Gotta Be An Easier Way

Using technology to make your life easier!

Archive for the ‘Search’ Category

I know everyone probably has some sort of Google account and if you don’t you have probably have heard about it. But I wanted to make sure that I wrote something about it because it is one of those fundamental online tools that you must tap into and I didn’t want to take it for granted, that and there are so many tools that people haven’t tapped into that add so much to the experience.

Google pretty much owns my life and there is a good reason for that. It’s easy, free, integrated and unified. On top of it I can gather all the Google tools that I use onto one page, my Google Homepage . This is where I have my Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar, Google Reader, and many other tools that aren’t even Google tools like the weather, or alternative search engines.

So how do you get a google Homepage? If you have a Gmail account then you already have access to the Google Homepage and ALL of the tools I have listed here and MORE you simply need to login with your Gmail account to access it and it is all FREE!

Let me elaborate on some of the tools that Google offers:

  • Google Docs: Word Processing, Spreadsheet creation, online forms/surveys, presentation/slideshow creation. All of which can be fully private or fully collaborative with several people working on the same document at the same time from the same room or thousands of miles away.
  • Gmail: Email that offers over 5 GB of storage space (It’s space is ever growing as well depending how long you have had it for, I’m up to nearly 8GB), to-do lists, contact lists, Instant messaging, video chat, and many plugins that increase it’s functionality like GTD inbox, Boxbe, and Google Calendar. And because it is all integrated you send some emails right to your calendar like Entourage and Outlook.
  • Google Calendar: Create multiple calendars that you can share with family, friends collegues, co-workers or the entire world if you want. Tap into co-workers (if they are sharing) calendars to help you schedule meetings or events. Break it down into months days or hours. Reminders help you keep track of your life as well.
  • Picasa: An online photo storage site like Flickr. Easily organize, find, and share your photos. (Stay tuned for a more in depth look at Picasa and Flickr coming very soon)
  • Google Reader: A RSS feed reader that allows for sharing and works really good.
  • Blogger: A easy to use blog that integrates into all your other tools, grab photos from Picasa, documents from Docs and populate your blog so others can keep up to date with what you are doing.
  • Google Sites: A no code required web builder that utilizes drag and drop modular design. Easily have a website up and running in minutes.
  • Youtube: yup your Google account automatically gives you a youtube account.
  • Google Maps: A map of everywhere. Get directions and save them to your account so you always have them for accessibility. And check out street view which lets you go down to street level in most major cities in the world and look around as if you are in a car.
  • Google Translate: Translate from language to language. Very Handy. 43 languages supported and counting.
  • iGoogle: Your personalized Homepage of widgets/nuggets/gadgets. Can house most of the Google tools along with thousands of other tools that enhance productivity or just supply fun.
  • and many more like Finance, Scholar, Books, News etc. And they are constantly adding more.

The best part of it all is that it all exists online (but you can have it run off your desktop too if you want) and is accessible from any computer in the world that have computer access.

How can I use this for education?

  • Increase productivity.
  • Almost everything you do can be online and is sharable.
  • Reduce desktop clutter with fewer applications.
  • Give students a free alternative to pricey desktop applications.
  • Most of your tools can be accessible on one web page. It’s your desktop online.
  • It lives online so you have access everywhere and are not tethered to one computer.
  • Collaborate synchronously or a-synchronously online whenever or wherever with students, course co-writers, colleagues or whoever.
  • Set students up to collaborate online, this works especially good with distance courses.
  • View Microsoft Office documents without Microsoft Office.
  • and there is so much more but so little space

So what do /would you use the Google products for?

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  • Filed under: Calendar/PIM, Collaborative, Conferencing, Editors, File Viewers, Office, RSS Readers, Search, Social Networking, Tools
  • WayBackMachine

    The Internet Archive was founded to build an Internet library, with the purpose of offering permanent access for researchers, historians, and scholars to historical collections that exist in digital format. Want to see what a website looked like 2, 3, 4 or more years ago–just use the Internet Archives WayBackMaching and type in the URL and see what it looked like.

    Educational application:

    Great source for a historical persepective on just how far the Internet has come.

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  • Filed under: Browsers, Networking, Research, Search
  • There has been plenty of buzz this past week regarding Twitters new search engine and I must admit I am impressed. I won’t go into in this article but I will be doing a post that will be specific to Twitter. This post is about the combination of the Google search engine and Twitter’s code-named Twoogle.

    Basically this is a search engine mash-up by our friends at Browsys. Browsys is a folder system for links and resources. Now I can’t say that I would recommend Brosys because Diigo does the same thing an much much more. But the Twitter and Google search engine that it provides is a very handy tool that can be used.

