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February 17, 2010

Google's Free Programs and Servives

Google Is More Than a Search Engine

Posted by Scoroncocolo February 17, 2010

Scoroncocolo, Scoroncocolo Tech Pages, Google, Gmail, Picasa, Chrome, Google Earth, Google Maps, Google BooksGoogle is going after Facebook. On February 9, 2010, Google added BUZZ to Gmail

Free Google Stuff

Free Google Stuff

Most of us are familiar with the free, mega-popular Google services like Gmail, YouTube and Picasa but Google hosts lots of other lesser known free services as well. This Scoroncocolo Tech Page is devoted to exploring some of the stuff Google offers for free that you may have known about but forgotten or haven't looked into in a while. Google has tons of cool stuff available to you totally free of charge. Some of the free things that Google has to offer are programs like Google Earth that you simply download onto your computer and access from your Start Menu like you would any other program in Windows or your Mac. Picasa and Google Earth are two such instances of free downloadable programs from Google. Most of Google's free stuff, on the other hand, live on-line and you must own a Google Account to take advantage of them. If you don't have a Google account, you can click the Google Account link above to get one or you can finish reading this page to find out about all the wonderful things you can do with a Google account once you have signed up for one.

Google's Free Stuff

Google Books

Since October of 2004, Google has digitized and made available in Google Books over seven million titles. That is probably more books than your local public library has. Google Books is a fascinating and time-warping site that if you love books the way I do you should be careful about loging-on to because you could end up spending a whole day there. Once you find a book you think you might want to read, you can place it in your My Library right there on the site so that the next time you go to Google Books it will be there waiting for you. To put a book in your Library, first click on the book you're interested in and then look on the left side of the page and click Add to bookshelves. You can put as many books in your library as you want. You can even share your library with friends.

Google GOOG-411

This is a simple-to-use, cool little service that Google provides at absolutely no cost to you. This can connect you by phone to practically any business anywhere in the U.S. On any phone, land phone or cell, punch in 1-800-GOOG-411 and when google answers, state the location and the type of business you're trying to connect to. That's 1-800-GOOG-411 or 1-800-446-4411. Go ahead, try it right now. Not long ago I used Google GOOG-411 to order a pizza in Abilene, Texas. If it'll work there, it'll work anywhere!

Google Buzz

Google Buzz is brand new. It's less than a week old as of this posting. Google Buzz is Google's latest attempt at Social Networking. Google has tried Social Networking before. Google Orkut, launched in January of 2004, never caught on in the US nor much of anywhere else except among Brizilians and software developers in India.

Facebook, on the other hand, has hundreds of millions of users from all over the world. So in a bid to go after Facebook, Google released Google Buzz. Buzz sets up a network of friends automatically selected by Google based on the people that you communicate with most frequently through Google�s Gmail and chat services. You don't have to sign up for Buzz. If you have a Gmail account, Google has already automatically enrolled you whether you like it or not. And some people don't.

Free Google Stuff

Free Google Stuff


Aardvark has been around for a while but it was recently acquired by Google. Aardvark allows you to ask a question on any topic at all and have that question answered by someone within your on-line network of friends and associates.

Google Maps

Google Maps has been around for a while but Google continues to make improvements to it.

Google Maps is the brain child of Lars and Jens Rasmussen, the brothers who are now heading the Google Wave team. It was acquired by Google in October of 2004. Since then Google Maps has expanded exponentially to include Google Sky, Street View, Google Moon and Google Mars.

Google's iGoogle Page

One of my favorite free Google services is iGoogle. It is the home page on all my computers. When I open my Web browser, iGoogle is there for me. iGoogle is like the newspaper thrown on my front yard. iGoogle goes so well with the taste of the first sip of coffee in the morning.

iGoogle is a personalized homepage sort of like, but a lot cooler than, My Yahoo, Pageflakes or Netvibes. Your personalized iGoogle page can have any number of gadgets arrayed in three columns below a Google search box. These gadgets can provide you with all sorts of information. There are weather gadgets. Constantly updated news feeds on a variety of subjects. My favorite of these is Google's Tech News. Another gadget serves up daily cartoons. I use this to get a different Calvin and Hobbs 'toon everyday.

There are literally hundreds of gadgets available. You can get gadgets to play games on or listen to music with. There's a gadget that will tell you where and what time movies are playing in your area. You can even do live video chat in iGoogle (more about that later).

To make your own personal iGoogle page, go to Google's main page at and look for iGoogle. You will probably find a link to it in the upper right-hand corner on the page. If it isn't there, and oddly enough sometimes it isn't, try this: On the upper left-hand side of Google's famously simplistic search page you should see Web Images Videos Maps News Shopping Gmail and more. So click more and you will be presented with a drop-down menu of options. One of those options will be even more so click that. There's where you'll find iGoogle.

Once you've found the iGoogle icon, click it and begin following the instructions. You'll see the setup wizard which will allow you to choose some interests and a theme. Then you click See your page and there's your brand new iGoogle page.

Signing in with a Google Account before you start lets you save your iGoogle page across computers. This way you can access your iGoogle page from anywhere in the world as long as you have an Internet connection.

