5 Google Tips To Improve Your Search Experience - InformationWeek

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3/14/2007
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5 Google Tips To Improve Your Search Experience

Want an RSS feed of all Britney, all the time, or 3-D modeling software? Beyond basic search and apps like Google Earth, here are some little-known tips to enhance your online experience, including a free way to generate Sidebar Gadgets for Windows Vista.

Google is known as a major-league search destination and as the source of "wish I'd thought of that" apps such as Google Earth, the Picasa photo-sharing program, and Gmail. However, a closer investigation turns up both some little-known ways to get the most out of your searches and some funky productivity boosting applications you might not have heard about.

1
Create Customized News Feeds

All the world's news may be at your fingertips on the Web, but one still typically has to either browse through an online newspaper, visit a bookmarked site, or browse through a long list of RSS feeds to find that nugget of interest. What if you could create a customized feed, which would instant present you with just the news you're interested in? Perhaps you're interested in what Microsoft is up to. Or maybe you've been slacking off on the technology and following Britney Spears instead. Either way, Google News Feed is the app for you.

These feeds are a refinement of Google's widely used news page, which aggregates news from around the world into nine coarse-grain buckets such as Top Stories, Science & Technology, Health, and Sports.

Google provides RSS news feeds for eight broad topic areas, ranging from world and national news to sports and entertainment.
News feeds customized to any topic you desire can be created by putting in a search term and then grabbing the RSS feed from the middle-left portion of the Google page.

(click image for larger view)

Google provides RSS news feeds for eight broad topic areas, ranging from world and national news to sports and entertainment.

view the image gallery

(click image for larger view)

News feeds customized to any topic you desire can be created by putting in a search term and then grabbing the RSS feed from the middle-left portion of the Google page.

view the image gallery

Turning the feeds from something you access within a Web browser into a more useful information flow that comes to you is done by grabbing via Really Simple Syndication. By now, even people who don't use that technology know this is called an RSS feed--an XML stream that can be decoded by an RSS reader.

Feeds have their own form of URL. For example, Google News's Sci/Tech RSS feed is http://news.google.com/news?ned=us&topic=t&output=rss. Simply plug the URL into your RSS reader or into the new RSS facility that's been integrated into Internet Explorer 7 and you're good to go. The RSS feeds for the other eight Google News categories can be picked up here

Far more interesting is the full-custom capability I mentioned in the beginning. To pursue this tack, go back to Google News. Type the subject of interest--we're going with "Microsoft"--into the search box at the top of the page. After you hit "Search," the page will come back with an RSS link about six inches down the left side of the browser. Click on that, and you'll get a link--http://news.google.com/news?hl=en&ned=us&q=microsoft&ie=UTF-8&output=rss, in this case--which you can paste into your RSS reader. That'll keep all the latest Microsoft-related stories coming your way.

Once that's done, the customized feed will be displayed in your RSS reader just as if it were a "regular" feed from another other site you normally subscribe to. (If you're still interested in our hypothetical "Britney Spears" feed, the RSS link to paste into your reader is: http://news.google.com/news?hl=en&ned=us&q=britney+spears&ie=UTF-8&output=rss. )

Here's the XML code generated by the Google News RSS feed; in this case for a customized ''Microsoft'' feed.
RSS readers like Bloglines -- or the new RSS feature in Internet Explorer 7 -- can be used to view your customized Google feeds.

(click image for larger view)

Here's the XML code generated by the Google News RSS feed; in this case for a customized "Microsoft" feed.

view the image gallery

(click image for larger view)

RSS readers like Bloglines -- or the new RSS feature in Internet Explorer 7 -- can be used to view your customized Google feeds.

view the image gallery

Best of all, with Google's customized feed feature, you can add a new feed at any time, simply by doing a new search and grabbing the RSS URL from the button on the left side of the Google News page. (That is, when you do a search, you get an RSS feed which corresponds to that search. Also, note that the feed will continually draw in new stories on that subject, not just stuff extant at the time of your search.) Sophisticated users have long relied on Web-based RSS readers such as Bloglines or Google Reader. With the capability now built into IE 7, you no longer have an excuse not to try out perhaps the most useful Web tools that hasn't yet advanced much beyond the early adopters into ubiquity.

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