Archive for the ‘google’ Category

The Catherine Zeta Jones of Online Word Processors

November 8, 2007

If you’ve ever tried Google Docs, you’ll know it’s an online word processor in the traditional Google style – functional but not necessarily the prettiest girl in the room.

But after trying the Adobe-acquired Buzzword today I have to say I’ve just met the Catherine Zeta-Jones of online word processors.

Very slick indeed! In fact, I was almost tempted to keep adding tables just to play with the interface. There are some really nice ideas going on here. Between the creative ideas and the high polish of the app, it’s obvious they’ve spent a great deal of design time (graphic and otherwise) on this.

It’s a free sign up when you get there.

I love seeing the bar get raised. 😉

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Is Google Reader really slow to refresh feeds?

September 27, 2007

Anybody have any idea why my blog posts are taking so long to show up in Google Reader? It took about 5 hours yesterday for a couple of my posts to show up. This morning for instance I made a couple of hours ago. It shows up in Bloglines, but still nothing in Google Reader.

And also, I think that posts I make on WordPress (at screencasters.wordpress.com) come into GReader a lot quicker too. You’d think that since Blogger and Greader are both Google, they’d have them working well together.

I’d be interested in hearing from other Google Reader users. How long do you have to wait until your posts show up in GReader?

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Google Docs does Online Presentations – but no OpenOffice Impress support yet…

September 18, 2007

Tom Raftery notes that Google Docs now does online presentations. Sadly, right now, those brandishing Keynote or OpenOffice Impress presentations (.odp files) are out of luck as far as importing existing files.

I'm back teaching a college course part-time right now, and the way I've done it for the last few years is to use a Powerpoint presentation for the lecture (it's what they run on their media machines – no getting around it at the moment) and also provide printed handouts at the beginning of each class so they don't spend their time copying down notes.

But maybe this could provide an alternative means for students to get the notes. I could publish these for online viewing. Or better yet, start a free blog with links to each week's presentation viewable online using Google Docs. I've wanted to do this in the past but didn't like the idea of hosting pdf files or ppt files for download.

Also noteworthy is that they give you the option of downloading a zip file of the presentation. This file actually contains an html file and all the folders and media files so that you can view it in your browser locally (offline).

Because there doesn't seem to be a way to export the file to ppt, odp or anything editable at the moment, I'll likely end up using it just to make versions for online viewing.

To check out the simplicity of the online viewer, you can check out my Week 1 presentation right here. Be careful you don't fall asleep watching it – the first week is almost always a snoozer.

Anybody got any bright ideas on how to make use of Google's new Online Presentations?

Jottit – a potentially useful web app. Finally!

September 17, 2007

I no longer Twitter, tweet or whatever it’s called these days.
Me no Jaiku.
No hablo el Facebook. (except to read the odd personal message from long lost high-school acquaintances).
Pownce (Tell me again.. why?)

But Jottit does seem to be (potentially) fun and useful. From what I can tell:

– editable pages with static addresses
– simple simple simple
– two pane text editor is fricking brilliant!! Blogger(tm) – Are you paying attention!??!
– public or private
– editing history – wiki style note-taking anyone?
– simple simple simple
– web 2.0 gradient-free
– simple simple simple!
– NOT built upon a requirement to socially network! Aaargh.. thank you!

Jotit seems potentially useful. How novel. 🙂

Click here to visit my baby-steppin’ Jottit page.

Google Reader finally gets search, Humber College gets Google Apps and I’m looking to ditch Powerpoint

September 6, 2007

Google Reader finally get's a search box!  Hooray!! I think that this is definitely a big deal. It will change the way I use GReader. No more going to Google's blog search or to Technorati to find posts I need to recall. It's about fricking time! 🙂

I start teaching again this Saturday (materials and methods of construction to architectural technologists) at Humber College. Turns out Humber has now moved to Google Apps (check it out here).

Now if only I could get away from using Powerpoint to do my weekly lectures. Sure, I do most of the setup work using OpenOffice, but I always have to double-check formatting and stuff with Powerpoint since that is what's installed on the college machines we use for presentations. You don't want to learn from someone who has fonts running off the side of the screen do you? 🙂

Incidentally, if you want to see a presentation ninja in action, you really should check this out (via Chris Brogan).

