Google Search - Options Galore

Apr 19


Partha Bhattacharya

Partha Bhattacharya

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Google search continues to be popular destination for avid searchers like me, what with presenting amazing and innovative tools every now and then that are just too good to ignore. No doubt, for many more time to come, the search fraternity will continue to rely on Google search.

The other day I chanced upon an interesting article on Google search. The author routinely described what all Google offers these days,Google Search - Options Galore Articles and then proceeded to tell us how a giant Google can be bad for small web users like you and me. It was here that my eyes riveted on for a good length of time before I concluded that the article was more on the side of disliking Google for its supposedly phenomenal reach, rather than a presentation based on facts.

Writing on Google is a whole-time work for many an analyst, though much of what they produce lack the verve of analytical reportage. This is understandable because Google is not overtly friendly to the crowd of nitpickers outside. Whatever bits and pieces are collected tend to swell in numerous descriptions. Google though continues to guard its periphery with alacrity as it should, for nothing is more harmful than having its plans leaked out to its competitors.

Arguably, Google’s unrivalled success has resulted from its one-point agenda – that of providing quality information fast and free. And in the process of so doing, it has grown to acquire an awesome ability. What is it that makes Google so likable (and perhaps invincible too)? In this article, we will attempt to find out how Google search has transformed the search world for web users. For better.

Google search - find one, get more

If you are a search freak, Google search can be your goldmine. As we know, armed with vast data on user search behavior culled for over a decade, major engines are constantly evolving new tools and products to make our web journey meaningful, cost-effective and less painful. Yet in the midst of all that, Google search does appear to have made life on net a lot easier than most. Here are some reasons why.

Google Suggest

Let us start with simple Google search. Expecting that most of us are fairly conversant with basic search features, I will instead move on to Google Suggest. As you begin typing your query in the search box, Google search offers suggestions of likely phrases in a dropdown menu. With each alphabet you type, the menu changes continually to show the next likely phrases culled from its vast repository. In addition, you also get to know ‘number of results’ for each of those phrases, which sort of indicate search trends for them. You may at any stage use your arrow keys to select a phrase and press enter, and off you proceed to Google search result pages for the selected phrase.

Google Suggest is fantastic not only because it cuts short your search time (because that is what we happen to notice immediately), it also speaks volumes of Google’s inventiveness in order to make search activity more elaborate yet less stressful. But then, other Google search products are equally impressive, if not more, as we will soon find out. For the record, if you use Firefox browser and have installed Google toolbar, then too you get to enjoy Google Suggest. Now, on to more of Google search.

Beyond Basic Google Search

There was a time when basic search was all that search engines meant to web users. Today choices are overwhelming and each feature that Google search offers makes our web life that much easier. Take a quick look at Google search features, listing all of 27 as on date. There is one for nearly every profession (so you do not grumble!). I am not an altruist, so at the risk of being termed biased, here are some important ones.

Book Search

As part of Google search, when its Library Project was launched toward end-2004, there was uproarious disapproval everywhere. People, in particular book publishers, feared that this Google search program would gatecrash into their territory. Apprehensions prevailed and no one at that time could authoritatively say as to how the Library Project of Google search might change the prospects of entities involved.

Undeterred, Google continued working on the project proclaiming that the aim of the project is simply to create a comprehensive database of all books in all languages. Pause a moment and imagine – of all Google search projects – how massive would that be! And indeed so it was. No wonder, when it got off ground, John Wilkin of University of Michigan supposedly exclaimed, “This is the day the world changes”.

Apart from University of Michigan, Google’s other partners in this unique venture are all illustrious institutions, like Harvard University, Oxford University, The New York Public Library and Stanford University. The pedigree is impressive, results equally so, if not more as yet.

What does all this mean to you and me? The basic idea is that for all your academic needs, just come to Google search (where else!). Upon your querying at either basic Google search or its Book Search section, you quickly get to see a list of relevant books and other resources. This means you now have a one-stop platform looking for all your ‘bookish’ requirements.

Google is constantly looking for new partners (mainly libraries and publishers), whereby Google search will put up concise details of book (similar to what Amazon does) and return link that would directly lead to concerned seller’s page. For more on Google’s partner program, click here.

