Everybody seems to love Google when it comes to finding stuff on the Internet, but did you know they offer a ton of free services? From the ever popular ones like video sharing (YouTube) and e-mail (Gmail) to the more unknown ones of free voicemail and free calendars; chances are if there’s a program or service out there that most people would be interested in, Google provides an easy and free version of it! So I’ve decided to try and compile a massive list of them here on HIF, in alphabetical order and broken into two categories. The first list contains all of the services and products that Google offers directly from their site. The next list contains all the websites and companies Google owns and operates. By no means is this a be all, end all list for the services Google offers, but these are the things that I think most average people could get some use out of. So…enjoy!
Google 411 – I wrote about this a little while ago, but basically this is a free 411 service, as opposed to actually dialing 411 on your phone and paying a charge for the service. I’ve used this extensively over the past few months and now I wonder how in the world I got by without it.
Google Alerts – Let’s say you have a hobby of collecting rare, Norwegian buttons from the 17th century. Now, chances are there aren’t going to be many new and fresh stories to pop up on the Internet every day about such a topic. Which is where GAlerts comes in. You can set it to e-mail you whenever there is a new article about any topic you want, (you can specify if you want to only focus on blogs, user groups, large newspapers, etc.) Pretty nifty if you have certain things you’re really interested in but which there isn’t a website already dedicated to them.
Google Base – This nifty little tool allows you to create your own mini-search engine of data. Let’s say for instance that you are a wonderful chef with tons of family recipes that you’d like to share with your family. Well, with GBase, you could input each of the recipes that you wanted to share and if you do a few a day, over time you’ll have a nice (and big!) database of awesome recipes. Then your cousin halfway across the world might one day think, “Man, I could go for some pizza right now…,” come to your database, search for pizza, and viola! He’s got your own recipe!
Google Book – Slowly, but surely, Google is trying to scan every page of every book into it’s computers so that one day you’ll be able to search for a certain passage and pull it right up. Of course, it’s taking them forever to do so, but current estimates put the count of books in their database at over 1 million. Not too shabby!
Google Bookmarks – If you find that keeping up with your bookmarks between your home and office computers, as well as maybe your laptops, is tough, then you might want to check out GBookmarks. It’s a service that allows you to create on-line bookmarks, kinda like del.icio.us, but with the security and privacy that you’d expect with your own computer. Plus, it’s just nice to be able to access my bookmarks no matter where I am!
Google Browser Sync – Or you could just get this little feature if you’re already using Firefox! (Which you should be! If you’re not, just click the button below!) This allows you to synch your Firefox browsers no matter where you are, so that when you add a bookmark at home, it’ll update your office computer to include the bookmark as well.
Google Checkout – If you’ve ever used Paypal, you’ve probably heard plenty of horror stories about them. The only problem, up until recently, they were the only website where you could safely and easily send and receive money on the Internet. Enter Google’s Checkout service. Simply sign up, enter in your information, and you can now shop securely on the Internet, as well as have people send you money!
Google Desktop – If you’ve ever felt that the search feature on your own computer was a little lacking, then why not try Google Desktop? Search through e-mails, web history, files, applications – everything!
Google Docs – Now this is one of my favorite Google features, by far! Basically, this is an on-line version of Microsoft Office. There’s a word processor, spreadsheet, power point – basically everything you’d ever need. You can password protect all your files or collaborate with friends across the internet, giving different people different levels of editing powers. If you’re in school or work and have ever tried organizing a group project, Google Docs might very well be a Godsend for you!
Google Earth – If you enjoy spying on your neighbor’s backyard, then this is the product for you! Haha, Basically this is a massive collection of satellite photos spanning the globe, to the point where you can plot in almost any coordinates and get a bird’s eye view of the place. It’s fun to at least check out your own area and see if you can make anything out.
Google Finance – Basically, this is just a quickly updated page of all the ongoing stock and finance news of the day.
Google Groups – You might already be familiar with Yahoo’s Groups feature, but Google’s is much more visually appealing and easier to navigate, so I go with theirs. Pretty much, there will already be a group out there for anything you can imagine. In fact, I think there’s already a Norwegian buttons group :) This is a great feature to hook up with people who might be able to help you with something particular that a search engine might be vague at, like where the best sushi in Argentina can be found or how best to fix the engine of an antique car.
iGoggle – This is highly customizable home page that you can create to show up every time you open up your browser. News, weather, calendar, games, sports scores – you name it, you can place it on your iGoogle page.
Google Image Search – You’d be surprised how many people out there still don’t know that you can search for images as well as normal text words on Google!
Google Labs – Before Google perfects a service, they often let people play with them in the labs. Here, you’ll find many of the new features that Google is currently working on, but they are still in the Labs because all the kinks haven’t been worked out. Still, there are some cool things in here that you can play with and before you know it, they’ll be finished and you’ll be one of the first people around using them!
