10 awesome Google features you're not using

July 29, 2014

10 awesome Google features you're not using

Google has made a name for itself as the top search engine on the Web because its algorithms are the best at finding exactly what you're looking for. But, it's so much more than that.

The company has always encouraged innovation and that shows through many of its lesser-known features. It even made virtual reality available to anyone with an Android phone.

Anyone who has played around with Google's site knows there are plenty of other great things you can do there. From custom search functions to fun games, Google is loaded with awesome content that makes it a lot more than just a search engine. You just have to know where to look.

That's why I've made a list of the best Google features you probably don't know about yet and how you can find them. Some of these cool tools will make your life easier and others will just blow your mind.

GOOGLE FLIGHT SEARCH

The Internet is full of helpful flight search websites that help you find the cheapest tickets for your next vacation. We all know about sites like Expedia and Kayak. But, did you know Google is in on this market, too?

It's true. And, if you like any of those other sites, then you'll love Google Flight Search. That's because Google-owned ITA Software provides the information used by most flight search sites. That means Google Flight Search will give you quick access to the information from those other sites in one place.

You can quickly pick starting points and destinations on a map. When you've clicked on the airports you want, click on the tabs under the destination information to filter the results by length, price and date. You can also click the red "Show Flights" button.

When you find a flight you like, you can book it directly on the airline's site. You can even get information about checking luggage for that particular airline.

ATARI BREAKOUT

Not every cool Google features is a practical tool to save time and money. In fact, sometimes the company comes up with some pretty fun time wasters.

How many of you remember Atari Breakout? It's the old game developed by Apple co-founders Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs.

It starts with a row of bricks at the top of the screen. You've got to break the bricks with a bouncing ball. You keep the ball moving by sliding a paddle across the bottom of the screen. It's a pretty simple game, but very addicting.

Thanks to Google, you can play Atari Breakout on your computer whenever you want. Simply, go to the Google Image Search page and search "Atari Breakout." Then, wait for the fun to begin.

The search will look standard at first, showing a few screenshot images of the game. But, then the images will reorganize as the game's bricks and your ball and paddle will appear.

So, the next time you're on Google, have some fun, but try not to waste too much time.

GOOGLE PUBLIC DATA EXPLORER

Google's normal search engine is a great research tool, but the site has some very specific tools that can be even more helpful depending on what you're looking for. For instance, the Google Public Data Explorer is a treasure chest full of information on public statistics.

To use the tool, just go to the Google Public Data page. Then, use the search bar to find a topic. Keep your searches simple, like "Unemployment in the U.S."

Google will then mine its resources on the Web to return results from sources like the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Click the link and Google compiles the information into a readable graph. You can even modify the data using things like gender, age and state.

This is an extremely useful tool for students doing research or anyone just looking to get a better understanding of social and economic conditions around the world.

GOOGLE TRANSLATIONS

Learning a new language can be tough, but Google can help you translate words back and forth between languages quickly when you're in a bind. This function is integrated right into the regular Google search, so you don't even have to visit another page.

To translate with Google, just type in "translate (word) to (language)" in the search bar. For instance, you could write "translate apple to French."

Google will then return normal search results along with one special addition. At the top of the page above the results, there will be a simple white box with your original word and translation inside. Google will let you know it less than a second that "pomme" is French for apple. It also has a small speaker icon that will let you hear the word if you aren't sure how to pronounce it.

Want to translate larger blocks of text? No problem. Google Translate is a full-fledged webpage and app that lets you translate entire paragraphs from one language to another.

GOOGLE NUTRITION COMPARISON SEARCH

What's healthier, an orange or a banana? Finding out is easier than ever with this simple search tool. Just like the translator feature, Google will let you compare the nutritional information from many foods using the regular search bar.

Just type "compare" into the search bar, along with the foods you want to look at, such as "compare broccoli and asparagus." Google will do the rest.