    How can this help in education?

    • Two searches at once saves time
    • Utilize the power of both search engines.
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  • Filed under: Search
  • Wolfram: A New Take on Search Engines

    This past week a new challenger arose to test it’s might against the very powerful Google. Its task is a great one as Google dominates the western world but it appears that Wolfram doesn’t intend to play by the same rules. Instead of the user (you and I) searching for webpages that can bring the answers that we seek, we simply type in the the question to the answer we seek and Wolfram gives an answer. Wolfram is a “fact engine”

    So how good is it? Actually very good, it’s math and arithmetic is exceptional and should be feared as it seeks to put mathematicians out of work, try it by typing in “x^2 sin(x)”. Also try typing in “n=np”, one of the most persistent unsolved questions within computer science. Or perhaps try typing in your name to see statistics on how often it is used in the world. I also typed in “how tall is the empire state building?” and it promptly gave me a very detailed answer. So instead of searching for several minutes and trying to find a well cross-referenced answer I have it in seconds with Wolfram.

    Will it replace Google? No, Google’s place is carved in stone but Wolfram may have a place of its own carved out if subsequent releases impress as much as this did.

    I think I should also say that Wolfram isn’t the first search engine to try it’s hand at this sort of searching feature. True knowledge has been out for a little over a year now and has the same sort of search functions (see my article on search engines). But so far I am more impressed by Wolfram.

    To test out some of the more humorous answers that it gives you try these searches on for size.

    • To be or not to be?
    • How much wood could a woodchuck chuck?
    • How old are you?
    • Where am I?
    • How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?
    • 88 MPH
    • What’s the answer to life?
    • Hello
    • What’s the speed of an unladen swallow?

    How can this be used in education?

    Again I am going to refer you to the articles I wrote on search engines.

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  • Filed under: Search
  • Directory of Learning Tools

    With 2872 tools and counting (over 2100 free) Jane Hart’s Directory of Learning Tools on the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies site will definately have something for everyone.

    It is not necessarily easy sifting through more than 2800 tools to find the one that you want but because the directory is broken down into logical categories and even has a section dedicated to personal productivity, it can serve as an excellent starting place to see just what is available.

    Many of the tools in the list will eventually find their way onto this site.

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  • Filed under: Learning, Search, Tools
  • Part 3: Search Engine Throwdown

    True Knowledge is a “question answering” search engine. You ask a question the way you do to any other person and it will give you an answer and the results (webpages) from which it drew that conclusion. So if you type in “How tall is the Eiffel tower?” I get a simple answer of “324 meters” I also get the specific article it got that information from, a list of other webpages that are relevant to the search and also an option as to if I agree or disagree with the answer.

    True Knowledge is still in beta (like the other 2 I reviewed) so not everything has an answer and on top of that you still need to sign up to be able to use it something that can take days before your account can be set up. That is not very good when you are just wanting to do a simple search. If you are very interested in this concept and feel you want to contribute you sure can add to the knowledge base.

    How can you use True knowledge in education?

    Really because it is in beta, and has been for over a year, it really isn’t suitable to use in education but is definitely one to watch out for and should be followed.

    So who is the winner of this throwdown? My choice as best search engine alternative is Hakai, and for these reasons:

    • Smoothest and fastest interface
    • verified search results
    • direct comparison with other search engines

    This isn’t to say that the other search engines are not good, they are good but I just prefer Hakia at this point.

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  • Filed under: Collaborative, Networking, Research, Search
  • Part 2: Search Engine Throwdown.

    hakia via kwout

    Hakai is a self proclaimed semantic search engine that spits out results based on web sites that are suggested by librarians. Because most search engines bring search results based on popular websites the results may not be credible but Hakai is trying to change that.

    Most search engines bring popular results based on what statistical ranking algorithms, the problem with this is that the popular results are not always credible. Enter Hakai, the self proclaimed semantic search engine that brings quality results based on 3 criteria:

    1. credible websites recommended by librarians
    2. relevance to the query
    3. up to date information

    Hakai takes it a step further by allowing you to compare ( your search to Google, Yahoo and MSN to see how effective it is as well letting you see if you find the search to be as effective as they say.

    No sign up required, no commitment of any kind is needed to use this tools so feel free to try it risk free.

    So how can this tool be used in education.

    • If you are tired of Wikipedia, Google and the like then you can test drive Hakai and it’s librarian approved search result out and perhaps only allow your students to use it when doing research.
    • It is another search engine option for yourself or anyone for that matter.
    • Use it to show your students how different search engines can offer different results, thus it becomes a teaching tool to demonstrate why extra research is usually needed.

