Google Toolbar

The Google Toolbar is always one of the first things I install when I work on a new computer because it is simply one of those tools that is so elegant, well done, and useful that you can’t imagine how you functioned without it. Unfortunately it is only available from Google for Windows users running Internet Explorer version 5 or over. You can use it straight “out of the box” and be quite happy, but I tweak it a little to make it fit my experience best. If you click on the Google graphic it will bring up a menu where you can select “toolbar options.” This is where they hide the good stuff.

Once you’re in there it actually loads a page that lets you customize your toolbar experience. The first thing I do is change the search box size to wide, because I’m running at 1600×1200 and have plenty of screen real estate, I also uncheck the box that keeps a search history because I don’t like the dropdown box, and I also seldom search for the same thing twice. Next I kill the descriptive text for all the buttons; they’re pretty well designed and even if you haven’t used the toolbar before you can figure out what they mean in a few minutes. The text also takes up too much space. Then I add the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button, because that’s just fun :). I add the voting buttons, which adds two buttons that let you vote up or down for whatever page you’re browsing. I don’t know if that actually makes any difference to anything, but I’m all about spreading Google karma to good pages so I use them anyway when I find something nice. Finally if you go into “experimental features” you’ll see an option to suppress the onUnload javascript event, which I think is annoying and also kills a few popup ads. Isn’t that cool?

One of the more useful features of the toolbar is that it lets you type things into the search box and then search for those terms within the current page, even if it hasn’t been indexed by Google. This can be a huge help on big pages that I know have the information I need, but it could be buried anywhere. I can just jump right to the spot on the page that has the information I need. It’s functionally identical to the “Find (on this page)” function under the Edit menu, but much easier to use. Optionally using the highly button you can also highlight your chosen terms on the page, which works just like if you look at something in Google’s cache and it highlights the terms you searched for. If you ever look for stuff on the web and you meet the system requirements, you should get this. It’s going to be an invaluable tool in helping me rebuild my computer.

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