Thursday, April 10, 2003

Have you got the google toolbar?

This is indeed off the subject of CF, but since we so often are doing searching on google to help us in our day to day work, I thought you may appreciate this info. Are you using the Google toolbar yet? It's at ( It's really nifty and offers several benefits.

First, and most straightforward, is that it adds a google search prompt to your browser toolbar. Sure, you can monkey with most browsers to make them use google as the search engine, but that's not all. Besides just making it drop-dead easy to do searches really quickly with google (type in the words and press enter to search the web), the toolbar adds another useful option that I find I use everyday. If you study the google search options, you'll find that one option is to use the "site:" keyword to name a domain in which to limit searches. Well the google toolbar has that as a button:

Makes it really easy when visiting a site to say, "where do they discuss x?"

There's still more. Check out the news, page rank, page info, and other links that provide additional google-oriented info on whatever page you're looking at.

There are a few other elements of that toolbar that aren't really google-search oriented at all. Just neat additions useful on any page you browse. First, the "up" button is also frequently useful, if you're looking at a page and want to see the directory above it. No more editing the url to remove the filename. Just click "up". Of course, not all pages will have something useful in response to that, but when it makes sense, it's a really useful addition (that technically has nothing to do with google).

And those last two buttons in the toolbar above are a way to highlight words on the page that you've used in the search field of the toolbar. And technically, it doesn't matter if you did a search and are looking at google results or just looking at any page. By typing words into the search field, these last two options allow you to find the words on the page you're looking at. The first, called highlight, literally changes the colors of the text in the found page to highlight the searched words in yellow. Again, this is not about looking at a google "cached" version of the page. It will work on any page.

They've just found a way to modify the display of the page even though it's the showing the page as found using its original HTML (magic?). And the last button (tahiti in the example above) is actually going to be the word (or each word) that you typed in that search field. Clicking it will instead jump down in the found page to show you were the word occurs. Both quite useful (though I don't use either as often, myself).

One other thing it adds is a right-click context menu to any link on any page in the browser (again, whether the page is found via google or not). It offers 4 features for the page that the link is pointing to:

- backward links
- cached snapshot of page
- similar pages
- translate page

Those are 4 very interesting options! Of course, each is something you can request using google keywords, if you know how. But most tend to think of google only for searching, rather than for these kind of page-oriented manipulations/analyses that are possible . Check 'em out.

Here's one very practical application: some may already know about the "cached snapshot" option because when you see results from google, one of the options is to link not to the page itself but the cached version. this is useful when either the page has changes, or been removed, or the site is dead (it's how I got hold of Vern Veihe's blog as discussed in a previous blog entry here, even though the front page of his site now shows it to no longer have links).

But another use is when a site is temporarily down. You can go to google, do a search, and see the cached version. One of the mild annoyances of that, though, is that the links off the page all go back to the original site, so if the site's down (or you know the pages in the cached version are no longer really there), then in this case you'll want to see the cached versions of each link. That's what the "cached snapshot" right-click context menu option comes in really handy.

Check it all out!

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