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10 Useful Google Tools

Google Desktop
Google Desktop lets you install gadgets like these on your own computer's desktop.
Google Desktop lets you install gadgets like these on your own computer's desktop.
©2008 HowStuffWorks

Have you ever had to search for a particular file on your computer? How about an e-mail that's somewhere in the middle of a folder that has thousands of messages in it? The experience can be frustrating, and those of us who are organizationally challenged can endure a lot of stress while trying to dig up a particular piece of information.

That's where Google Desktop can come in handy. It's a downloadable application Google offers free of charge. Once a user downloads and installs the application on a computer, Google Desktop goes to work. It searches and indexes the files on the user's computer. It does all this during the idle time when the computer isn't working on other things.

It doesn't just index the name of a file -- it searches the contents as well. Maybe you don't remember the subject of a particular e-mail, but you remember it mentioned something about a new sushi restaurant in town. You can search for the term "sushi" using Google Desktop and it will return results relevant to that term. The results look a lot like the search engine results pages Google generates for Web searches. One of those results should be the e-mail you need to retrieve.

Google Desktop also gives users the option to install personalized Google Gadgets. Gadgets retrieve information on the Web and present it in a window that stays on the user's desktop. Information might include traffic and weather updates, news feeds or to-do lists, among other things.

If the Google Desktop doesn't gather enough information for your liking, you can always create a specialized Google homepage that can pull information and applications from hundreds of sources. That's the idea behind iGoogle, which we'll look at in the next section.