Living in the shadow of Gmail, Docs and Calendar has got to be tough. But that’s just what a slew of useful Google products have been doing for years on end. We give Google’s front-running applications a lot of ink (or pixels, as it were), and the rest a passing mention in the fast-flowing river of news. Today, we pay homage to ten ageing yet functional Google products that you probably forgot all about.
Compare the “world’s interest” in certain words and topics at Google Trends, which charts the number of times a word or phrase appeared on the web over time. Great for checking out the history of popular neologisms and brand names (like iPhone or lifehacker), you can also pit terms against one another. You can see from the image above that the phrase “getting things done” has been around a lot longer than the word “lifehacker.” (Pit GTD vs lifehacker at Google Trends.)
Make your web search results come to you with Google Alerts, email notifications of new web pages search terms pop up on as the Googlebot discovers them. Google Alerts automatically hands me Lifehacker story ideas every morning, and it’s also great to ego search your own name, web site title or product name, too. To get results for several term searches in one alert, separate them with a pipe (|) or combine terms with AND, like
wildfire AND "San Diego".
Google Book Search
Remember those rectangular objects that you used to read by turning a page from one side to the other? Ah, those were the days. You can still get your books online at Google Book Search, whose book-scanning elves add to the digital library all the time. Flip through pages of the books scanned into Book Search, and add books to your personal virtual library as well. Along those same lines, academics won’t want to forget about Google Scholar for searching papers, theses, abstracts and articles, from academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories, universities and other scholarly organizations.
When Aunt Martha and Uncle Skip ask how to set up a web page? Point ’em to Google Sites, a free site creation tool. Unlike most of these services, Google introduced a complete rebuild of the platform just a few months ago.
Flight Simulator in Google Earth
Okay, so Google doesn’t make a flight simulator, but they do hide one in Google Earth. To play, download the latest version of Google Earth, and to enter flight sim mode, hit
+Alt+A (Mac users: Cmd+Opt+A), choose your plane, airport and runway. Google Earth’s flight simulator isn’t a walk in the park for newbs, so here’s more info on how to take off and navigate the friendly, virtual skies.
Chrome Keyboard Shortcuts
If you’re a Chrome user, Google’s flavour of keyboard shortcuts will take your mouse out of the equation entirely which is especially handy in the mobile computing era. Click here for a comprehensive list of shortcuts.
SketchUp is a free 3-D modelling program Google SketchUp lets anyone virtually architect their dream house, remodeled kitchen, office, spaceship or skyscraper. Download Google SketchUp for free, for Mac or PC.
Like it’s big sibling Google Earth, Google Moon shows satellite images of the Moon. The landing site of each of the Apollo missions is shown on the satellite image, providing more information on each mission as the user zooms in. There’s also a Charts layer which shows Apollo-era geologic and topographic charts for certain areas of the Moon’s surface.
See above, but instead of Earth’s moon, insert the red planet.
Google Patents is a search engine from Google that indexes patents and patent applications from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), European Patent Office (EPO), World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Deutsches Patent- und Markenamt (DPMA), Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO), and China’s State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO). It’s a great resource for journalists and inventors, but also a lot of fun for anyone with a penchant for random weird gizmos.
We feel like this list has barely scratched the surface. After all, Google’s full product list is long and prodigious. What’s your top lower-profile Google app? Shout it out in the comments.