It started with Google News, a handy way to view news. Then I started using GMail. Now, Google increasingly is the way I do all sorts of things online. That’s the key. Google apps are all online and accessible from anywhere, and not tied to a specific computer. Makes all that Microsoft software seem quaint and last millennium, doesn’t it?
In case you’re not up with all that Google has been doing lately, here’s a brief list of some of the Google apps I use.
Google News. Invaluable. You can create custom news sections as well as scan their default news feed. It’s quick, easy to use, and powerful, with lots of drill-down and related stories.
GMail. I used Yahoo Mail for years and finally switched. For one thing, the GMail spam killer is better, so I forward all my email accounts to GMail and read them there, and with much less spam too.
At the top of the GMail screen is a menu to Google Calendar, Documents, and Reader. This is where it gets powerful, as everything is in one place.
Google Calendar. Functionally, it’s about the same as Yahoo Calendar. Both support notifications of events at a predetermined time via email or cell phone. This is incredibly useful for remembering appointments, etc. Just enter the info and get it sent to your cell phone at a time of your choosing before the event. The Calendars are shareable, another extremely useful feature.
Google Documents. Create text files and spreadsheets. I keep lists of phone numbers and contacts here, shareable with Sue. Thus, we can always look up something, even if we aren’t home.
Google Reader. This is where Google really shines. Their online RSS newsreader is one of the best. A newsreader allows you to read the content from dozens, even hundreds, of news sources and blogs in one place. Thus, you don’t have to go to an individual website or blog to see if there’s anything new, it’ll just appear in the newsreader instead. This obviously saves lots of time and flipping between websites. Once you learn the keyboard commands, you can whiz through dozens of items quickly, starring them for future reference or emailing them to friends, if you want.
FireFox has superb support for RSS. If you’re on a site (like this one) that has an RSS feed, you’ll see an rss icon in the address bar of FireFox. Click it, and you can add the feed to Google Reader or to other newsreaders. (IE7 makes the process way more convoluted, forcing you to add it to Favorites/Feeds first. To get it to a newsreader you have to export the Feeds, then import into the newsreader. Boo hiss.)
Google Personalized Homepage. Like Yahoo Home Page, but recently updated to support all manner of tweaks and addons.
Yes, Google tracks everything, so somewhere in their cavernous archives may well be a list of everything I’ve ever Googled. The same goes for you too. They’re moving into putting medical records and state and county archives online. What does this do for privacy? Dunno. But I bet your time on the web also includes much time spent with Google too.
Right now, Google has hegemony, and not even Microsoft can touch them. This of course is causing a serious case of FOG for the competitors of Google.