Living in a Google World – and Loving it

Google.

For many people, Google is the internet. It is one of a handful of companies that have become part of everyday language of the young and old. I’ve grown up with Google, and recently realized just how many of the company’s tools I use on a daily basis. I’m not a fanboy, but I’m living in a Google world, and loving it.

It could be argued that Google has gained something of a monopoly, but even still, Google is a company that has earned a place in many people’s hearts. It is generally looked on rather affectionately, rather than with the suspicion that is reserved for Microsoft. That may be changing, but for me – and many others – it’d be hard to imagine life without many of the tools the company has produced.

Search and More

It all started with search. Search was Google’s first endeavor, and it was the first way most of us used Google’s services. Google search has become so ubiquitous that the company’s name has become a verb, meaning “to search online” for most people.

Like many people, Google is my first port of call when I need to look something up. Even though there are some web sites I use on a regular basis, I haven’t bothered to bookmark them. I just Google them when I need. Chrome, yet another Google product, is my browser of choice, so I tend to type away in the omnibox rather than fiddling with the bookmarks toolbar.

Chrome is just one example of the applications produced by Google.

Chrome is just one example of the applications produced by Google.

But Google is about much more than just a search engine. Email is an important part of my daily life, and this means I spend a great deal of time working with Gmail. My first foray in webmail was back in the mid-90s when I signed up for Yahoo address, followed fairly quickly followed by Hotmail. But the moment Gmail launched, I leapt at the chance and signed up immediately – not quite managing to bag the perfect email address, but a very close second best.

The way Gmail works fits perfectly into my way of working. Support for checking email from other email accounts means I have been able to consolidate everything into one place, and the generous storage space means that I can keep an online archive of all of my correspondence without having to worry about deleting mail – at least, not at the moment.

Gmail has become an essential part of my daily workflow thanks to its immense power and flexibility.

Gmail has become an essential part of my daily workflow thanks to its immense power and flexibility.

As I have an Android phone and tablet, it’s great to be able to sync my contacts between devices, and the chat feature means that I can keep in touch with friends, family and work colleagues without the need to have a third party chat client running all the time. Gmail also, with the help of a Labs extension, ties nicely into Google Calendar as well as Google Tasks.

Editor’s note: Even if you don’t use Android, Google’s services still fit very well into other apps. I use Gmail, Google Contacts and Calendar with my iPhone and Mac’s native apps, and it works great. Seamless, even.

Organization and Travel

The Calendar and Tasks integration is essential to help me manage my daily appointments and work deadlines. Sharing a calendar with my girlfriend means that we can both see what is happening on any given day and can avoid clashes.

Syncing between the web and Android makes Google a great platform for mobile and desktop.

Syncing between the web and Android makes Google a great platform for mobile and desktop.

Then, Maps is another service I use very frequently. Of course, this is not the only online map service that’s available, but for me it undoubtedly the best. Whether I need to know where a particular town is, work out the best route between three or four different places, calculate how much a journey is going to cost, or find out where the nearest coffee shop is, Maps is always on hand to help out – on the browser, and on my phone.

Thanks to Google Maps, getting lost is now a thing of the past.

Thanks to Google Maps, getting lost is now a thing of the past.

News News News!

I am a news fiend. I love to keep up to date with current affairs – especially about tech – and there are countless blogs that I follow. Google Reader provides me with a one-stop-shop where I can fulfil all of my news needs. There are numerous RSS readers that I have tried over the years, but Reader – largely thanks to its online syncing – won me over.

Interesting stories can be starred – much like in Gmail – for easy retrieval, and there is also the option of tagging articles to aid searching. There’s neat integration with other services so stories can be easily shared to Google+, Twitter, Facebook and others.

Read all about it! Google Reader brings me the new I am interested in.

Read all about it! Google Reader brings me the new I am interested in.

Much of what I love about Google centers around how the various tools help me to work. Another service is Google Drive, an online storage service that was talked about for so many years, it started to seem as though it would never see the light of day.

But Google Drive is about more than just sticking files online. Of course, there is syncing which means I can ensure that the files I need are available on all of the device I use – both desktop and mobile –but there’s also online file editing to think about. There are plenty of online office suites to choose from, but as a Google user, Drive’s offering stands out for me. Again, this is mostly due to the integration and easy access to files from other Google services, but the fact that it’s free and works so good is simply amazing.

Online file editing is great, and Google’s word processor has improved with time to the point that it could now feasibly be used in place of Microsoft Word. Being cross-platform, I can use Drive to access and edit file on my laptop, desktop, tablet and phone, and always have the same experience. And of course there is also the option of plugging in other apps to give you even more options.

Google Drive changed the ways I looked at online file storage and editing.

Google Drive changed the ways I looked at online file storage and editing.

Online Video

In addition to its search engine, Google is probably best known for its video sharing service YouTube. I’ll admit that I very rarely actively visit YouTube to track down videos, but I still make use of it by clicking links that have been shared by other people online. It’s easy to forget that YouTube is about much more than video of skater boys injuring themselves or animals and children doing cute things.

Of course there’s a lot of trash out there – this is the internet, after all – but take the time to browse through YouTube and you’ll find documentaries, full movies (both legal and illegal), streaming concerts, video reviews and much, much more. YouTube is likely to be Google biggest legacy, something that future generation will be able to look back on with teary-eyed nostalgia. It’s fun, entertaining, educational, funny, absurd, immense – it’s everything an online library should be.

Whatever kind of video you’re looking for, you should be able to find it on YouTube.

Whatever kind of video you’re looking for, you should be able to find it on YouTube.

The Slow Burner

One service from Google that took me a little longer to get used to is Google+. Having started off as a Google Wave user (stop laughing!), and not quite managing to grasp the point of its existence, Google+ was going to have its work cut out to impress me. But I soon realized that the ability to sync my photos from my phone automatically, keep in touch with friends, keep up to date with news, and much more, all in one place, is something immensely useful.

This is at least partly because of the tight integration with other Google services, an area in which Google shines. Their tools are not only wonderfully simple to use, they also work well together, and there is a lot to be gained from shared data between different services.

I’ve had to pick out some of my highlights to prevent this article from reaching epic lengths – there are plenty of other Google apps that don’t get used all of the time, but are then for when they’re needed. Google Translate is a great resource, and Image Search is worth its weight in gold. And there are new tools being developed all the time. Constant evolution and development keeps things exciting.

Google’s arsenal of online tools just keeps growing and growing.

Google’s arsenal of online tools just keeps growing and growing.

An Ode to Google

I think that part of the reason Google’s tools have managed to become so essential to me is that it is so many of them are so useful. There are plenty of other tools that could be used to do much the same job – there are countless chat tools to choose from, endless news reader and numerous cloud storage services – but Google stand out from the competition because it offers the complete package.

Google is virtually an online operating system and everything is beautifully tied together and wonderfully intertwined. I’m not here to sell Google to you – I don’t think I need to. The tools speak for themselves and I can’t imagine a life online without them. It is easy to get complacent about things you use every day.

You don’t think about the handle every time you open the door; it is a perfectly designed tool for doing a particular task, and for this reason it is easy to take it for granted. The same is true of Google and its tools. They are there and you use them, often without giving them a second thought. This is why they are so great. They just work. They do what they were designed to do, and they do it well. I for one am more than happy to be living in a Google world.


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  • I love Google Drive/Docs as well but I wish they would recognize/import/export Markdown.

  • like vimeo better than youtube but still cant live without youtube as it started it all