10 great Google hacks

Here’s a smorgasbord of my favourite Google hacks to celebrate my return from holibags. From how to make a Google maps mash-up, to finding the ‘hidden’ flight simulator in Google Earth, some of these aren’t really hacks, just plugs for some of the more obscure stuff in the burgeoning Google product set. Either way, you should find something of use in here, and you can always add your own favourites in the comments:

1. How to make a Google Maps mashup

Ever wondered how to make a Google Maps mash up? How to take data from, say, Wikipedia and display it on Google maps? Ever paid anyone a massive day rate to do so? Then this is the hack for you. From Wikipedia to Google Docs to Yahoo Pipes and thence to Google Maps (via Yahoo Maps). From the excellent OUseful.

2. Use Gmail as an external drive

If you’ve ever worked remotely, then you’ve probably used Gmail as an ad hoc emergency back-up drive before. However, if you install the Gmail Drive Shell Extension (Win) (Mac) (Linux) it creates a drive on your machine (My Computer for Windows) which when you add a file in the normal way will then e-mail it to a Gmail account of your choosing. Et voila, Google owns another little piece of your life (via the motherlode of all Gmail Hacks).

3. Google Alerts

Not really a hack, but a lesser know Google service, Google Alerts searches the web for a term of your choosing, at a frequency of your choosing, returning the results to you by email. It’s like a digital press clipping service, but free, of course.

4. Google Reader Notifier

Get desktop notification from your Google Reader feeds with
Google Reader Notifier for Windows, Mac and Firefox. Useful for journos and other breaking-news hounds.
(via Lifehacker)

5. Gmail labels

Lots of people like Gmail, but are put of using it as their main e-mail client because it doesn’t have folders. And though that’s true, Gmail does have labels, which, while not exactly the most intuitive feature Google has ever developed, do much the same job as folders. Here’s a tutorial on how to set up Gmail Labels (you can find Google Labels in the settings link from Gmail home.)

6. Download YouTube videos

There are loads of ways to download videos from YouTube, but one of the simplest is to add the Better YouTube Firefox Extension (instructions over at lifehacker). It also does other nice stuff.

7. Add Social Media stats to Google Analytics

Another Firefox extention that requires Greasemonkey. This one adds social media metrics to Google Analytics including Diggs, Sphinns, etc.

8. Check flight status with Google search

Enter your flight number into Google search and it’ll tell you what the flight status is. Works in the UK and US, not sure about elsewhere.

9. Flight Simulator in Google Earth

There’s a ‘hidden’ flight simulator in Google Earth, which I’m terrible at flying and makes me feel sick, but which is also really cool.
In Google Earth, hit Ctrl, Alt, A and quite literally take off.

10. Make images dance in Chrome

A Google hacks list wouldn’t be complete without a completely frivolous final entry. In this case it’s a line of javascript that makes images dance on the page if you’re using Chrome.

Load an image-heavy web page, e.g. a Google image search, then delete the url from the address bar and paste in this JavaScript:

javascript:R=0;
x1=.1; y1=.05; x2=.25;
y2=.24; x3=1.6; y3=.24;
x4=300; y4=200; x5=300;
y5=200; DI=document.images;
DIL=DI.length;
function A(){for(i=0; i-DIL; i++){DIS=DI[ i ].style;
DIS.position=’absolute’;
DIS.left=Math.sin(R*x1+i*x2+x3)*x4+x5;
DIS.top=Math.cos(R*y1+i*y2+y3)*y4+y5}R++}setInterval(‘A()’,5); void(0);

Hit Enter and watch as the lovely images dance around the screen. It’s the perfect end to a list of the top 10 Google Hacks.

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