with support for photo feeds from various photo-sharing sites. Download it here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Personalized Homepage Themes

Google is now offering several new background themes for its personalized homepage. For the longest time, the look and feel of the page was the only thing you couldn't personalize; now you can choose from a half-dozen themes. The themes are "active," in that they change over the course of the day, depending on the time of day. Check 'em out!

Plus Box in Search Results

Here's something new you might find in selected Google searches. Look for a big "+" icon next to your results. Click the "plus box," as Google calls it, and the results expand to show related information. It's more results from the same search page.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

New Version of Google Desktop

Google just released a beta Google Desktop 5. This new version features visual and operational improvements to the Sidebar and Gadgets, as well as an in-browser search results preview. Check it out here.

Multi-Step Directions in Google Maps

Google Maps has finally added a long-awaited, quite valuable feature, also recently added to Yahoo! Maps: Multiple-step directions. This means you can plan a multi-stop trip (point A to point B to point C), instead of merely going from point A to point C with no stops in-between. Just create directions from your starting point to your first stop, then click the Add a Destination link and enter your second stop, Keep clicking the Add a Destination link to create more complex trips and directions.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Google Maps Adds Live Traffic Data

Here's something real cool. Google Maps, in both the desktop and mobile versions, now offers live traffic data for over 30 cities. Just call up a map and then click the Traffic button; major roads now appear as green (smooth), yellow (busy), or red (congested). You can even overly the traffic data on the satellite and hybrid views. And on interstate highways, you get the green/yellow/red separately for lanes in both directions! I find this especially useful when I'm on the go, and can check Google Maps via Google Mobile on my cell phone.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Who Links to Your Website?

If you're interested in which other websites link to your site, you could use Google's link: operator, but it's a bit cumbersome. A better method is to use Google's Webmaster Tools, which has a new Links tab. This new tool lets you see how many sites link to every page on your site, and who those links are. It's a great tool, and it's completely free!