An unofficial blog that watches Google's attempts to move your operating system online since 2005. Not affiliated with Google.

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August 30, 2008

Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 - IE Looks Good Again

Microsoft has recently released Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2, an impressive update for a software that stagnated in the past years. Internet Explorer 8 looks more elegant and easier to use, while adding many of the missing features.

"The brand-new implementation of Standards mode in Internet Explorer 8 offers the best viewing experience of web pages created according to the latest web standards." That means many of the web pages that include code custom tailored for IE won't look very good, so you need to enable a compatibility view (for some reason, intranet sites are rendered in the compatibility mode by default). A post from March has more information about Microsoft's decision to apply the standards mode by default.

IE brings CSS improvements, support for data URIs, AJAX enhancements and support for DOM storage. There's a new tool for developers that includes a DOM inspector, a JavaScript profiler, a color picker and ruler, options to outline objects, disable CSS and validate web pages.

IE8 adds support for suggestions in the search box and this is not restricted to Live Search. Microsoft lists many search providers that can be added: Google, Yahoo, Wikipedia and others. The new interface makes it easy to switch between search providers by clicking on the icons displayed at the bottom.


Another feature that should have been added to IE7 is inline search: now you can search inside a page from an elegant bar similar to the one from Safari.


Notepad wasn't the best software for viewing the source code of a page, so IE8 includes a simple text viewer with syntax highlighting. Too bad that you can't view the source code for selections.

A great feature from Google Toolbar allowed you to select some text from a web page and send it to Blogger, Gmail or other services. Microsoft added this feature and calls it "accelerator". "Tired of cutting and pasting information from one website to another for everyday tasks? Now there's a better way. Accelerators give you ready access to the online services you use everyday—from any page you visit."


Firefox's microsummaries didn't become popular even if they solved an interesting problem: subscribing to frequently updated information like stock quotes or weather reports. IE's web slices, based on the hAtom microformat, are more visually appealing, but I couldn't find any interesting example in the gallery. Internet Explorer lets you add to the favorites bar heterogeneous subscriptions: bookmarks, feeds and web slices, even though the subscription process is not uniform. Like Firefox 3, the latest version of IE adds one-click bookmarking, visually represented by a star icon.


The bookmarks placed in a folder are treated as a group: the advantage is that all the bookmarks can be opened with one click, the tabs have a new color and there's also an option to close the entire group. IE8 automatically creates groups from links opened in new tabs. It's easy to duplicate a tab and its history, to reopen recently closed tabs and to reopen the last browsing session.


IE8 includes a security feature that will be rarely used for non-adult sites: private browsing. "InPrivate Browsing in Internet Explorer 8 helps prevent your browsing history, temporary Internet files, form data, cookies, and usernames and passwords from being retained by the browser, leaving no evidence of your browsing or search history." To use it, you need to click on Safety > InPrivate Browsing, which opens a new window where you can browse privately. To permanently use private browsing, edit IE's shortcut and append -private in the target field (you could also type iexplore -private in the Run dialog or Vista's search box).


The InPrivate mode automatically blocks third-party content from popular services. "Because InPrivate Blocking is designed to watch for and block only third-party content that appears with a high frequency across sites you visit, no content is blocked until such levels are detected, nor is any such content blocked which is served directly by the site you are visiting." You can manually add sites that should be blocked or subscribe to lists available online. Even if some people might think that it's an ad blocker in disguise, InPrivate Browsing removes many useful features and this makes it impractical for regular browsing.

Microsoft included a low-profile web service called "Suggested Sites" that uses your browsing history to recommend related sites. Unlike Google Web History, the service is not tied to an account.


Overall, this is a highly recommended update for IE7, even though you'll find some sites aren't displayed properly. Google Maps finally works well and some Google services like Gmail have minor interface problems. IE looks good again and I'll probably use it more often.

Related:
What's new in IE8 for developers?
Download IE 8 Beta 2 - Windows XP SP2+, Vista, 2003 Server.

August 29, 2008

Something You Can't Find Using Google

Google Profiles, the public pages that include information about Google users, continue to add new questions. Some of the recent additions: "where I grew up", "where I live now", "places I've lived", "current company", "companies I've worked for", "current school", "schools I've attended", "my superpower".

There's even a metaphorical field "something I can't find using Google". What would you write if you were to answer that question in your Google profile?


Note: for now, only 118 profiles are indexed by Google.

