On a beautiful spring day like this, it’s hard to concentrate on work–not because of the gorgeous weather, mind you, but because of the insane drilling, welding, crunching, and thumping noises the car garage next door is now spilling into the street. So instead of writing, I’ll tell you why Google owns me so completely. Some of the best web 2.0 apps have been launched by the big G, and they’ve changed the way I use the net. Maybe I ought to buy some GOOG stock.

  • Google Search doesn’t need an introduction. Firefox has the search box built in, with some add-ons like “find this in other search engines” etc. My drop-down search box also looks up Netflix, Wikipedia, German English dictionaries, technorati, delicious, and flickr tags.
  • The killer app, of course, is Gmail. I started using it as a backup address for the hell of it, but the interface, design, and concept is so slick that I recently moved all my addresses over to Gmail. I ditched Outlook for Thunderbird long ago, but now Tbird just backs up my Gmail. The tipping point came when Gmail allowed adding other addresses. (Check Settings > Accounts.) If you’re like me, you have a number of addresses that you have to check in different places. Here’s the thing: if those other accounts let you forward all messages, you can consolidate them into a single Gmail account. It doesn’t matter if you write me at muckster, jurgenfauth.com, at worldfilm, whatever–it all arrives in the same inbox. When I respond, Gmail puts the proper return address on it, and nobody’s the wiser. The way Gmail handles messages–tagging, conversation threading, no more folders–is way ahead of any other email system I’ve seen. If you don’t want to use webmail, there is a pop3 option. I don’t see any reason for anybody not to switch to Gmail.
  • Gmail also has a Google Talk client built in now, which is the only IM I use. Chats gets archived and are searchable, it does voice, and there’s no clutter.
  • Google Desktop lets you search your email even when you’re offline, and it indexes all documents on your computer. This completely changed my filing paradigm–like Gmail, there’s really not much sense in a complicated subfolder structure. Just drop it in a generic documents folder, and when you need it, search. It also keeps cached versions of Word files, which has saved my ass on a couple of occasions where I saved over something. (I keep the damn floating panels turned off though.) Windows only, I think.
  • No RSS reader worked for me until Google Reader came out–now I’m subscribed to 100+ feeds and spend a lot less time “checking in” on sites I like to read. They come to me instead. Very satisfying, and a tremendous change in the way I read the web. Reader learns which headlines you click on most and moves them to the top of the list, too. This stuff is the future; it’d be impossible to keep up with as much stuff otherwise. Everything from eBay searches, bittorrent sites, UPS/USPS package tracking, flickr photostreams, and every damn blog in the world has a feed, so it’s worth spending the 30 minute learning curve it takes to get into this.
  • And now Google Calendar. I was pretty happy with 30boxes, but GCalendar will kill it, along with, I suspect, upcoming.org and any number of other social scheduling solutions. I’ve been using it for less than 24 hours, but Calendar is slick, simple, and it looks like it’s going to make sharing even easier than 30boxes. Evite is a goner, too. I’m hoping for more good things once Calendar integrates into Gmail.
  • Picasa is a basic windows-only imaging tool. Works great for the basics; for everything else, there’s Photoshop. Bye-bye, ACDSee.
  • I know I don’t have to rave about Google Earth/Google Maps, and I haven’t spent much time with Analytics or Base yet. Another favorite web 2.0 app, the superuseful Writely, just got bought by Google. If you haven’t tried it, it’s a collaborative word processor that lets you publish, blog, and work on the same document at the same time as someone else. We’re doing all of our About.com drafts in there, and it’s a lot easier than emailing attachments back and forth. (Registration for Writely is currently closed, but if you need an invite, let me know.)
  • There are some concerns about Google and privacy but I get the idea that we’re pretty compromised either way. Now if only Wankr came out of beta!