Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Google Does More Than Find Things

Few online services have become so much a part of the culture as Google™. In some lexicons it has become an acceptable verb meaning to “look up or search for information.” I know that there is hardly a day that passes that I don’t use this powerful service. While there are several other search engines available on line, Google™ has established itself as the most widely used.

Recently there have been reports of expansion by Google™ into an array of other services including providing some online software to compete with some of Microsoft’s products like MS Word® and even Excel®. Whether these get a foothold is still to be determined. Nevertheless, there are several free Google™ services and products that are available now that are very useful.

For example, did you ever notice on the Google™ home page a little button labeled “Language Tools?” It is easy to miss. Look to the right of the search box. Clicking on this button opens up a neat translation service. You will find the capacity to translate text to or from more than a dozen languages ranging from Arabic to Spanish. Now for sure the translations will not be perfect but they will allow you to get the sense of meaning of the text written in a language unfamiliar to you. For example, if I type in, “Hi! Where can I find a newspaper?” Google™ will respond in French, “Salut. Où puis-je trouver un journal? ” For more complex text you will find that the system has some problems with idioms and words with multiple meanings. I would not recommend using it for business or anything legal. You could end up buying the Eiffel Tower rather than asking how to get there.

Google Alerts™ another very useful service that is free. This feature searches the internet for mentions of specific words and then sends you an email indicating where you will find the full article. For example, if Ollie, our esteemed editor, wants to know whenever the Harrison Press is mentioned on a blog, in some on-line publication or even in another newspaper, he can enter the words “Harrison Press” and periodically he will get notified via email when the publication is mentioned. For sure this service will not pick up every mention, but it does a credible job.

For you budding inventors Google™ offers an online patent search. Currently more than 7 million patents are listed. This will not take the place of a good attorney but it may be a place to start to see if someone else really does have that better mouse trap.

These are only a few of the many services that Google™ has developed. You can manage you digital photos, search for blogs, set up an email account or find images and pictures related to most any topic. For some of these searches you may get some results that are not acceptable to your personal preferences. Before using any of the search functions, you may wish to set up the search “filtering preferences.” You will find this feature on the Google home page under “Preferences.”

Again, for the most part Google™ services are free and in my experience worth much more than many services that charge a fee.



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