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Two New and Fantastic Google Helps

December 5, 2005

A few years ago, we were deciding as an organization where to put our online presence and which search engines to focus on. Yahoo and Altavista were the two main search sites at the time, but I had just discovered Google and their game plan was vaguely reminiscent of how Microsoft began to take over the market. I advised our web guys to design our site so that we came up on the first page of a Google search.

Little did I know at the time that Google would soon become an English verb. I have no idea for sure, but I suspect that Google has become a verb in other languages as well (especially Chinese and Spanish, the other two main languages on the Internet).

Because of our long-standing relationship with Google, I go there often for several purposes. First, because they really do cover the Internet Search business better than anyone else. Second, because they have great toys masquerading as programs. And they’re all free. Let me mention two of these free services that you will want to check out right away.

The first is their free Graphics program called Picasa 2. You can download it absolutely free by going to this site and clicking on the free download icon. I have never used a graphics program better than this one. Of course, there are programs like Photoshop that do much more, but most of the functions of Picasa take one or two clicks of the button and you don’t need an entire encyclopedia of instructions to use it. From eliminating redeye in your pictures to changing the backgrounds, Picasa will do it all with a few clicks. Best of all, the moment you start up the program it will ask you if you want to catalog all your graphics chronologically and with small thumbnails of each one. That feature is worth getting the program all by itself. You can search so easily for the right picture for scrapbooking, multimedia presentations or for sending to your cousin to catch him up on the latest in your family.

The second program is one you use right on the Google site. Caution: It won’t sound that great from my description, but trust me: This one you will use! It is called Google Book Search. You can access it by going to this site. Once you are there, type in words or phrases. I prefer to use phrases (using quotation marks) as that will narrow down your search. Millions of books in publication over the last half century are on this site in their FULL TEXT. They will find that phrase in all the books and list them by frequency. You can then research every occurance of that phrase in each book, and even go back two pages or forward in order to research the context. This is an extremely valuable tool for anyone doing research for term papers, speeches, sermons…or just trying to find a good book on a particular subject.

For instance, last week I was speaking on an aspect of prayer called a “Prayer Shield”. It is a very technical term, and I didn’t expect to find many books that mention it. I found a host of books, and in each one of them, the index was also viewable…which lead me to more books. I found the most valuable information in one book, and discovered I already owned it. Now I knew which page to look on. Google book search is like having the entire library searchable by text. Don’t believe me? Try any phrase of any subject you might be interested in. My kids, who are in college, got onto this service (a free one of course) during the semester and they will never go down to another library again.

If you’ve tried either of these programs, tell us what you think of them.

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