If you don't sign into your Google account your iGoogle page will be saved just to the computer you use to build the iGoogle page. Anyone who uses that computer will be able to see and make changes to your page. Also, if your cookies are erased, you will loose your iGoogle page. So signing into your Google account before beginning to build your iGoogle page is definitely the way to go.

You do have a Google account don't you? If you use Gmail you have one. If you don't have a Google account, signing up for Gmail is the way you go about getting one. Because once you've signed up for Gmail, your Gmail account becomes your username for all Google services and the password you choose when you sign up for Gmail becomes your password for everything Google. Not long ago you had to have in invitation to sign up for Gmail, but not anymore. Just type Gmail into Google's search box at and click on the first entry which will be Gmail: Email from Google.

More Google Free Stuff

Google's SMS Service

I know that 466453 looks a little short on digits to be a phone number but you might want to save it to your phone anyway. Text the word help to 466453 (GOOGLE) and Google will immediately text you back with a brief summary of how Google's SMS Service works. Now you can find sports schedules and scores, weather conditions and forecasts by texting a word or two to google at 466453. For instance, you can send a text to 466453 that reads weather dallas texas and Google will text you back Dallas's current weather conditions and forecast.

Go to Google SMS to find out more about what information the service can access for you and exactly what you need to text Google to get it. Here's something you might want to do. Text set location denver colorado substituting your own home town for Denver, Colorado, of course and Google will text back Your default location has been set to (your home location). Now to get local information you no longer have to enter your city. Now, just texting weather to 466453 will give you your local weather news. In fact, you can just text the single letter w to Google and get the same results.

Google Alerts

Let's say your hobby is studying and collecting Coprolite (fossilized dinosaur excrement, feces or Poop). You could log on to and sign up to have Google send you an email alert any time it's search engine's robots came across a new Webpage that had the word coprolite in it's text. But seriously, Google Alerts is a simple but effective way to keep current on all sorts of things like your business competition, your favorite sports team or even Angelina Jolie.

Google Finance

You can keep close tabs on the Dow and Nasdaq with Google Finance and check the current status of various stocks, bonds and mutual funds. You can take advantage of the free Google Finance portfolio tools by creating your own portfolio.

Google Products

Need a new car or computer? Don't buy anything until you've shopped around on Google Products. Shop by category, price, brand and store. And why drive to the store when you can make your purchases right there on Google's Web page.

Still More Free Stuff from Google

Free Google Stuff

Free Google Stuff

Google Talk

You can use Google Voice and Video Chat in both Gmail and iGoogle and it's one of those mind-blowing, Oh My God computing experiences the first few times you use it. It's even pretty impressive once you've gotten used to using it. You'll need a webcam, of course. Duhhh! If you've got one you're good to go. Just download the Google voice and video plug-in and then sign in to your Gmail or iGoogle account. Then go to your contacts list and look for contacts that have a camera icon next to their name. Once one of these contacts are selected just click Video and More to place your video call. Even if your friend doesn't have a webcam, you can still have real-time voice communication provided he/she has the Google voice and video plug-in installed on his or her computer. And if you have your camera on they can still see you even though you can't see them so don't pick your nose.

Google Wave

Google Wave is the way we will communicate with one another in the future and the future has arrived. Here is Google's official definition of Google Wave: "Google Wave is an online tool for real-time communication and collaboration. A wave can be both a conversation and a document where people can discuss and work together using richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more." That is a good concise definition of Google Wave, but you really have to experience Wave to begin to understand its potential.

Google Wave is in pre-beta, invitation only form as of this date (2/17/2010) and is not available to the general public. However, I have recently received a fresh batch of Google Wave invitations to give away. If you would like to have one, email me and I'll set you up on Wave. You'll find my email address at the bottom of this page. Even though Wave is currently in pre-beta, it is fully functional and a lot of fun to play around with.

Back in November of last year I wrote up a rather extensive piece on Wave called How to Use Google Wave that you might want to read through if you're just starting out with this free-to-use, new Google Service. The learning curve for Wave is not particularly steep but it is somewhat extensive and the more you know about it, the more fun it is to use.

If you're already signed up for Google Wave, come join all of us (last time I checked there were 93 of us) on our wave at How To Use Google Wave and feel free to ask questions and share what you know about Google Wave. You're welcome to edit the wave, place a reply anywhere in the wave, ping anyone in the wave and play around in the wave in just about anyway you want. But please do not delete anything in the wave, unless it's something you placed there yourself.

What Did I Forget?

Free Google Stuff

Free Google Stuff

The above is by no means a complete list of all of the programs and services that Google offers for free. If you think I left off something important, email me about it.

I know I've failed to mention several Google services like Google Blog Search and Google Reader.

I suppose this list would be truly incomplete if I didn't say something about Google Labs. Google Labs is where a lot of Google's new stuff is "cooking". Actually, Aardvark is officially still in Google Labs. A few other interesting things are currently in Google Labs. One of them is City Tours which is a Google Maps service. It charts walking tours of major cities given a starting address. Then there's something called Google Goggles that lets you search Google using pictures from your camera phone. Well, there's dozens of "not quite ready for prime-time" services "cooking" in Google Labs. So go to Google Labs and have a look around.

Here is Google's own list of free stuff they have to offer.

Thanks For Visiting the Tech Pages

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