Image Search

I like Google Image Search as much as I prefer the trademarked Google search facility “I'm Feeling Lucky™”. There is mind-boggling collection of images that can be seen on a given topic. If you are in works that frequently require pictures or pictorial illustrations or picture references, Image Search is right for you. As in regular search, twist your query a little, and you will be presented with new list of pictures each time. Google says it is the most comprehensive image search on the web.

I'm Feeling Lucky

For those who do not wish to loose time on web, this trademarked feature is a great boon. This is similar to regular search result, except that instead of showing list of search results, Google search brings you straight to the webpage of the first URL in the list of search results. This is handy, isn’t it, if you are in hurry. Do you mind a small proviso? It is just that if you do not like the first result page, well, you have to traverse the path again.

Google Alerts

A cute tool, Google Alerts allows you to set a topic of your interest (say, Real Madrid wins or George Bush speaks) as an alert, so that each time an article related to your topic gets swept in by Google’s spiders, an email is triggered to let you know. Alerts come in four flavors – news, web, news & web and groups.

If you set a news alert, you are emailed if the topic of your interest appears in Google news search. For web alert, it is the usual web search. ‘News & Web’ includes both, while ‘Groups alert’ rings out the moment there is a post related to your topic in Google Groups search.

To many of us needing to keep track the latest in our line of interest, Google Alerts may seem god-sent. However there is a big caveat. Your alert comes alive only when a concerned article (or a post) makes it to the top ten of Google news search, top twenty of Google web search and top fifty in Google Groups search. Not yet time to rejoice, eh?

But wait. If you feel restricted by the fact that Google only provides top search results, you may like to try GoogleAlert’s service. Confused, are you? So, here is explanation. GoogleAlert (the two words together) is a separate entity that makes use of Google’s Web APIs’ to perform only web searches (as of now) to provide as much as 750 results per search depending on type of service you choose.

Webpage Translation

This must rank as a remarkable feature that Google search offers. Why? Because even though large amount of web content is authored in other languages, the fact remains a sizable number of web users converse only in English. Google search’s translation feature though is not without glitch. For example, the translation is ‘produced automatically by state-of-the-art technology without the intervention of human translators’. This means the translated versions from other languages to English lack its natural flair. Nevertheless, it is a great attempt to reach out to more ‘English’ viewers, and therefore highly laudable. As of now, ‘Google search offers English translation from Chinese (Simplified), French, German, Italian, Korean, Japanese, Spanish, and Portuguese’. I look forward to the day when Google search will offer translation from Bengali, the language I speak.

Web APIs’

More serious stuff, Google Web APIs service. But extraordinary, because it allows software developers to author their own programs which can query Google search for up to 1000 searches per day for varying results. You only need a free license key to start.

How does Web APIs’ help you? Admittedly, there is no direct help unless you are an avid software techie. Indirectly though, ordinary users stand to benefit a lot. GoogleAlert is an example (see above). Tara Calishain’s book, ‘Google Hacks’ provides some simple examples of APIs put to use (other than letting discover the wonder that is Google!). Yet another example is Agent Web Ranking’s search engine ranker tool, a good help for search engine optimization.

What else!

If you start feeling that your web life now becomes a lot easy with Google search, hold on. There are more. Want to know the latest price of your favorite stock? Just type in the four-letter NASDAQ code of the stock you are interested in (say, INFY for Infosys Technologies Limited, or GOOG for Google Inc.) and press search. The latest price movement (usually NASDAQ) comes on view in a jiffy along with trade volume and market cap. For the stock quotes, Google search covers about thirteen exchanges and / or indices in total.

What about tracking the order you are to receive soon? Type in your FedEx / UPS / USPS tracking code in the search box, click enter, and pronto Google search gets you the latest shipment position.

Coming to more mundane, if you want to know which movies are running where, what the weather will be in your locale, or for that matter, phone number of a business or an individual, well, Google search is there to help you. There are many such fantastic search options that are of typical use to Google surfers. Yet many unique features that Google search offers are of help to users in specific countries (India excluded; a grudge there!).

Over time, in so far as search technology is concerned, there will be perceptible commonality and convergence of the space attended to by Google, Yahoo! and other search engines in the interest of common users. Meanwhile, for all that one cares, Google continues to be popular destination for avid searchers like me, what with presenting amazing and innovative tools every now and then that are just too good to ignore. No doubt, for many more time to come, the search fraternity will continue to rely on Google search.

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