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1/23/2006
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Review: Google Pack

Google Pack is designed to be a single, easy-to-use package containing a dozen different desktop applications for personal productivity, communications, security, and just for fun. How well does it work?

I've always been a fan of independently produced, task-focused, and free (or inexpensive) software. Not only does the low (or nonexistent) price make an application innately attractive, but these types of programs are usually more interesting to investigate, more innovative in their approach, and less invasive than big-name commercial software. Which is why I was eager to try the new Google Pack, Google's collection of original and third-party applications.

The Google Pack is described on Google's "More..." page as "A free collection of essential software." How essential these products are is open to question, but there's no arguing the fact that, for the most part, these are useful utilities.

The apps included in the Google Pack are divided into Google Software (software developed specifically by and/or for Google), Additional Software (useful stuff that the Google staff apparently feels most users will want), and Optional Software (applications that were, apparently, felt to be either less necessary or less attractive). If you go to the Google Pack page, and just download the Pack without any other tweaks, you'll get the software applications in the first two categories. However, you can click on a link called "Add or remove software," where you can remove apps from the download, or add some of those included in the Optional Software category.



Google Pack's Updater lets you install, update, or run apps. (Click for full image.)

Whatever packages you finally choose, they are all brought together via the Google Updater, a basic front-end applet that lets you install and run each application separately or together. The Updater installs with the Pack, lets you monitor the install, and offers an interface where you can run and uninstall various apps, or look for new ones.

Most reasonably experienced computer users will, of course, run the Google Pack apps from the Start menu or the desktop, and you can uninstall them individually as well. But for less savvy users, the Update could be a comfortable aid.

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