Book Review: Google Hacks 2

Authors Calishain and Dornfest are back with even more tips, tricks, and hacks aimed at the Google search engine and its family of related services. Like the first edition, the second edition relies heavily on programming techniques that make use of the Google API. Unlike, the first edition, the second strives to be more egalitarian in its approach, giving much more for the non-programmers in the crowd. All the Google basics are covered: How to formulate searches, Boolean logic, special syntax, and how to read result sets and URLs. Also included in this edition is a more extensive and practical collection of how-tos. There are excellent tips explaining task-oriented approaches to using the Google search engine. For example, there are tips on finding phone numbers, tracking stocks, and finding recipes. There are also a number of recommendations relating to reference materials, such as dictionaries, glossaries, news, and historical data. This edition of Google Hacks provides expanded coverage of Google services and add-ons, such as Google Images, Google News, Google Groups and Gmail. The Gmail section is particularly noteworthy, providing some very useful tips on using Gmail as a storage tool. The Google Toolbar and Desktop are also explored. Webmasters are not overlooked, with information on getting the most from AdWords and tips on how to optimize and maintain your site in such a manner as to enhance you Google rankings. Some of the hacks are premised on the Google’s Application Programming Interface (API). With access to the API, you can tap into the extensive Google index at a very fundamental level. Working with the Google API can sometimes be a daunting affair, requiring some familiarity with programming. The book offers clear advice on getting started; how to create your API account and set up your machine to run the language of your choice. Some hacks are simple and short, others are pages long and have prerequisites (other hacks) which need to be built first, but don’t be put off by the seeming complexity of having to do a little programming to access the hacks to their fullest. The code is presented in a clear and easy to understand way. All you have to do is type it in. For those who find this too much trouble, a quick visit to the O’Reilly website will prove useful. Visit http://examples.oreilly.com/googlehks to download a ZIP file containing all the code already saved as text files. In my view, the best hacks explore customizing the Google interface and will appeal to those who are serious about using the power of Google to scrap the Web for particular information. Other hacks, such as a way to query Google by email or AOL Instant Messenger, will also find a use with power searchers. On the whole, the second edition is a step forward in usefulness. The new content will have broader appeal and will serve in good stead both casual users looking to get a little more out of Google and hardcore techies who really want to go in and hack it like it attacked their family. The authors state, “there’s more to Google than most people know.” In this series of two books, they have not only proven it, but they’ve also shown us all how we can avail ourselves of the full power of the Google toolset. As Google continues to grow and evolve, adding more features and functions, guides like this begin to play an important role in keeping the complexity manageable and in helping us find what we need in the midst of more noise and distraction. Google Hacks – Tips & Tools for Smarter Searching 2nd Edition by Tara Calishain & Rael Dornfest Originally published in the Bangkok Post, 9 March, 2005

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