Google keeps the good stuff coming!

I can’t believe how many new and interesting things are coming out of the Google labs these days. A long-time gmail user, in the past month I’ve started using four new google tools and, so far, I have to report that they are all ‘really cool!’.

Calendar, most of us have used a calendar at some stage. Google’s calendar (I’ll call it gCal) lives up to expectations, lots of flexibility, good integration with other Google apps, a few minor gripes. Falls short of stand-alone desktop apps by, lets say, 10%. Then again, who can say they use more than 90% of the features their clunky, desktop app offers? For me, the best thing about gCal is, that like gmail, it allows me to draw together my various calendars in one place. At work I use a very ‘orrible Oracle Calendar, which is great for work because it’s live, but it has a woeful interface so I don’t use it more than I have to. I can export iCal data which can then be imported to gCal which is pretty smart about not duplicating events etc. gCal then lets me overlay any other calendars as well as exposing ‘live’ iCal feeds… feeds that my mac can pick up and synch via bluetooth with my phone. Brill!

Next is Google Notebook, this is an internet scrapbook. Instead of bookmarking pages, you can select just the bits you want and take a copy to refer to later – complete with a link back to the original. It operates within the browser window like gChat – truly cool! You can edit your clippings to add notes, search through them, categorise them – all the usual stuff. I am planning a holiday at the moment and this tool is proving invaluable – I’m throwing in restaurant reviews, bus timetables, you name it!

I’m a Graphic Designer – a left brain person – I hate spreadsheets! I use them occasionally, grudgingly, to add things up and organise stuff, but that’s about it. I am one of the 95% of spreadsheet users that use less than 10% of a popular spreadsheet package’s capability… do I need to pay for that? No Way! I only ever installed Excel so that I could read other people’s spreadsheets, it was painful, but inevitable. Now I use Google Spreadsheets. They do almost everything I need, they work just like you’d expect a spreadsheet to work. You can save and open Excel format to and from your desktop. Formulas, fonts and formatting import pretty well. What’s not to like about this? I’ll admit it’s only early days, but for me, this is all the reason I need to never buy Office again!

The last tool is one I haven’t really tested, but I have a feeling I’m really going to like it. Google Browser Sync. Browser Sync, like Notebook is a Firefox extension that lets me have the same bookmarks whenever I want them. It can even save a browser ‘state’, so that I can pick up exactly where I left off at a different machine on a different day. At the moment, I’ve chosen not to sync my cookies, passwords or history, though the layers of security and encryption seem to be pretty robust. I’m just enjoying having the same bookmarks at home and work and being able to open firefox to the same windows I had open the day before – neat stuff!

Oh crikey! I just remembered – yesterday I installed the newly released Mac version of the standalone Google Video Player and it rocks too! Give us a break guys!