August 28, 2008

More Flexible Notifications in Google Calendar

Last week, I received a message from Guy: "I LOVE Google Calendar! But... I wish I could set a reminder for a month in advance, instead of a measly 2 weeks. That is the only thing holding Calendar back from being truly awesome!"

Thankfully for Guy, Google Calendar's event reminders are even more customizable: now you can choose any period of time between 5 minutes and 4 weeks. This works not only for the default notifications settings, but also for individual events. As usually, you can choose to receive notifications by SMS, email and as Google Calendar pop-ups.

The default notifications are via email (10 minutes before each event) and pop-ups (5 minutes before each event), but you may need more time.


Tip: to change the notifications settings for a calendar, click on the small arrow next to the calendar's name and select "Notifications".

{ via Gmail Blog }

Add Captions to YouTube Videos

YouTube added support for closed captioning, a feature that was already available at Google Video. If you edit one of your videos, you can click on the "Captions and subtitles" section and upload a captions file.

"Captions and subtitles make videos accessible to a wider audience by allowing folks who can not otherwise understand the audio track to follow along, especially those who are hard-of-hearing or speak other languages. Captions are in the same language as the video's audio track. Subtitles are in a different language," explains YouTube's help center.

For now, YouTube supports two formats: SubViewer (*.SUB) and SubRip (*.SRT). "To add several captions to a video, simply upload multiple files. If you want to include foreign subtitles in multiple languages, upload a separate file for each language. There are over 120 languages to choose from and you can add any title you want for each caption. If a video includes captions, you can activate them by clicking the menu button located on the bottom right of the video player."

YouTube Blog mentions some examples of videos that already use captions: a clip from Top Gear, a Japanese animation and a Physics lecture from MIT.


To turn off captions or select a different language, mouse over the small arrow button. You can either click on the "CC" option to deactivate the caption or select one of the other languages, if they are available. Embedded videos won't show the captions, at least for now.

Last month, Google showed a demo of a speech-to-text technology that automatically captions videos, but this doesn't work well for any kind of video. Even if the captions are provided by users or they are automatically generated, they will improve the quality of search results.

August 27, 2008

Mobile Gmail 2.0 for BlackBerry

Gmail's mobile client for BlackBerry has been updated and you can now download version 2.0.5 at http://m.google.com/mail. One of the most important changes is that you can add the credentials for multiple accounts and switch between them without entering the password. There's also support for Google Apps accounts, which previously required a separate application.

Users from the PinStack forums report that the application lets you copy-paste text when composing messages, it saves more than one draft message and there's a new option to preload the archived messages.

Gmail's help center mentions that "the Gmail application will run in the background, periodically checking for new email. This uses data. If you do not want Gmail to run in the background, you must explicitly quit the program by going to Menu > Exit Gmail".

August 26, 2008

YouTube Toolbar for Playlists

YouTube shows a small toolbar at the bottom of the page that lets you manage the videos from a playlist, more like the controls from a media player. The toolbar has options for pausing and muting the active video, buttons for playing the next video from the playlist and for automatically playing videos. All of these options were already available in the sidebar, but the new toolbar makes them more visible and it follows you in any YouTube page.



The excellent music sites The Hype Machine and thesixtyone have similar toolbars, but I'm not sure if the concept works well for videos. I can only see the new feature in Firefox, so I assume this is yet another experimental feature.

Gears for Safari

Google posted a link to a beta version of Gears for Safari: http://dl.google.com/gears/current/gears-osx-opt.dmg. The minimum system requirements are: Safari 3.1.1 on Tiger 10.4.11 or Leopard 10.5.3, although Gears is likely to support other WebKit-based browsers in the future.

"This is BETA, it is not an official release, it might break your browser. Chances are it will break your browser. Please proceed with caution," warns Jeremy Moskovich from Google.

If you find bugs, post them at Google Code. The list of issues includes interesting details about the upcoming offline version of Gmail:

"After viewing Install offline access for Google.com Mail, I click Next and the installer window disappears. Is it telling me that initialization is not needed? Hard to say. It appears that I now have an Offline settings tab, so I guess it is initialized."

Hint, hint! If you install Gears for Safari, it would be nice to post some screenshots in the comments. You could use Gears to enable offline access for Google Docs, Google Reader or to speed up the admin interface for WordPress.


{ via Golem. Screenshot from Thomas Stromberg. }

August 25, 2008

Google Suggest, Enabled by Default

As anticipated, Google Suggest will be finally available at google.com. "Today we're excited because Google Suggest will be graduating from Labs and available by default on the Google.com homepage. Over the next week, we'll be rolling this out so that more and more of you will start seeing a list of query suggestions when you start typing into the search box," says Jennifer Liu from Google.