Google Mail: Previously an invite-only system, GMail now let’s anybody sign up. It’s quite easy to navigate and use and the 5GB-plus space they offer makes it the perfect e-mail account to never have to delete a message with pictures or videos attached to it!
Google Maps – Like Mapquest, but 100 times better in my opinion. You can not only look up directions, but plot a trip and even track your vacation for friends and family back home to watch! But even cooler is their Street View for certain large cities, which has 360 degree photos from almost every street!
Google News – Kinda like Google Finance, but with News instead. It’s actually one of the better news services out there, much better than Cnn.com and the like, as they tend to get breaking news uploaded much more quickly as well as draw on news from a huge variety of sources.
Google Notebook – Basically an on-line version of Notepad, except this allows you to access your files anywhere on the net, like with the Google Docs feature. You can import pictures, graphs, etc. and format the text with different colors, fonts, etc. If you’re anything like me and have sticky notes all over your desk with reminders to do things, then you’ll love GNotebook!
– If you’ve used Blogger for a while and feel that you’re ready for a little something more, Google offers GPages, where you can get up 100MB of space to upload files, create webpages, and more. Kinda like a baby version of a site like Hey, It’s Free! Don’t worry though, we all tend to start on websites like GPages. My first website was on Angelfire back in 1998 and let’s just say it looked hideous! Haha, seriously, I’m ashamed to even admit I had an Angelfire site, or a Geocities account for that matter. But oh well, they led to what you see here today!
Google Product Search – Formerly known as Froggle, this service basically let’s you search for a given product and Google will tell you where you can buy it cheapest.
Google Reader – Many people use stand alone RSS readers to keep themselves in the loop every time one of their favorite websites is updated (as a matter of fact, why not ad HIF to your RSS reader now?!). So as you can imagine, Google set out to make sure that no matter where in the world you are, you’ll be able to access your RSS reader. Sweet, huh?
Google Scholar – This is cool feature that lets you search among scholarly papers and journals for in-depth analysis and conversations based on the topic you’re looking for. Google is slowly broadening the number of resources it includes in the search results, but suffice to say if you ever really need to sound smart about a given topic, a GScholar search should be at the top of your list of things to do.
Google SMS – Let’s say you’re in a strange city and really want some pizza. Well, if you text message GOOGLE with the city you’re in and the word “pizza,” Google will do a search for you and reply back with the numbers for a few local pizza joints.
Google Talk – Google came out with their own messaging service a while back and while it’s yet to really catch on, it’s still pretty useful. You can message people, send files, check your gmail accounts, and even make free pc-to-pc phone calls (just like Skype!) – all for free!
Google Toolbar – If you find yourself using many of Google’s services throughout your day, then you might want to consider installing the GToolbar on your browser. It allows you to easily access many of Google’s websites, as well as letting you make Google searches straight from it and finding information about the page your currently browsing.
Google Translate – There are plenty of other free web translators on the web out there, but I’ve yet to come across one that’s any better or easier to use than Googles. Enough said.
Blogger – It seems like everybody and their brother have a blog by this point. But in case you are one of the nine people left without one and want to try, yet feel overwhelmed by the process, then Blogger is the site for you. It walks you through every aspect you could possible need and handles all the techno mumbo-jumbo, so that all you have to do is click a few buttons, type what you want to say to the world, and then click one more button! Easy as can be.
Dodgeball – An awesome service if you find yourself living in one of the major cities where it’s offered. Basically, if you’re out on the town and want to meet up with your friends, you can Dodgeball them and your phone will simultaneously tell you where they are and tell them where you are!
Grandcentral – Adam already wrote a fantastic review of this feature for HIF, but basically it’s a website where you can get a real, working phone number and then give that number out to people. They can then call it and be forwarded to your real number or leave you a voicemail, which you can access through your own phone or via the Internet. Perfect for those situations where you don’t want certain people to know your phone numbers!
Orkut – This is actually one of Google’s weakest services. Basically, it’s Google’s version of a Myspace or Facebook, yet you’ll soon find out after signing up that A) it sucks and B) the majority of people on it are spammers.
Picasa – A very powerful photo editor and management program, Picasa is a must if you have tons of photos on your computer. It’s Google’s answer to Yahoo’s Flickr and while the latter might be a bit more powerful, don’t be fooled. Picasa can hold it’s wight in gold and then some!
YouTube: If you don’t already know about this free video sharing site, and yet you’re here reading HIF, then you my friend are one in a million! Upload videos of up to 100mg, watch millions upon millions of other videos, and waste a good portion of your day while doing so.
So there you have it! Hopefully you found a few services in here that you didn’t know of before. And by all means, if you know of one or two I skipped over, please share them in the comments!