Category Archives: Google

Google Custom Search Engine

I played around with a tool that’s fairly new to me today. I now have a Google custom search box at the bottom of this page that will let you search this blog and my work blog. I wanted to see how easy it was to create a custom search engine using Google’s Co-op and found it completely painless. You follow the link and the click on the custom search engine link and then just follow the steps. They consist basically of giving your search engine a name, a brief description, keywords, and URLs you want it to search. Google creates the code and you paste it into your blog where you wish it to show up. The only thing I changed was adding tags to get it to display in the center of the footer.

I will make one that searches all my favorite blogs. I’m not sure if there is a limit to how many URLs you can add but I wouldn’t be surprised as there was a limit to the suggested keywords you could associate with your search engine (7). The search box is wider than I would like for my sidebar which is why it lives at the bottom of the page. You can even “brand” your searchbox with an image you have uploaded to the web if you like. You can open it up for people to collaborate – either publicly or just those you invite. There is also an option to have it added to your personalized Google homepage.

Combining this custom search engine tool with Google Notebook, Google Calendar, GMail, Google Docs and Spreadsheets and tabs on your personalized homepage gives you a free and very practical research and productivity center.
It would be useful to add a custom search box to a classroom blog that limited your students research to sites you designate. This requires you being able to edit the theme of your blog. Some other ways to use this tool would be to create a search engine to browse items you are looking to buy and limit the search to places like ebay, amazon, and A search engine that only returned results from designated newspapers would be useful for debate students.

I hope you found some useful information here and that you will give the Google customized search engine a test-drive. Search some blogs from my education category

Google Custom Search

Random Weekend Tips

These are not my own ideas – they’re bits and pieces of things I read this week that I have found useful. I’m so thankful for folks who freely share their knowledge on their blogs. This post is more a reminder to myself about the things I have found and need to put to work.
Gmail – I love it and use it all the time. I read a post this weekend though that made me slap my forehead. I send email to myself On links that I want to check out later or if I’m on the PC and find something that pertains to the mac or linux, I email it to my Gmail account so I can refer to it when I’m on the machine it relates to. I often forget about the post or forget which post it is and I have used the search function in Gmail to find it later but semantic keywords or tags in my subject line to make the process easier and quicker. I will from now on! The article I was reading suggested using the Google toolbar for the Gmail it option. I have resisted this one little Google option thus far but I may have to give it another look.
FireFox – I have used FireFox for several years. The only time I use IE is when I need to check for updates on a PC. I constantly have multiple tags open and in the morning, after I have made my latte and I’m ready to spend a few moments reading and waking up before the rest of the family starts to appear, I open my usual morning reads. Gmail, my work email account, google homepage, and DIGG, and sometimes the local paper. I have a brand new folder on my bookmarks toolbar named MorningReads that contains the bookmarks to those items. When I click on the folder it lists them with one extra item on the bottom – Open All in Tabs. I can now click that one item and all my usual links open in tabs across my browser window. As I excitedly tell my kids about this little trick they roll their eyes and tell me I’m such a geek. They think that they are insulting me but I can’t help it if the idea of clicking once instead of four times makes me grin!

Google Notebook – I have been using it for several weeks and have fallen in love with it. You can install an extension so that you can right click on any webpage and a contextual menu item called Note-it is now a choice. “Noting it” saves it to your Google Notebook. It can be an entire webpage, a picture, a quote, a URL or anything else you can right click on. I have been saving items to one big notebook, knowing there had to be a better way to organize but not knowing quite how. This weekend I learned that you can drag-and-drop anything anywhere in the notebook. I spent the last hour creating new notebooks, adding section headers, and dragging things around to organize them. You also have the choice of keeping your notebook private or sharing it publicly. You can export items directly to Google docs and spreadsheets, you can print a notebook, and you can add a note and just type or paste a note directly into the application – great for research, organizing a project, or collaboration. If you have a Gmail account you automatically have access to this application and if you don’t have Gmail it’s worth it just to have access to all the Google apps. I still use a main notebook to capture and then open my notebook and move things around to make them easier to find. I also have the Google Notebook widget on my personalized Google homepage so everything is right there and visible which just seems to work best for me.  There is a great information and tutorial Powerpoint to download here. (warning clicking starts the download)
New Online ApplicationMindomo. Online mindmapping. You have to sign up for an account but it’s free. I’d like to see Google add something like this to it’s suite of apps (along with a presentation piece which I’ve already mentioned on this blog). I made a little practice map and it was very straight-forward and simple to follow.

“Presently” – New Google App?

Internet rumors say Google is working on a new application – “Presently” their presentation component. I will be excited to see it in action. I use Google Docs (Writely) occasionally and I love Gmail and Google Notebook. I’m fairly new to Google Notebook and am in the process of learning more about it. I saw several presenters at TCEA who used it for their presentation pieces and I have seen some examples of public google notebooks. I watched as Wes Fryer reorganized prior to his session. I see it as a very useful tool that I have not paid enough attention to.

I also use my personalized google page for the blogs I read most often. My bloglines account suffers from serious bloat and I seem to do better with the visual approach of having the blogs I read most often laid out on the page showing the most recent posts. I tend to move the feeds around so the ones I find myself returning to most often end up at the top of the page. I also have them arranged with tagged pages with a page devoted to local friends, one for education, and so on. My home page has my email, calendar, local weather and TV guide – things of that sort. It also contains a widget for Google Notebook so I have a constant reminder of what I’m working on right now.

