Google Labs

screenshot beginner.gifscreenshot tip35.gif

Google Labs, as the name suggests, sports Google's experiments, fun little tips, and inspirational uses of the Google engine and database. link

Be sure not to miss Google Labs (http://labs.google.com/). The whole point of this part of Google's site is that things will appear, vanish, change, and basically do whatever they want. So it may be different by the time you read this, but it's still worth covering what's here now; you might find one of the tools here useful in sparking ideas.

At the time of this writing, there are four experiments running at the lab:











  • Google Glossary (http://labs1.google.com/glossary)
  • A search engine for acronyms and abbreviations. It found TMTOWDI and Ventriculoperitoneal Shunt, but missed on MST3K and googlewtip. Entries include a brief definition, a link to an informative page, definition links to Dictionary.com and Merriam-Webster, and related phrases if any.
  • Google Sets (http://labs1.google.com/sets)
  • Enter a few terms, and Google will try to come up with an appropriate set of phrases. For example, enter Amazon and Borders, and Google will come up with Borders, Amazon, Barnes Noble, Buy Com, Media Play, Suncoast, Samgoody, etc. It doesn't always work like you'd expect. Enter vegan and vegetarian and you'll get veal, Valentine's Day, Tasmania - it goes a bit far afield. Clicking any item in the group list will launch a regular Google search.

  • Google Voice Search (http://labs1.google.com/gvs.html)
  • Dial the number on the page, and you'll be prompted to say a search. Speak your search and then click on the specified link. Every time you say a new search, the result page will refresh with your new query. You must have JavaScript enabled for this to work. Unfortunately, Google Voice Search doesn't always understand your requests. When I gave it a whirl, it got Eliot Ness right, and George Bush without problem, but Fred became Friend and Ethel Merman became Apple Mountain. It also goes rather quickly. When you use Google Voice Search, don't let the computer voice rush you.


  • Google Keyboard Shortcuts (http://labs1.google.com/keys/)
  • If you're using an "alternative" browser like Opera, this might not work. Try it in Mozilla, IE, or Netscape. Google Keyboard Shortcuts is a way to move around search results using only the keyboard. Instead of a cursor, you follow a little cluster of balls on the right side of the screen. From there you navigate via your keyboard. The I and K keys move up and down, while the J and L keys move left and right.
  • Google WebQuotes (http://labs.google.com/cgi-bin/webquotes/)
  • Many times you can learn the most about a web page by what other web pages say about it. Google WebQuotes takes advantage of this fact by providing a preview of what other sites are saying about a particular link before you actually meander over to the site itself. From the Google WebQuotes home page, specify how many WebQuotes you 'd like for a particular search (the default is three, a number I find works well) and enter a search term. Google WebQuotes shows you the top 10 sites (or, if you suffix the resultant URL with &num=100, the top 100 sites) with as many WebQuotes for each page as you specified. Note, however, that not every page has a WebQuote. This comes in rather handy when you're doing some general research and want to know immediately whether the search result is relevant. When you're searching for famous people, you can get some useful information on them this way, too - and all without leaving the search results page!


  • Google Viewer (http://labs.google.com/gviewer.html)
  • Google Viewer presents Google search results as a slide show. You'll have to use one of the more recent browsers to get it to work; Google recommends Internet Explorer 5 and above or Netscape 6 and above for Mac and PC users, Mozilla for those running a variant of Unix. To fire up Google Viewer, perform a Google search as you usually would, only from the Google Viewer home page (http://labs.google.com/gviewer.html) rather than the main Google home page. The results page looks just like the regular Google results page you know and love. Notice, however, the toolbar across the top of the page. Use the toolbar buttons to go forward, backward, or to the first result, alter the speed of the presentation, or run another search. The slide show itself should start automatically; if it doesn't, click the green triangular play button on the toolbar. Google will present the first search result along with a live image of the page itself. About five seconds later, the second result will scroll into place, and the third, and so on. If you need a break, stop the slide show by clicking the red square stop button and resume by clicking the green triangular play button. Unfortunately, there's no scrollbar on the web page, so you'll have to click the image of the displayed page itself and drag your mouse around to move within it. Unless you hit a really good (or a really limited-result) query, this Google Labs experiment is of limited use. But if Google ever applies the Google Viewer to Google News, look out!
  • Google Labs and the Google API

    At this writing, none of the Google Labs tools have been integrated into the Google API.