Can't think why you would need a manual for Google (and Gmail)? You might be surprised..." />

Charles Moore Reviews Google The Missing Manual, Second Edition

10425 Like nearly everyone on the planet with a computer and an Internet connection, I use Google. Indeed, Google has become one of the most important tools of my trade, always open in a tab on my Web browser and ready to go whenever I need to find out something, whether it's a research topic for an article were column, or just a quick fact or spelling check. , Google has displaced pretty well all other resource tools - encyclopedias, dictionaries, thesauruses (thesauri?), a calculator, and more, as my first (and usually last) reference.

Indeed, search engines in general, and Google in particular, are right up there with email at the front of my hit parade of things I like most about the Internet.

There are of course many other Internet search engines, and I've tried out plenty of them over the years, but I always end up coming back to Google, which is about as close to perfection in the genre as has yet been achieved. The beauty of Google is its simplicity and speed. Google's developers have commendably resisted the temptation to clutter up their search pages with graphics and display ads. Google, by contrast, loads up very quickly even on my poky dialup connection, and has a minimum of distractions. Even the paid ads are limited to text content, which helps make the search process as quick, easy on the eyes, and user-friendly as has been devised so far.

So, since Google is so user-friendly and familiar to most, it might surprise you that Pogue Press/0' Reilly has seen fit to publish a 450 page "Missing Manual" for the search engine. Approaching the book, I was curious myself as to what could possibly fill that many pages. However, after reading the first chapter, "Google 101," I was hooked. Even in that general profile of the the Google search process I learned enough that I, has a veteran Google user, wasn't previously aware of, too whet my appetite for more.

"More" is what this book delivers; it's bung-full of tutorials, tips, tricks, and tools that take you well beyond simple search to Google gurudom. As the authors Sarah Milstein, J.D. Biersdorfer,, and Matthew MacDonald note in their introductory teaser, "Most people who use Google every day have no idea why the results include links named "cached" or "similar pages"... I admit that I didn't. "Practically nobody knows what happens when you throw the term inurl into your search string - but it's a very handy trick." I couldn't wait to get to page 67 to check it out, and it indeed did prove to be something that I will use now that I know about it.

You may have never used the Google Answers service or the Google Toolbar. This book explains why you probably should, as well as giving you the inside skinny on making Google work like a calculator, a dictionary, a package tracker, and more. In short, Google: The Missing Manual, Second Edition is dedicated to showing you new ways you can configure and manipulate Google to enable you to search for what you need to know smarter and faster, and also to discern those relatively rare instances when Google is not the ideal tool for what you have in mind.

The book's layout and format will be familiar to anyone who has read any of the other volumes in the classic "Missing Manuals" serious. The Pogue Press/O'Reilly is phasing in a new Missing Manuals format, with smaller, thinner, cheaper ($19.95) books and color rather than grayscale illustrations. I have mixed feelings about that, but Google The Missing Manual, Second Edition is in the older motif with a more leisurely and conversational prose style and lots of grayscale screen shots to illustrate and amplify the text content.

Google, The Missing Manual, is structured In four sections.

Part One, Searching With Google, is about efficiently combing the Web for information, both obvious and obscure. You will be tutored in crafting powerful search queries looking in the right places, efficiently interpreting search results, and how dig deeper when necessary.

Part Two, Google Tools, explains the above - noted Google Toolbar and shows you how it can save you tons of time while enhancing your search effectiveness. The section also covers buttons, little-known search systems, and other less-well-known Google features, as well as accessing Google wirelessly on the fly.

Part Three, Google for Webmasters, shows how to help Google, and its billions of users, find your Website, tells you have to use Google's Adsense and Adwords as well as Google Analytics, the company's new program for researching your own site.

Part Four is a tutorial on using Google's excellent and free e-mail system, Gmail.

There is also an Appendix with information on Web sites about the whole.

Chapter 1, the aforementioned Google 101, covers the essentials, basic text searches, phrase searches, searching within results, system syntax modifiers, wildcards, "getting lucky," Google's 10-word search string limit, interpreting your results, that stuff at the bottom of the results page, and when not to use Google, as well as more the very cool Google tricks.