Launched in 2004 as part of the Labs, Google Suggest is an innovative feature that auto-completes a query using a dynamic list of popular queries. "As you type into the search box, Google Suggest guesses what you're typing and offers suggestions in real time. This is similar to Google's Did you mean? feature that offers alternative spellings for your query after you search, except that it works in real time. For example, if you type bass, Google Suggest might offer a list of refinements that include bass fishing or bass guitar. Similarly, if you type in only part of a word, like prog, Google Suggest might offer you refinements like programming, programming languages, progesterone, or progressive. You can choose one by scrolling up or down the list with the arrow keys or mouse."


The feature has been added to many Google services: Google Toolbar, YouTube, Google homepages for high-end mobile phones and for languages that use a non-Latin alphabet. Firefox users already have Google Suggest in the search box.


Other search engines tested similar features. After Ask.com introduced search suggestions last year, Yahoo refined the idea and launched the best interface for suggestions: Search Assist. Unlike Google Suggest, Yahoo's interface is more subtle and it's not limited to prefix-based suggestions.


Google Blog suggests three reasons why auto-complete can be useful: it helps you formulate queries, the feature shows alternative spellings for your query and it saves keystrokes. Despite the advantages, some users will find it annoying because it disables the auto-complete feature from their browsers and it might interfere with their typing. To permanently disable Google Suggest, click on "Do not provide query suggestions in the search box" at the bottom of Google's preferences page or use these advanced tips.

Response Summary for Google Forms

Google Docs experiments with automatically generating response summaries for forms. If you edit a form and click on "View responses", Google shows charts for questions with multiple choices and lists the first answers for free-style questions.


The summaries are pretty basic but they reveal more information than the raw data. Hopefully, until the feature is officially launched, Google will make the summaries interactive and customizable and users will be able to publish them.

To see all the spreadsheets from your Google Docs account that include forms, go to http://docs.google.com/#forms.

Marriage Proposal in Google Street View

"My name is Michael Weiss-Malik, and I work for Google. I don't work on the Street View team, but I interact with them pretty regularly. They decided to coordinate a pre-announced Street View run outside Google's Mountain View offices, with the idea that Googlers could line up along the street and appear in the imagery. So I put together my "Proposal 2.0" billboard and showed up, hoping that it'd be readily visible. And it was," explains Michael on his site.

The image has been added on August 5 and it shows eclectic messages like "Proposal 2.0: Marry me, Leslie", "Hi mom" or "I love Street View".


View Larger Map

{ via Neatorama }

YouTube Uploader Powered by Gears

You can now upload videos larger than 100 MB to YouTube without installing a dedicated software. YouTube started to use Gears to upload videos.

The latest version of Gears introduces some new features that make manipulating large files so much easier.
Gears now makes uploading large and multiple files on the web much easier, giving you the primitives to roll a resumable uploader, which means hopefully we can see custom desktop uploaders go away soon. (...) Another cool new feature is the Blob API. Unlike strings, blobs let you reference arbitrary binary data — a first for JavaScript! Therefore, blobs can more naturally represent things like files and images, and they can be passed around efficiently. (...) We have also extended the Desktop API with a new method, openFiles(), which allows users to select multiple files of a particular content type, and then returns them as blobs for easy uploading or worker processing.


The multi-video uploader is useful if you want to upload more than one video from a single video and if some of your videos have more than 100 MB. "Each video can be up to 10 minutes in length and up to 1GB in size. These videos will be available in My Videos after they have finished processing. It may take 30 minutes or more for extremely large files to appear on your My Videos page."

{ Thanks, Hebbet. }

Google Translate OneBox

Google has a new OneBox for quick translations. You can just search for "translate", followed by a word or an expression and the optional "into English". For example, you can search for [translate d├ęsormais] and Google shows the entry from an automatically-generated bilingual dictionary.



Unfortunately, you can't use the search box as a shortcut for Google Translate because full texts aren't yet translated. The bilingual dictionary is only available for the following language pairs: English <-> French/Italian/Spanish/Portuguese/German/Russian/Chinese/Korean/Hindi. It's interesting that Google shows results from Google Image Search next to the translations.


{ Merci, TomHTML. }

August 22, 2008

Shallow Reader

I don't like to read feeds in Google Reader or in any other feed reader. After subscribing to sites that seem interesting, Google Reader makes them boring and uniform. All the subscriptions lose their identity and become random bits. There's also the pressure of having to read the new posts and clean the "inbox" which makes you skip interesting posts or just skim them.


