Google has become so synonymous with search, the name itself has become a verb meaning ‘to search,’ but Google is so much more than just a search engine. Google is also a collection of interesting and useful services, most of which are offered free. What makes these services even more valuable, is that because most are Web-based, you can access them wherever you are in the world, so long as you have access to a computer and an Internet connection. What’s more, once you sign up for a Google service, you can use the same user name and password across every service. Let’s take a look at some of these services.
- Gmail: Perhaps the best known Google service outside of the search tool is Gmail. You sign up for an account at mail.google.com and have access to email wherever you are. You can create email tags to organize your mail and search across your email store to find the email you want quickly. Google is extremely generous with its free mail service storage space.
- iGoogle Home Page: You can use Google as your home page on the Web and then customize the page to meet your unique needs by adding widgets (small programs) such as local weather, sports scores, stock quotes, news feeds, quote of the day and too many others to mention here. Then, each time you open your browser, you are greeted with your own personalized Web page.
- Google Maps: Need directions? Check out Google Maps where you can get driving directions. The tool lets you search by location or business type or find driving directions, which you can print and take with you. This is really useful when you are going to a new place and you need clear directions or you’re on the road and need to find a restaurant or hotel. It’s also great for planning vacations.
- GTalk: Having instant messaging (IM) software comes in handy. Perhaps not as well known as AIM or Yahoo! instant messaging, GTalk is an instant messaging client. It includes the ability to send instant messages to your friends, as well as make phone calls from computer to computer for free and send files through the instant messaging interface to your friends and colleagues. You can run it locally on your hard drive or through the GMail interface.
- Google Docs: You can access a free online word processor, spreadsheet and presentation program with Google Docs, a free online office suite. You can open many Microsoft Office files (so long as they don’t include advanced features) and save Google documents in Microsoft Office or pdf format (making it easy to share or transfer documents you create). Google is working to institute an off-line version now that will synch with your online version whenever you have an Internet connection.
- Google Earth: Unlike the other services in this round-up, you need to download this tool to get access to view a gorgeous, 3D representation of the earth. You can zoom in and out, search for different places on the earth, enter names of places and Google Earth spins and focuses on the spot. You can mark favorite places, zoom into city level (street level in some places) and enjoy an interactive experience.
- Google Labs: If you want still more services, you need to check Google Labs where Google frequently adds new programs or updates existing tools they still consider a work in progress.
This article has only touched the surface on some of the free tools and services available from Google. The next time you conduct a Google search, check out the links at the top of the screen. If you click “More,” then “Even More,” you’ll find a page with oodles of tools for you to explore.
Ron Miller, writer for Digital Landing