Beyond search: the Google tools you need to know about
When most people think of Google, they think of search. However, since its 1996 inception, Google has expanded its services and products to way beyond what it started out to do. Here are some of the tools that Google has added to its repertoire that can help expand your knowledge:
Google Trends (https://www.google.com/trends/)
If you want to know what people are searching for the most at the moment, then Google Trends is your go-to site. Explore what YouTube videos are globally the most popular, what a specific year in Google search’s life looked like and what certain countries searched for the most.
Google Trends also paved the way for Google Correlate (https://www.google.com/trends/correlate) – to correlate is to establish a mutual relationship or connection between two things. With Google Correlate you can find what searches on Google correspond with real-world trends. For example, you can see how searches with the words “cold” and “flu” occur more frequently during winter months (which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise).
These types of correlations are not only fun to explore, but also a great tool for researchers. If more and more people enter specific symptoms in a certain month, or a problem seems to be popping up in a certain area frequently, it helps people anticipate issues more easily.
Google Scholar (https://scholar.google.com/)
Doing academic research can be a pain if you have to sift through thousands of resources just to get to one piece of critical information. Google Scholar condenses all of the scholarly literature on the Internet into one handy site.
You can search inside articles, theses, books, abstracts, court opinions, online repositories and universities, and also filter your searches by author, publication or citations. If you have work of your own that has been published, you can search this site to see who is citing your publications.
Google Think Insights (https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/)
Google has always wanted to establish itself as a thought leader in, well, everything. In 2011, the Think with Google team decided to launch the Think Insights project. Here you can find information on consumer trends, industry research and marketing insights. It includes statistics, videos, infographics, planning tools and information on the trends emerging in digital. It may not seem interesting at first glance, but you can find information on the most popular YouTube ads, how users find the mobile apps they use (great for developers), what Mother’s Day gifts are trending, how the smartphone has evolved and much more.
There is also a creative gallery where people can submit their best projects for others to explore. You will find things like a map that guides you to the nearest green nature spot, a driving test using Google’s Street View and a mobile messaging site that writes messages in the stars that recipients have to look for in the virtual sky.
Google Public Data Explorer (http://www.google.com/publicdata/directory)
Socio-economic buffs will love this site. It shows statistics and forecasts from all over the world that have been made public. Organizations that have supplied their data include the World Bank, Eurostat, OECD and WTO. Here you can discover the unemployment rates of different countries, what continents have the longest life expectancy, where Ebola is most prevalent, where the majority of our energy comes from, what the minimum wage of a particular country is and so forth.
Google Fonts (https://www.google.com/fonts)
This is an interactive directory for font fanatics who want to add some uniqueness to their websites. Here you can find hundreds of open-source fonts to download, use and share, free of charge. Some fonts like Lato and Lobster have become extremely popular because of this site.
If you’re a designer and want your name to be known, you can submit your own unique font to Google Font for review and publication.
The majority of us are familiar with Google Maps and Google Earth, but there are otherworldly places you can also explore. Google has mapped the Moon, Mars and the solar system for viewing.
With Google Sky you can view the universe at different wavelengths (like x-ray or infrared), find the positions of planets and watch the birth of galaxies through the eyes of the Hubble Space Telescope.
Google Mars is a collaboration between Google and NASA researchers at Arizona State University. They have effectively mapped Mars in great detail using American astronomer Percival Lowell’s 1895 map. Similar to Google Earth, one can explore the planet from the comfort of your own home.
Google Moon, again similar to Google Earth and Google Mars, is a team effort between Google and scientists at the NASA Ames Research Centre. It is a collection of lunar maps and charts that uses four different types of data – images taken during the Clementine space mission, a map of the lunar terrain, geological and topographic charts of regions of the moon, and lastly, placemarks that lets you explore the Apollo missions to the moon.
Google Books (http://books.google.com/books)
Google Books (formerly known as Google Print and Google Book Search) is a digital database of all the books that Google has scanned. It stores thousands of books and magazines on topics like social science, transportation, history, and art. There are also hundreds of classics available for free viewing. Google Books not only allows you to search for books, but you can also read extracts of the scanned books and even look at archived magazines. Google reckons they have thus far scanned over 30 million book titles.
Google Flights (https://www.google.com/flights/)
Google Flights is an online flight booking service similar to online services such as Expedia and Cheapflights. However, Google Flights has the added feature of open-ended searches. This allows the user to choose flights from a whole range of different criteria and not just your typical start-to-end destination searches. You can look for round trip or one way tickets, choose your price range, what stops you want to make, what times you would prefer to fly and so forth.
Google Crisis Response (https://www.google.org/crisisresponse/)
Natural disasters can affect every single one of us, no matter where we live. To make Mother Earth’s wrath a bit more predictable and manageable, Google has set up Crisis Response. This tool provides real-time satellite imagery of disaster zones, information on on-the-ground outreach programs, as well as show what charitable organizations are currently involved. There are even engineering tools that can help people find loved ones who have gone missing during disasters.
You can also check what natural disasters are occurring right now across the world through the Google Public Alerts system. There are crisis maps that can be shared with the people close to you and you can mark crisis information, like road closures, on Google Maps to help other people in your area.