Googly Stuff

Something for everything!I’m beginning to find that Google pretty much runs my life these days.. they only need to open up a supermarket and a petrol station and they’ve got a full house with me really.

But seriously it wasn’t until the other night when I sat down to have a little net time that I noticed how many Google based things I use, although I have just left one of them behind when I moved to WordPress over Blogger. Unless WordPress has Google links that I don’t know about?

So at the risk of seeming like one big advert (although I’m not getting paid for this) I just want to share a few things, all in one place that really make some things easy – How to let Google run your life.

(All links open in a new window)

The best feature? Has to be how it groups emails and responses together in ‘conversations’. This means when you have a rally of emails going back and fourth between yourself and one or more other people you don’t suddenly end up with 20 separate individual emails clogging up your inbox. They all get put into one line which when clicked on contains sort of tabbed entries for each response. You can then delete/save one, a few or all of the entries under that conversation.

The next best feature has to be the elimination of FOLDERS. At work I use Outlook for email (not by choice) and I have 6 years worth of folders full of absolute shit that I don’t need but don’t have the hours of my life to give away by sorting through them. The result of this is that I never find anything in them that I need. There is a way by using CATEGORIES that I could have probably better organised my rubbish but it’s clumsy to set up and use. Enter Gmail with its LABELS. Enter one or more labels to describe the email you want to save then archive it. It goes into one big pot of rubbish for easy and fast retrieval whenever you click a label associated with whatever you want to pull up.

Now if they can figure out a way for me to label the contents of my house for easy filing and retrieval I’ll be a very happy camper.

Enough about Gmail – except get yourself an account and enjoy endless anally retentive filling and organisational cleverness every time you get an email.

Once I got into Gmail I got lured in by some of the links at the top of the page.

This is set as my homepage in Firefox and every time I open my browser I can view any information I choose to make available on that page via a selection of widgets. Mine shows my Gmail Inbox, my calendar and blog reader. I also have a little Post It note widget that allows me to write notes/reminders and stick them to the iGoogle page. I’ve had the note that reads ‘PURPLE BEECH TREE’ stuck on my iGoogle for so long now that I will definately not forget which tree it was that I wanted to buy for the garden next time i’m in the garden centre. You can switch to Google Classic view at any time without losing your iGoogle stuff.

A very simple easy to use reader for any RSS feed. I have mine set up to keep track of all the blogs I read mostly as a notifier to tell me when they’ve been updated. I still like to visit the blogs to comment and appreciate any design changes that have been made.

This is the best invention ever for someone as forgetful as me. A calendar that you can view anywhere there is internet access either on your computer or on your mobile phone. It has an add on that allows you to syncronise with Outlook but the best bits have to be the multi-calendar functionality and the reminders.

Cameron has a lot of stuff going on with school and cubs that I have to remember and Wil has his own schedule of business trips and holidays etc that I want to keep up with and then there is my own busy schedule. Google calendar gives you one calendar on which you can have many other profiles. I have one set up for each of us, created another to show when my bills are due and have since imported the British Public Holidays calendar from the public listings. I can turn each calendar on or off so that I can view just my stuff or just Cams and Wils and so on and I can share specific calendars with one or more people.

For each item on the calendar I can have a schedule of reminders set up so that at a specified date and time my calendar will email me and/or send a text message to my mobile detailing the upcoming event. There is no cost for the text service but its worth its weight in gold alone that I remember 90% more stuff than I used to!

Maps are maps but when you’re a Google whore you’ll find it dead handy that when you’re signed in all your directions and location searches are all saved for easy recall later on. Google Maps allow you to do all sorts of neat little things outside of searching for places/addresses etc . like mark areas and lines and label them which at first consideration just seems like a pointless nerdy waste of time but thats BEFORE you plot out all your favourite biking routes and then label them all and attach HTML links to photos you took at certain points along the way. I’ve never done that.

This feature is a little gem. I’m always collecting bits of text, recipes, excerpts and so on. I used to use a little application called Notecenter to save it all in. This worked like a little .txt document organiser and was brilliant until I started needing those bits of useless information while I wasn’t at my home pc – the one with Notecenter installed.

Google provides the equivalent of Notecenter with their Notebooks. If you’ve ever done a search on Google you might have seen the 3 links next to the returned searches – ‘cached’, ‘similar pages’ and ‘Note This’. By clicking on Note This the information you chose will be saved in the organiser for you to use anywhere. You can link this into your iGoogle page too!

Other Google apps I no longer use are Blogger and Picasa. I may be wrong but these seem like a couple of items that Google have acquired but not yet Googlised to their fullest extent. Picasa has to be downloaded in order for you to upload your photos and organise them and Blogger lacks flexible privacy features for individual blog posts.

My epitaph should read

‘she came, she Googled, she went’

I’m sure Google can sort that out too.

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