We’ve all had enough experience with Google to know about some of the benefits of its email service: you can create a home page (iGoogle) with your favorite theme and colors; type to contacts in realtime using Google Chat; call friends’ phones using Google Voice; sign into other sites (like Youtube) with your Gmail login information; and have access to an ever-increasing amount of memory space. These and many other user-friendly, multi-functioning tools have earned Google a loyal and constantly expanding set of subscribers. Quora estimates that there are now some 146 million Gmail users, which translates to as many as 400 million accounts.
What many Gmail users may not know, however, is that there are a lot more options available to users to help them customize, control, and organize their accounts. We’re talking about Google Labs. As Google explains it, you can play around with prototypes of some of Google’s wild and crazy ideas and offer feedback directly to the engineers who developed them.
In other words, the Google team is coming up with new services to offer their subscribers, and they want you to be the tester. Choose one or several, see what they’re like, and then tell the engineers how they could improve their idea.
There are currently 52 labs for you to play around with, and you can access them here. Browse by category (there are maps for Android, 11 maps, 16 search tools – you get the idea) search for a specific lab at the top of the page, or just scroll through to see what peaks your interest. Note: Some labs have been reviewed sufficiently and are marked as ‘graduated’ – meaning that they have been approved by Google for general public use. You can still snag them from the Google Labs page and enjoy!
Here are a few of our favorites:
Add up to 5 search terms at a time, and see how often they’ve been searched on Google over time.
Now you don’t need to know coding or be an engineer to to create your own app for your Android phone. Instead, visually design your applications and use blocks to specify application logic.
This lab finds the perfect person to answer your questions! Enter a question in plain english, and Aardvark will send you a personal response in 5 minutes from someone in your network. A few suggested topics include: travel tips; restaurant and bar recommendations; product reviews and opinions; local entertainment suggestions; and music/movie/TV/book recommendations.
Google News Timeline organizes information chronologicaly allows users to view news, scanned newspapers and magazines, blog posts, sports scores
This lab allows you to search through journal articles, abstracts and other scholarly literature. It gets rave reviews from students of all ages, as well as professionals.
Try a Google lab, or several, and let us know what you think. You might be surprised how much you learn!
Coming next week: Labs for Gmail. Stay tuned!