When the site returns your search results, it will include a large white box at the top. The box will contain both of the items you want to compare, along with some nutritional information. For foods like broccoli, it will even give you the option to modify the results for different varieties and how it was cooked.

This is a great feature to use if you're counting calories or just want to know a little bit more about the foods you eat every day.

GOOGLE DEFINITIONS

Finding definitions for words you don't know is now easier than ever thanks to Google. Google even goes above and beyond to provide you everything you could ever need to know about a word.

To find a definition, just type "define (word)" into the Google search bar, such as "define tintinnabulation" - it's "a ringing or tinkling sound" if you were wondering.  The search will return with a standard dictionary entry at the top of the page that includes pronunciation, parts of speech, and every possible definition.

If you click the gray arrow at the bottom of the box, you get access to even more information about the word. You can find out where and when it originated and how often it has been used over time. You even have the option to translate it into another language.

You used to have to buy a subscription to expensive services like the Oxford English Dictionary to find information like that. Now, it's right at your fingertips.

GOOGLE CONVERSIONS

Whether you're cooking or helping your child with math homework, odds are you're going to have to convert different units of measurement. Your recipe might call for half a cup of milk, but the carton says eight ounces. Or, maybe your kid is learning about the metric system.

Don't panic; Google has your back. It has an easy to use converter tool built right into the search function. Just type in a search like "convert eight ounces to cups" to find the correct conversion.

Your search will come back with a nice conversion calculator at the top of the page with your answer already plugged in. If you have another question, you don't have to search again.

You can edit the numbers and units of measurement right in the calculator to find out a new conversion. When you type in the numbers, it converts them for you in real time!

GOOGLE NGRAMS

This is a really unique research tool for those studying languages and books, but, you don't have to be professor to appreciate it.

Google nGrams is a feature of Google Books that lets you search how many times specific words occur in over 5 million books. It then charts your results on a graph, so you can see how often certain words are mentioned over time by using books from those time periods.

It's pretty interesting to look at the popularity of words over time. You can see which words were popular a hundred years ago and which ones are used more frequently now.

To use nGrams, just type in the words you want to search for in the search bar at the top of the page. Separate each word with a comma, so the algorithm knows they are different terms. You can then modify your search by year and language.  The large graph will then show you the ups and downs of the word usage over time.

For serious researchers, Google also lets users download the raw data for free to run their own experiments.

GOOGLE SKY

If you thought Google Earth was great, then this going to blow your mind. You can step off of our planet and into the universe with Google Sky.

Instead of searching locations on this planet, this feature lets you look at outer space using images from different telescopes, probes and satellites. It works similarly to Google Earth. You can search for items in the search bar at the top and Google Sky will show you the most recent images of the stars, planets and galaxies you are looking for.

The tool also includes showcases at the bottom of the page to direct you to popular and interesting parts of the map, like images from the Hubble Telescope and shots of our own Solar System.

In addition to the basic map, you can look at infrared and microwave images of space. You can also look at historic map of the stars made by Giovanni Maria Cassini in 1792! You can also overlay these different images on top of one another to see how they compare.

EXCLUDE SEARCH TERMS

Google's algorithms are really good at searching the Internet to find the information you're looking for. But, have you ever been frustrated because searches keep returning with words or phrase you don't want?

You can use special terms and symbols called search operators to refine your searches and make sure they come back the way you want. One of the helpful search operators helps you exclude search terms that you don't want to show up in your results

It's pretty easy to do, too. Simply, enter the minus (-) symbol in your search before any words you don't want in your results. That little symbol tells Google's search algorithms to ignore any results that show up with the dashed words.

Say you wanted to search for "puppies," but didn't want to see sites that were selling them. Just type in "puppies -sales" and you're set.

This is a great tool for everyone, whether you're doing serious research or just trying to find a smoothie recipe without strawberries. Sometimes the words you leave out of a search are just as important as the words you put in.


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