Google has an extension for Firefox which allows you to select something on a webpage, right-click and get an option to “note-it” which puts the clip or page directly on your Notebook. As you research on the internet you can save pictures and snips of information along with the url for citing your sources.
I hope there will be compatibility between Notebook and Presently – what a powerful tool that will be! A cross-browser, cross-operating system presentation tool that would allow you to pull images and text from your notebook to give you the pieces you need anytime as long as you have an internet connection.

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Google Has Tabs!

I have used my Google homepage for over a year but discovered something new (at least to me) last night. You can use tabs to organize your web content. While I use Bloglines, like most people who read blogs I have so many that I subscribe to that there isn’t always time to read them all. I keep my favorites on Google so I can just skim the headlines and read the most interesting. Up until last night I had all my content on one page. At this time Google only allows 6 tabs but you can put a lot of information on each page. Using tabs I was able to group by subject and make it easy to see new posts.
If you are new to Google you can sign in to your personalized homepage using your gmail login. Google has tons of widgets that you can add just by clicking but you can also add feeds by clicking on add stuff and then choosing add URL. If you have the link for the sites rss feed you can paste it into the provided form and google adds it to your page. If you don’t know the address for the feed you can try typing in the web address of the page and click the button that will search homepage content. If you presently have all your content one page it is easy to create tabs and then just drag items to the different tabs.

google page

I learned another trick while I was playing on Google. You can search Google blogs for blogs related to a particular subject you are interested in. Last night I did a search on blogs on TCEA. On the left side of the results page there was a link for the RSS feed. I added that feed to my Google page, clicked edit on the header and typed in 9 which is the most entries it will show and now I have a feed that will show me blogs that mention TCEA. You can do the same by searching on Technorati . Just enter your information into the search box and then look for a button that says RSS or Subscribe. Right click on it and choose properties. Copy the address on the properties box and paste that into the “add URL” box on google and click ADD.

I hope you find these little hints helpful. There is a weather prediction of freezing rain here tonight and tomorrow so I plan on staying by the fireplace and if the power stays on – reading online!

New Blog for Computer Lab

I have finally gotten started on a blog for the 406 Project Computer Lab. The link is on the sidebar and I have a feed for the weeks schedule on it. It just has a welcome post and the calendar feed so far – I haven’t even done anything to personalize it. I hope to add pictures and articles and am looking forward to seeing how blogger grows throughout the next year. I tried to use google calendar with it and couldn’t get the feed to work so I ended up using an online calendar called kiko. I would have thought since google now owns blogger that it would be simple to integrate and it may work eventually but I spent a half hour trying with google and it took ten minutes with kiko including signing up for a free account.

This is one of the things I hope will improve with time. I like that google has added more control over viewing and commenting so I’m sure more improvements are on the horizon. If you check out the Blogger “known issues” page you will see quite a few errors related to using Internet Explorer 7.  Who knew?

In the meantime I am looking for suggestions on what should be included on the lab blog so let me know if you have any ideas!

Maps Are Fun

A friends’ blog had a link to a site to make a map of all the places you have travelled and it looked like fun so I did two – one for travels and one for all the places I’ve lived.

I’d especially like to go to the northwest and to D. C. someday.

I’ve also been to Ontario, Canada, Mexico, and Great Britain. Here’s where I’ve lived

create your own visited states map or check out these Google Hacks.

It would be fun to have students research where certain crops are raised or states with certain types of industry are found and have them blog on their findings and use this app to create a map to go with their research blog entry.

hmmm…the main column of my theme is too narrow to show the entire map.  I guess I’m going to have to get more intentional about creating my own theme.

Google strikes again – JotSpot

I promised a post on online word processors and that is coming but tonight I wanted to write about google. I read tonight that they have acquired JotSpot – a wiki site. Coming on the heels of YouTube and Google Docs (formerly writely) they have grown to a very impressive collection of web applications. They also have a pretty comprehensive spreadsheet application. Add to that Blogger, Gmail, Orkut, Google Talk, Picasa, Google Reader and a comprehensive list of specialized search engines and you have what constitutes a massive amount of data!

There is a convenience factor having just one password to login to all those services. If you don’t have an expensive office program you can do most of what you need online (add a database and a presentation program, some graphics apps and oops, throw in a browser and an operating system – wait, that’s microsoft LOL) and with all the open source software available you can complete the picture for little or no cost for software. I wonder where this will go in the future. And I wonder about all the data floating around out there. In high school I read the book “1984” and we used to talk a lot about “big brother” is watching you (that was the early seventies and we meant the government and whoever else we felt was part of the establishment). In some ways it seems to me that we have helped bring about the reality of what was a slightly paranoid reaction to a generational gap. We vote away our rights to obtain a temporary peace of mind and we do our banking, bill paying, purchasing, and journal keeping on the internet. Our kids share some of the most intimate details of their lives with complete strangers and corporations and college recruiters look at those details before making decisions about their offline futures.

I love having a front-row seat to all the changes and I hope that we pay close attention and make the technology work for us instead of the other way around. We are a society of busy people running from one end of the day to the other. I recently had some very bad experiences with the medical profession and most of what happened was due to people not paying attention. I think that sums up a lot of what is wrong with our world these days. We are in such a hurry that we are not paying attention and sooner or later those things that slip by have a way of catching up with us. My mother used to tell us “the chickens always come home to roost”. It’s funny how the older I get the more wisdom she seemed to possess. I think that the faster things change the more we need to pay attention to where we are and where we want to go.

Google isn’t good or bad – it’s just big and fast. It’s a tool and and a very powerful one. Power tools are wonderful and each one has a specific purpose. My experience with power tools is that you have to respect them. You should learn the proper way to use them and take safety precautions. You should use them for the purpose they were intended for, you don’t leave them on around unattended children and you don’t let them take over the garage.