    How would you use Hakai?

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  • Filed under: Collaborative, Networking, Research, Search
  • It’s a Search Engine Throwdown!


    Once again I am pitting three similar tools against each other to see who comes out as the victor. Three tools enter, one tool leaves. This go around is focused on search engines and ever since Google came in, stole the spotlight and made search engines cool everyone has been wanting their piece of the pie. The 3 tools I will be spotlighting are Middlespot, Hakai, and True Knowledge.

    The first tool up is Middlespot and though this tool doesn’t offer any complex search algorithms but this search engine boasts the added functionality of a thumbnail picture for every search result that shows up. These images can be zoomed in and out and are all laid out on a basic workspace and to the left is another workspace with all the text present.

    Another cool aspect of of Middlespot is that you get a thing called a workpad which enables you to:

    • save multiple pages to
    • change names
    • give it a unique url
    • add comments
    • email to people
    • it remembers your searches
    • it makes suggestions for other searches.
    • embed your workpad to your website or blog as I have done here

    Middlespot also allows you to search twitter, amazon and images for a bit more variety. It also boasts the ability to add (if you want, no requirement here) Middlespot to you firefox search engine list and of course the obligatory bookmarklet. And if you don’t like the algorythm that Middlespot uses you can save google searches to your workpad and look at them there.

    All of this is offered with no signup, plugins, logins, or kitchen sinks required so no passwords to remember, if you don’t want.

    All sounds pretty good but there must be a downside, right? Well there is, bringing up 25-50 thumbnail images of websites can be pretty taxing on your internet connection and things tend to slow down, something that can cripple a search engine because people want their search results like they like their coffee…fast.

    So how can Middlespot be used in education?

    • You can post links via the workpad
    • use it as a personal search engine
    • use the comment tool to document separate workpads, like an overview
    • and you can use it like any other search engine

    Stay tuned for part 2 of the search engine throw-down coming early next week.

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  • Filed under: Research, Search
  • Launchy

    spotlightWhen most people think of using a Mac they think of ease of use and a strong reliance on the mouse. Ironically or paradoxically , the Mac’s, or more specifically OSX strength is the keyboard control which is found in the tool system search tool called Spotlight which is essentially a search engine for your entire system. With the click of a button you can search through all of the images, contacts, emails, files, calendars, and applications on your Mac all at once. Spotlight has enormous power and it can even be used for calculations.


    Unfortunately there is no native search tool within XP or Vista that performs as well as Spotlight and after using OSX as my primary OS for the last 18 months the hardest adjustment I have to make when I go back to XP or Vista is lack of this tool. Fortunately, there is an open source equivalent to Spotlight called Launchy that has almost the same power and functionality.

    Launchy is a free windows utility designed to help you forget about your start menu, your desktop icons, and your file manager. Launchy indexes and launches your applications, documents, project files, folders, and bookmarks with just a few keystrokes and is one of the first tools I know install on XP or Vista. Like all the tools that we highlight on the blog. launchy-wikipedia

    Launchy is very easy to download, install and configure. It can be configured to open with any assortment of keystrokes and once it is open you just start typing the name of what you would like to access and Launchy brings up programs, files and even bookmarked websites that match the name. You open the item simply hitting the enter key. It is just that easy.

    Launchy website

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  • Filed under: Operating Systems, Search
  • Listio – Web 2.0 Directory

    listio-logoOne of the advantages of Web 2.0 is that there are hundreds or thousands of tools, sites, mashups being developed for a myriad of uses. This presents a significant challenge–how do you find the right to for the right job. Sites the like Mashable are my first stop when looking for specific Web 2.0 tools but as excellent as Mashable is, I often find myself looking for a tool that is just a little bit more or is better at…, and fall back to a Google search entry like “Compfight vs” to see what reviews have been written on a particular app or site and more specifically to search out similar tools and explore my options.

    This is where Listio comes in and makes my search for the perfect tool much easier. Listio is a community directory of Web 2.0 tools, sites and services. The site allows you to browse Web 2.0 apps by their tags, search existing and new Web 2.0 apps and read and write reviews. Perhaps the most useful aspects of the site is the list of related applications which can be accessed from an application review page.

    This feature has made my life much easier by giving me the option of viewing a wide selection of applications that are similar to the one that I may currently be testing or reviewing.

    Educational Application:

    • Finding the right tool, site, services that gives your students the right experience, or augments the learning environment is invaluable.
    • The related applications section of the site may also expose you to tools or services that you many not have considered but could be used or provide an alternative experience for the learner.
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  • Filed under: Graphics, Research, Search