Google Tricks

googleGoogle’s search box is so much more than it appears to be.  You may be familiar with Google Doodles, where Google modifies its logo to commemorate holidays or events.  You may also know that you can use the “Search Tools” button to refine a Google search by time, location, or other limits (found under “All results”).advancedIn fact, there are a whole host of tricks and tools (infographic) out there to make the most of your Google search.  Beyond search terms and language that can refine a search, Google has built in some other neat features that are outlined nicely in this Mashable article.  Some of my favorite tools are:

  • Hidden “Easter Eggs” – the Chuck Norris bit is great!
  • Easy unit conversions – a must for recipes.
  • Package tracking
  • Local movie times

What are your favorite Google tricks?

Looking for App or Software Recommendations?

makeuseofIn my constant search for helpful tech information to share with patrons and readers, I keep coming across one site that is extremely useful no matter what I’m looking for. I just can’t say enough about MakeUseOf.com.  We use some of their cheat sheets and guides in our library, and I subscribe to their joke blog for techies as well as their informative newsletter (subscribe on right side).  I even purchased a tablet based on one of their reviews!

I am often asked if I have any recommendations for apps and software.  And yes, if you are interested in Android or PC software within my range of interests, I can help.  Unfortunately, I haven’t owned a Mac since college, I’ve never had a chance to play with iPhones or Windows phones, and to my knowledge, I have never even tried a computer running Linux.  Enter MakeUseOf to save my sorry self and provide great recommendations for nearly every platform in their Best Of… series.  They even include recommendations for plugins in Firefox, Chrome, and WordPress!  While you’re there, you may want to browse their guides and tech help forums.  They really do have something for everyone.

Another great site for tech information is TechCrunch.  If you would like to see their app recommendations for Android and iOS, check out their article, The 20 Best iOS and Android Apps of 2012.

What are your go-to sites for tech information?

Life After iGoogle

google-icon

Have you come to depend on iGoogle as a convenient home page with all of your favorite Google (and other) stuff in one place?  Me too.  Despite the popularity of iGoogle, Google has decided to discontinue the service after November 1, 2013.  This leaves many users scrambling for a new solution.  Whether you are an iGoogle user or not, you may find the suggestions below useful.

1.  Google Shortcuts
If you are looking for is quick access to Google products, and you use Firefox or Chrome for your browser, this add-on may help.  It does exactly what it sounds like – it adds shortcuts for Google services to the top of your browser.  You can choose which shortcuts you use by clicking the gear icon.  Here’s a clip of what the shortcuts look like on my browser (Firefox):

googleshortcuts

Warning:  the download page is in German, but the settings and operations are in English.

2. Myfav.es
If you don’t need previews of content, just quick links to your favorite sites, this may be the service for you.  There are shortcuts for many, many websites available.  No account necessary.  Here is what the homepage I created looks like:
faves

Chances are, though, that you are looking for a page with gadgets that offers previews of your email, RSS feeds, calendar, etc.  Read on for other services that offer a similar experience to iGoogle.

3.  igHome
This one is my current favorite.  The setup was easy, and in no time I had a functioning page nearly identical to my iGoogle page.  As a bonus, shortcuts to Google services are included in a toolbar at the top of the page.  If you are using the Gmail gadget, be sure to turn on IMAP in your Gmail settings and approve the igHome application to access it.

4. Netvibes
This one is a bit more complicated than igHome to set up, but more customization is available.  Also, more widgets are available than with some other customized home pages.

5. uStart.org
This solution is similar to Netvibes.  You may want to experiment with both and see which you like better.

6. MyMSN and MyYahoo
These are personalized homepages provided by their respective companies.  If you don’t need any gadgets related to Google (Gmail, Google Calendar, etc.), one of these may work well for you.

7. Skim.Me
This one looks promising, but I’m still waiting for an invitation to get in on the beta.

Have you found another solution?  If so, let me know about it in the comments.

Happy computing!

Get the Most from Your Google Search

If I had a nickel for every time I heard, “I Googled it but couldn’t find it”, I’d be a rich woman.  In fact, the desired information was probably returned as one of the millions of results, but the user didn’t have time to look at the whole list.  Who could blame a person for not wanting to sift through pages and pages of results just to find one gem?

Thankfully, Google has some tools built in for advanced searching.  Some of them are obvious, such as the list of options for refining the search that appear on the left side of the Google search page.  Others are not so obvious.  I have found a couple of sources that will help you on your way to becoming a Google search guru, able to get exactly what you are looking for to show up on page one of your results.

This infographic from the folks at HackCollege gives a great overview of some of the most helpful search terms (operators) to help you narrow your search field.  Another great resource is this article by John Tedesco, reporting on a speech given by Google employee Daniel Russell.

If you don’t want to memorize all of these tips, try using Google’s own Advanced Search page.  To get there, go to http://www.google.com/advanced_search.  Or, start with a basic search.  On the results page, click the gear icon in the upper right corner.  Select “Advanced Search” from the resulting menu.

Happy searching!

Searching Anonymously

Lately, I have been reading a lot of posts about how to keep sites and services from tracking your internet activity.  Though many of us have nothing to hide about how we use the internet, it may still be disturbing to know you are being tracked and to have personal information about you sold to the highest bidder.

Here at the library, we use Google Analytics to get information about how people use our site.  Our only reason for doing this is to help improve the user experience in our online locations.  Knowing which of our pages get the most hits helps us tune in to the content you want and need.  We do not sell this information.  Nor do we use it for targeted advertising or nefarious purposes.  Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the many of the other sites out there tracking their users’ visits.

If you would like to turn off tracking in your browser, you can set this in the preferences/settings area of most browsers. Those browsers that do not currently support turning off tracking have pledged to implement support by the end of the year, according to this c-net article.  Personally, I use a browser add-on called DNT+.  This browser add-on/extension advertises that it goes “far beyond what built-in private browsing modes offer” with a link to this list of concerns not covered by your browser’s private mode.  DNT+ also allows me to pick and choose which sites I allow to track my movements.  For example, I allow libraries, schools and government information sites to track me because I know it will help them to improve their services, and they won’t sell my information.  I do not allow commercial sites to track me because I do not have confidence that they will use the information in an entirely constructive way.  This is all a matter of personal preference, of course.

Even with tracking blockers in place, search engines may still gather information about how you are searching.  If this gives you the creeps and you are looking for a non-tracking alternative browser, check out these suggestions by How-to-Geek.

Do you have privacy concerns you’d like me to cover here?  If so, please note them in the comments and I’ll work up a post.

That reminds me – it’s time to double-check my Facebook privacy settings, too…