Quick Review of Google Products

by Krishna on January 27, 2007

As most people would have, I switched over to using Google Search the first time I tried it after a recommendation from a friend. Over the years, Google has added many products to their portfolio and I have tried to use many of them. Here is a quick review of my experiences with each product. The order of the products is according to a combination of my satisfaction as well as my usage level.

  • Search: Still the leader with the more relevant search results. Others like Ask, Yahoo! and Live lag behind in number of sites indexed, frequency of indexes and search results returned. Sites like Clusty and Krugle offer variations and search niches, but not general search to topple Google. Google has other search features like Calculator and Weather that come in handy. I typically use the search across Images (my second choice: Altavista), Maps (second and third choice: Yahoo! Maps & MapQuest), News (I also like Techmeme), Groups (I use Yahoo! Groups, but search on Google Groups) and, less frequently, Video (YouTube is better for content, but Google Video should be better for “searching” videos in future). Search is pretty much a Google monopoly.
  • Google Reader: Since its latest incarnation, it has become the must-use blog reader. Some notes on that here. I actually favor feeds coming to an online email client, but neither Gmail nor Yahoo! Mail does a good job of this.
  • Google Analytics: It is easy to incorporate the functionality in your website or blog and the reports are really great. There is still room for improvement as some of the reports could have greater drill-down capability. Basically, the problem is that as you gain a greater knowledge of the functionality in Google Analytics, you start wanting to slice and dice the data in different ways and the tool starts showing its limitations. Still, it is the best accessible tool around.
  • Google Desktop: While I think of myself as pretty organized in terms of files and emails, Google Desktop search increases productivity and effectiveness several times by locating old documents and communication easily. The sidebar allows me to see important information at a glance, launch searches and keep track of To-Do items. However, searching is not integrated into Windows Explorer and the existing gadget inventory probably needs to be improved. I haven’t really tried other tools because Google Desktop does most of what it needs to do really well.
  • Google Calendar: Very user-friendly application. Since I am using Microsoft Outlook professionally, it is a challenge to use it regularly. I suppose they should build in some synching feature. Better than Yahoo! Calendar, which like many other of their products, has been dead for years.
  • Google Docs & Spreadsheets: The product does a good job of allowing users to create online documents and spreadsheets and there is no competition from Yahoo or Microsoft. It is still a bit clunky and since it is not really anywhere near the desktop Microsoft Office product, it has limited use at this moment. Frankly, I would like to see this product integrated with Google Page Creator and JotSpot.
  • Google Alerts: Not something unique that cannot be copied, but it is very useful and does its job perfectly.
  • Gmail: Gmail turned the email market upside down when it launched with gigabytes of storage. But other email clients (especially Yahoo! Mail) have caught up with newer features and Gmail doesn’t seem to be innovating much these days. I still use it sometimes because it allows me to store Google Talk chat sessions automatically. It is still much better than Hotmail (or Live Mail) which has no clue about spam filtering or even basic user navigation.
  • Picasa: I am using it to manage and edit all my photos. I haven’t used the online sharing service — still using Yahoo! Photos. Probably should give Picasa Web Albums or Flickr a try.
  • Google Talk: Skype and Yahoo! Messenger are way ahead in features and looks. But Google Talk has the advantage of being integrated with Google Desktop Sidebar and easily saving chat sessions into Gmail. In recent times, I have experienced performance problems with Google Talk when talking with people in India.
  • Google Book Search: I think the functionality is good, but I haven’t really used it all that much. There are too many books to read and too little time.
  • Google Earth: Again, a great fun tool, but not much time to play around with it. Google Maps serves most day-to-day purposes.
  • Froogle: Useful to know the price ranges of goods. I have not bought a single item from Froogle yet, but probably I am a more cautious and research-oriented online shopper.
  • Toolbar: This was something nice to have when it came out. When IE came out, the search box allowed integration with Google Search, which removed a lot of the rationale behind the Google toolbar. The new IE interface also made it less attractive to reduce the viewing area by installing a toolbar. So I got rid of it. However, Yahoo! Bookmarks Beta has convinced me to install me to get the Yahoo! Beta toolbar, but as you can read from my previous post, I am questioning whether moving to that product was such a good idea.
  • Google Co-op: Creating a custom search engine was a great touch by Google and I duly installed one for my website and blog. The only problem, I realized, was that it does not index the website in real-time and so it takes a few hours/days to get the content made searchable. Technorati Search is much better in this regard, but right now, it only works for blogs.
  • Google Catalogs, Checkout, Directory, SketchUp, Translate, etc: Rarely used these and other products not named explicitly. This is primarily because I don’t use the functionality itself rather than there being a competing product.

The above is not a comprehensive list of all Google products just because I don’t have the need to use some of the products, including stuff like Google Suggest in Japanese. Google seems to be building a portfolio of products just like Yahoo! has done. Their key strength will continue to be in search and I think by leveraging that capability of being able to locate relevant information in any data in any format, their products will grow.

Integration between various products has been taking place, though very slowly in my opinion and in some cases, not effectively done (like Google Reader and Gmail). Providing users with the ability to access all the products they are using is also done in a rather clumsy way — a vertical list of big icons under My Account — instead of the Home Page. I am not sure why this is — possibly the lack (I am just guessing here) of a Google Product Integration team is partly responsible here.


Harish TM January 28, 2007 at 3:27 am

"Google Co-op: Creating a custom search engine was a great touch by Google and I duly installed one for my website and blog. The only problem I realized was that"

I think you missed out something there...

Am working on a couple of things related to Google Co-op. would Love to hear about what you worked on...

Krishna Kumar January 28, 2007 at 6:24 am

Thanks for pointing that out, Harish. I fixed the hanging sentence

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