Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Google Toolbar 3 has made my life 1.7% better

Google Toolbar Version 3 rules. It is a tiny little piece of technology that has made my life significantly better since I started using it. Linux users will have to go the extra mile (or in this case, inch) to make sure it works (nothing new...). See this thread and Google's toolbar for Linux page for instructions for older builds; apparently it appears to be playing nice now.

The coolest feature of the Toolbar is the ability to make custom search buttons. Going to any page with a search bar, right clicking, and selecting "Generate Custom Search" will create a nice little button on the Toolbar (corresponding to a site's favicon). Using this, you can search with the Toolbar as if you were on the page you generated a search for, the effect being that you never need to visit the page to use their search engine -- you can search from any arbitrary page! It's also useful for doing the same search (i.e. "Donnie Darko") over several sites you have a custom search (i.e. RottenTomatoes, IMDB, Wikipedia). If you don't know what buttons you want on your Toolbar, Google has provided a nice grab bag to choose from. My custom searches (as of right now) are:
Some more very useful features include enabling GMail to launch every time a mailto: link is clicked (Finally! No more surprise Evolution/Outlook/etc. "setup page" launches!), an icon indicating if you're signed in to your Google account, and some keyboard shortcuts (more would be nice... especially for accessing custom buttons) like Shift+Enter for an "I'm Feeling Lucky" search (keeping in the spirit of eliminating useless page visits). There are more features that I don't use (but many do) detailed on the features page. Some of these are pretty cutting edge and have generated a considerable amount of controversy, especially AutoLink. Others, such as the RSS subscribe and spellcheck, have already been implemented in Firefox 2. In any event, you should get it. Now.

A couple of things that could use improvement:
  • More keyboard shortcuts (as mentioned above)
  • Web spam reporting buttons, analogous to the "Report Spam" button that Gmail has... perhaps Google can build a database of splog, etc. sites to blacklist, or maybe work with other search engines to do so?
  • Sometimes the "Generate Custom Search..." option doesn't work... amazingly, Blogger is one of those examples... when trying to do a custom search on a particular blog, I get this (wtf?): "Information Unavailable The custom button cannot be installed. Custom button values out of range."

No comments: