Google: More Than Just a Search Engine

With everyone going ga-ga over Facebook and Twitter, Google seems like a distant memory as internet phenomenons go. Whether you’re rushing to jump on the social networking bandwagon, or totally confused about how “friending” became a verb or whether it’s a “twit” or a “tweet”, here are a few basics that may help keep you grounded while everyone is trying to turn your head.

Google Logo

The computer and I are pretty much on a “need to know basis”, which means I’m far from an expert, I just “play” one on the internet.  Unfortunately I don’t get paid for singing the praises of Google, but their applications help make me look pretty tech savvy. For anyone over 35 who has yet to get their feet wet online, or maybe you’ve just begun to test the waters, I want to encourage you to jump in and take the plunge! 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know if you need to find information on the world wide web (www) the first thing you do is “google” it.  But the G-machine is much more than just the yellow pages of the internet.  Google can actually help you keep Facebook, Twitter and and all the other internet craze’s organized and at your fingertips without having to open a browser window for each application.  

The possibilities are limitless, but in an effort to not overwhelm, lets just start with my top three.  Gmail, Google Calendar and I-Google.  If you’re looking for a step-by-step or how-to, you won’t find it here.  I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel, Google can walk you through just fine without my help.  My purpose is to make sure you know how far that proverbial wheel has come in making “logging in” easier than ever.

Gmail

One thing I like about Google is it allows you to consolidate.  Gmail is your e-mail, but it can also allow you to communicate via IM (instant messaging) or video chat (no need for a separate application like Skype).  Google Calendar not only lets you keep track of your schedule, it also allows you to create and integrate calendars for your kids or work and be able to see it all in one place.  Then there’s I-Google.  Your one stop shop for keeping everything together so you can see it all at a glance on one page.

There are a lot of great features about Gmail, but if all you ever use it for is email, just the labeling is reason enough to make the switch.  How many times have you frantically searched for an email you know you received or sent, but can’t find it?  Marking your mail with color coded labels will help you easily find and keep track of everything.  A few labels on my list include: bill pay, school, travel, work, and freebies.  Each label is titled and color coded to my choosing which makes it easy to find specific emails at a glance or searching by label.  Finding that airline itinerary when it’s flagged in blue (which reminds me of Hawaii) takes only seconds even if I booked the flight months before.

I also like the fact Gmail keeps threads of conversations together.  If you send out an email and you’re going back and forth with replies several times, all the emails are automatically kept together which makes it easy for future reference.  It’s especially nice if the email was sent to several people because all the replies from everyone are connected.

I have to admit, I’m not big on IMing, but sometimes it is the quickest way to respond. Google Talk is attached to Gmail, which makes it easy to communicate instantly, if you want.Google Talk You can IM by typing, talk voice to voice or if you have a webcam you can actually see the other person you’re chatting with if they also have a webcam. It’s pretty much like Skype, but you don’t have to have a separate program.

Google Calendar has the same color coding option as Gmail.  I have four calendars within one.  What this means is there’s a different color assigned to my personal calendar, my work calendar, and each of my two daughters calendars.

Google CalendarEvery time I make an entry it shows up in the color I’ve assigned to that specific person’s activities.  It’s pretty easy to see at a glance who or what is dominating any given day or week.  My other favorite thing about Google Calendar is it lets me set reminders that I can have sent to me as a pop-up on my computer, via email or text to my phone. These reminders can be set in minutes, hours, days or weeks and given my tendency towards “mother-brain”, sometimes I use all three reminders because there’s nothing more frustrating than forgetting an appointment or activity.

I know, you’re thinking you already have a calendar on your I-phone, Blackberry or right on your PC, but Google Calendar lets you synch with any of these.  Before you think it sounds redundant, keep in mind you can access all your Google accounts online, so the next time your phone goes dead or you don’t have your PC handy, you can still get to all that important information via any computer that has access to the internet. 

Last, but certainly not least is I-Google. This is one page you can put everything else on, including non-Google applications. It’s basically a collage of real-time snippets of all the regular sites you access the most. You can customize and personalize everything from the banner picture to how many items show up on this page.
I-Google

I’ve made I-Google my homepage so every time my computer is connected to the internet it’s the first thing I see. On my I-Google page I have Gmail and Google Calendar, but I also have my Facebook, Twitter, CNN.com, Weather, and my blog.  A couple other “must haves” include Dictionary.com and Wikipedia so I can look things up easier and of course I’d be lost without Google maps and driving directions.

They have a link at the top right hand side of the page dedicated just to “add stuff”. TV schedules, movie listings, YouTube, clocks, games, pretty much anything and everything you’d ever want. I’ve chosen to keep my page to just the essentials, but the gadgets one can add are endless. I-Google makes it so much easier for you to navigate the internet, it’s almost like having a GPS for the world wide web.

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2 thoughts on “Google: More Than Just a Search Engine

  1. These are all great examples of how Googles services/applications can help to simplify your life. I just wanted to add another one of my favorites to you list… Google Docs. Docs are Google’s version of the Microsoft Office Suite (excel spreadsheet, word, and powerpoint), except for one important thing… Docs can be accessed online, from anywhere! Which makes them extremely useful, especially if you intend to collaborate on projects. We’ve all done the whole thing where we email a word document to someone for them to edit, only to have them download the attachment, open it up, make the corrections, and attach it back to an email and send it back…. so time consuming. So why not use Google Docs and have the docs “live” online? This way the document creator can add their friends/colleagues as “editors” to specific documents, making document collaboration much more streamlined. If you haven’t already used Google Docs, check them out!!

  2. As a Mac user who doesn’t have MS Word, I totally agree about Google Docs! My kids have taken a liking to Google Chrome (I installed it as their browser) and Google Notebooks have come in handy for me as well. See how easy it could be to get overwhelmed? Kinda like a kid in a candy store! I didn’t begin to list all the features of my top three, so people should be even more thrilled when they actually check out these applications.

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