"Skim = To read or glance through (a book, for example) quickly or superficially." (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004.)

When you open Google Reader and there are 400 new posts, each article becomes a mission from a hopeless game created by yourself. You want to be free again, so you pretend to read some of the articles or just their titles, without a context and without seeing the full picture. "Mark all as read" is your only ally, but you don't want to admit that you need it.

"Subscription - Contractual agreement between a seller and a buyer to provide the buyer with a service or product to be delivered (served) over a period of time specified in the contract at a total price that is dependent upon the duration of the service." (Dictionary of Marketing Terms. Barron's Educational Series, Inc, 2000.)

Feed readers seemed a good alternative to newsletters because you gain access to more content without having to reveal your identity, you can always unsubscribe and it's easier to share the content. But newsletters were less frequent and had a personal touch.

"Shallow - Lacking physical depth; having little spatial extension downward or inward from an outer surface or backward or outward from a center." (WordNet)

Reading becomes a mechanical task that needs to be completed, instead of a rewarding intellectual activity. You no longer pay attention to details because you're anxious to "read" everything.

"Read - To examine and grasp the meaning of (written or printed characters, words, or sentences)." (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004)

APIs for Finding Location

Google launched two APIs for finding the location of a user from a web application. The most simple way, which is also the least precise, is to derive some information about location from the IP. Google AJAX API has an object named google.loader.ClientLocation that includes "metro-level granularity properties": country, region, city, low resolution latitude and longitude. This could be useful if you want to customize a web page for a specific country or to prefill information about location. You probably noticed that google.com automatically redirects to the appropriate international domain and that when you create a Google account your country is already selected.


To get a more precise location, you could use the new Geolocation API from Gears 0.4. "The Geolocation module provides the best estimate of the user's position using a number of sources (called location providers). These providers may be onboard (GPS for example) or server-based (a network location provider)." The API includes a method that lets you track the changes and perform an action based on the new location. Unlike the AJAX API, this requires that users have Gears 0.4 installed and they explicitly allow the application to obtain location information. Unfortunately, Gears is only available for Firefox, IE and IE Mobile, but the team promises to extend the availability to other browsers. Gears for Safari will soon be released, so S60 and iPhone support shouldn't be far away. Google Mobile Blog has two examples of sites that already use the Gears API.

Meanwhile, Yahoo has developed a very interesting platform called Fire Eagle which connects the applications that obtain location information to other application that use the information. "The service has two major functions for users—it allows a user to update their location and then gives them full control of how and where they share that location. A user can perform these functions on the central site, but can also update or access their location data using any other authorized 3rd party application - on the web, on a desktop application or on a mobile device."


As more people start to use Internet services on mobile phones and the devices become more capable, location will be used in almost all applications to deliver more relevant information: a social network could displays the friends near you, a photo sharing service could show photos taken near your location, while a shopping search site could find the best price for a professional digital camera in your area. You can already find interesting applications for Symbian S60, iPhone, Android, but they will become really useful when everyone will broadcast the location.

August 21, 2008

Export Google Notebooks

Google Notebook provides options to export each notebook as HTML or in the Atom format, but it's not very easy to export all your data. A Greasemonkey script automates the tedious work by reformatting the mobile page and adding links to the HTML or Atom version of each notebook.

The default format is Atom and you should use it if you want to edit the notebooks on your computer and then import the files to Google Notebook. It's a good idea to use the HTML format for archiving your notebooks.

This script requires Firefox, Greasemonkey extension and a download manager like DownThemAll that saves all the files linked from a page or some of them.


After clicking on "Export notebooks", right-click and select "DownThemAll!". Choose a folder where to save the files, type nbid in the "Fast filtering" box and click on "Start".


Peter Shafer wrote a similar script for exporting Google Docs documents.

Photosynth Launches

Two years after the first technology preview, Microsoft officially launched Photosynth, an interesting way to combine overlapping photos from a place and explore the place in detail from different angles. "Using techniques from the field of computer vision, Photosynth examines images for similarities to each other and uses that information to estimate the shape of the subject and the vantage point the photos were taken from. With this information, we recreate the space and use it as a canvas to display and navigate through the photos."


PhotoSynth requires a Windows-only plug-in that also lets you create synths, but the results depend on the number and quality of your photos. Microsoft suggests to "start by taking a panorama of your scene, then move around and take more photos from different angles and positions. When moving around objects, try to get one photo every 25 degrees or so. That will make the synth work better."