Google Image Labeler – Using the User

July 26, 2007

Have you ever tried out Google Image Labeler? I had never heard of it, and I’m not sure if it’s new or not.

Doing a quick image search on something, I was presented with the question at the bottom of my results asking whether or not I wanted to try it. Curious, I clicked the link to find out what it was. According to their web page, Image Labeler is:

“…a new feature of Google Image Search that allows you to label random images to help improve the quality of Google’s image search results.”

So you get paired up with a partner and for two minutes you are shown a variety of images. As each image is presented, you (and your partner) enter plausible labels for the image. When you and your partner match up on a given label, you move on to the next picture. At the end of it, you’re presented with a score and ranking.

It’s no surprise to me that Google has given a neat way to help improve their search product and involve the user in the process. They don’t hide the fact that yes, they are using you to improve their search. I took a few minutes out to do it and it was quite fun to see how high I could get my score. It didn’t bother me in the least. How effective it is at improving their product I don’t know.

[note: I’m assuming you need a google account to use Image Labeler – not entirely sure]

Gmail lagging behind?? Bahhh!!

April 11, 2007

Ron K. Jeffries gives his thoughts about Gmail and cites a PC Magazine review of web-based mail services that disses Gmail and a response here.

I agree with Ron. I love GMail too. The 'search and tag' metaphors are so much more my style than 'folders and drag n drop'. But there is another simple thing that makes Gmail win hands down (for me):

When I log into Yahoo Mail I see my folder list, top news stories, a big  f a t  animated ad on the right hand side, and a few other ads on the left, under my folder list. My actual inbox is another click away . When I log into Gmail, I get… wait for it… my inbox. No ads, no flashing, blinking things.. just my email.

The simplicity of the interface doesn't insult me. It's relatively speedy, clearly readable, and the colours are muted and unobtrusive. It's kind of like comparing Visual Studio to Vi. I'm in the Vi camp.

And I find Google's Reader and Calendar the same. I like the lack of shiny faux-3D bars and stripes. They're functional interfaces, with minimal, unobtrusive advertising. If I were Yahoo or MS, I'd seriously review what it is they're aiming for.

I've demonstrated GMail to probably a dozen people in the last year or so. Three of those were already on Yahoo Mail at the time. Those three are now avid Gmailers. Once you get past the fact that it doesn't work like Outlook, you begin to realize that just might be a good thing.

On a more general, application-wide note, I think keyboard shortcuts are seriously underrated. People somehow take keyboard controls as an indication of antiquated, simplistic and somehow limited application behaviour. But I find myself frustrated when I can't easily find a keyboard shortcut for an often-used command.

Down with Feature-bloat, Up with Functionality!

Google Analytics – first impressions

April 4, 2007

Gee whiz. After only half a day since switching to Google Analytics and a single visit to their site tonight, it feels like switching from a 1974 Chrysler Cordoba to a 2007 Audi.

The lack of blinking ads, actual 21st century looking graphical displays and the various tools and options for displaying data simply leads me to believe that spyware cookies or not, Sitemeter just completely sucked.

And while I won't give Google Analytics a ringing endorsement quite yet, they've already raised the bar completely on what I had been using.

Google Reader Shortcut Fiesta

February 6, 2007

Over the last year or so I’ve become a fan of keyboard shortcuts (think Vim, Inkscape, Gmail, etc..). But I’ve largely stuck with mousing around in Google Reader… until now.

Lifehacker has a post with some really kickass Google Reader tips. The g+s and g+h shortcuts are time-savers, but the g+u+feedname is really really top notch.

If you’re a Google Reader user, you really should check out that post.

Google Reader Acting Up?

February 5, 2007

Is it just me or has Google Reader been notoriously buggy as of late? I’ve had numerous red ‘Oops…’ messages, feed lists that don’t load first time around, and general buggy-ness over the past several days.

Perhaps some growing pains?