Chapter 2, Superior Searching, takes us beyond the basics with tutorials on setting preferences, advanced searching, "advanced search on steroids," searching by language and country or town, getting fancy with syntax, searching by file type or content creation date, and much more.

Chapter 3 is on Googling Farther: Images, News, Maps, And More, with tips and information on using Google images (including legal issues associated with using photos and graphic art found on the Internet), Google News, Google Maps, the Google Dictionary, Google Earth, and Google Print.

Chapter 4 is entitled: Googling With Others: Groups And Answers - ie: Google Groups, which lets you participate in or search through the archives of Web based discussion groups, or even start your own discussion group. There is also a section on using the whole answers, which is a service that lets you ask questions that will be answered by a real, flesh and bloody human beings - for a fee of course.

Chapter 5 is on Shopping With Google - using Google's shopping tool, Froogle (recently relaunched as Google Product Search), as well as Google Catalogues, which is a archive of more than 6,600 conventional product catalogs.

Chapter 6, Google Toolbar, which you can either install in your browser, that is so long as you're using Windows and Internet Explorer 5 or later or Firefox 1.x on Windows, a Mac, or Linux.

Personally, since I don't usually use any of those browsers, that feature is not something I would use, although it sounds pretty cool. The chapter does have a section on using the Google search box in Apple Safari; the Googlebar that works with Firefox, Netscape (7.0 or later, Mozilla (and probably SeaMonkey), OmniWeb, and Opera.

Chapter 7 informs us of more cool Google Tools - alternative search boxes, searching from the address bar, bookmarklets, Google Desktop Search (which was Windows-only at the time of publication, but which now supports the Mac - see my review here), Google Deskbar, Google Suggest, Google Video, Google Web Accelerator (Windows only), Google Wireless (including a tutorial on choosing a mobile device, which unfortunately doesn't include the iPhone, which wasn't introduced in time for this edition), tips on texting effortlessly, and Google SMS.

Chapters 8 through 10 are on topics that will be of interest to Webmasters.

Chapter 8, Becoming A Search Result, includes sections on getting your site ready for Google, getting Google's attention, does Google know you're there?, rising in Google results, including an admonition to keep your pages plain and simple out of consideration for those of us who still are stuck with dial-up Internet connections (that would be more than half of Internet users) and the growing cohort who surf the Web with smart phones and PDAs, often on very slow connections, getting rid of Google, and adding Google searches to your site.

Chapter 9 is about Making Money With Google a long 48 Page - treatise on using and optimizing Google Adsense and Adwords.

Chapter 10 is about Google Analytics - the company's Web tracking and analysis service.

Part Four of Google: The Missing Manual is a single chapter: Chapter11, Gmail. I'm a Gmail fan as is everyone in my family and many of my friends. It's truly a great email service, free and supporting both web-based and POP 3 email. Introduced on April 1st, 2004, Gmail spent a long time has an invitation - only beta, but it went officially public last year. This chapter is essentially Gmail: The Missing Manual, and could well be worth the cost of the book if you're A Gmail user. There are sections on getting a Gmail account, composing and sending messages from Gmail's Web interface, formatting messages with rich text, attaching and downloading file attachments, creating a signature file, Gmail and spam, Gmail mailbox management, archiving messages, creating and applying message labels, mail filters, Googling your Gmail, using multiple email addresses with a single Gmail account, deleting messages forever, the Contacts list, and adding contacts, importing contacts from other mail programs, adjusting your account settings, forwarding and POP, other cool Gmail tricks like a list of keyboard shortcuts, turning Gmail into a Web-based file server, and using Gmail and with a news reader.

If you're a serious user of Google and/or Gmail, or a Website operator, you'll find this book well worth the modest $24.95 price, which includes 45 days of free access to the O'Reilly's Safari Bookshelf electronic reference library.

Google: The Missing Manual, Second Edition
By Sarah Milstein, J.D. Biersdorfer, Matthew MacDonald
Second Edition March 2006
Series: The Missing Manuals
ISBN 10: 0-596-10019-1
ISBN 13: 9780596100193
Pages: 463

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Charles W. Moore

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