There are some interesting places that can be explored, but this technology will become really useful in conjunction with geocoded photos from sites like Flickr or Panoramio. Google Maps already overlays photos from Panoramio, so the next step could be to combine these photos using "Panoramio Look Around", but the results won't be anywhere close to Photosynth.

{ via Data Mining Blog }

August 20, 2008

Translate YouTube's Search Results

YouTube tests a new option that translates the search results into your language using Google Translate. Now that you can independently select the interface language, it would be nice if the user-generated content was available in the same language.

YouTube didn't translate the titles and descriptions for all the videos, but it decided to use Google Translate's JavaScript API to perform the translations when they are needed, much like Twitter Search. If you click on "translate results into my language", YouTube sets a preference and all the search results will have titles and descriptions in your language, assuming it's supported by Google Translate.

The translation API offered by Google can be easily integrated in web applications, especially that it can now preserve HTML markup. I expect to see a lot of applications that take advantage of the API, from webmail services like Gmail to browsers and IM clients.



In other machine translation news, Google Dictionary has a new interface and it now supports more language pairs. There's also a section for definitions found on the web.


{ Thanks, Aleksandr. }

August 19, 2008

Google Widget for Custom 404 Error Pages

Google Toolbar 5 for IE (and soon for Firefox) has a useful feature that adds custom 404 error pages. If a site doesn't customize the error page and you click on a broken link or mistype the web address, Google Toolbar shows a list of suggestions: the site's homepage and some searches that could help you locate the right page.


Google implemented a similar error page for google.com and now you can add it to your own site. If you have access to the web server and you can customize the 404 error page, Google provides a widget that enhances the page. "The 404 widget is a quick and easy way to embed a search box on your custom 404 page and provide users with useful information designed to help them find the information they need. Where we can, we'll also suggest other ways for the user to find the information they need, thus increasing the likelihood that they'll continue to explore your site," explains Google.

The widget can be found in Google Webmaster Central, by selecting a site from the dashboard and clicking on Tools > Enhance 404 pages. Unfortunately, it requires JavaScript, so a small number of visitors will not see it.


Google has some recommendations for creating useful error pages: informing visitors that the page could not be found, recommending popular pages from the site, using a consistent design and preventing 404 pages from being indexed by search engines.

The Webmaster Central Blog mentions that this feature is experimental and that not all the sites show great suggestions.

August 18, 2008

More About Android and HTC Dream

Five months after the last released version, Google and the Open Handset Alliance publicly launched Android 0.9 SDK beta.

"Back in November, we made some SDK builds available that we referred to as early look SDKs. The goal was to give developers insight into the platform as early on as possible, and to get some initial feedback. Since then, we've been working with our Open Handset Alliance partners to incorporate much of that feedback, and finish the first devices. Since those devices are shipping in the fourth quarter, the platform is now converging on a final Android 1.0 version," explains Dan Morrill.

The release notes include a lot of changes: a new Home screen, context menus, two removed APIs (Bluetooth and GTalkService), but the good news is that the next versions will not have major changes.

The first mobile phone that will run Android, HTC Dream, has been approved by FCC and is on target for a launch until the end of the year. New York Times speculates that T-Mobile will be the first carrier to offer HTC Dream in October.

A video posted last week on YouTube claimed to show the smart phone, which looks anything but impressive:


TmoNews has some specifications of the upcoming phone: touch screen, full Qwerty keyboard, 3G/Wifi, 3MP camera with no flash, easy access to Google applications. "We have confirmed that the Android device will be available for current T-mobile customers online, for pre-sales, on September 17th. The Pre-sale will last for one week, with the device being delivered on October 13th, which happens to be the national public launch of the device."

Of course, it's good to keep in mind that Dream is just one of the mobile phones that will use Android and users primarily buy the device for its design and features, not for the operating system.

Update: some new specs (528Mhz Qualcomm 7201 processor, trackball, 1GB MicroSD card, POP/IMAP/SMTP, AIM/MSN/YAHOO/GTALK messaging, Google Calendar sync, Google Streetview with built-in compass, 3.17″ screen with HVGA, 5.6 oz weight).

A Directory of Google Reader Shared Pages?

Google promotes on the homepage a site called "Power Readers in Politics", which lists the Google Reader shared pages for US political journalists and the campaigns of Barack Obama and John McCain.

"You can read what they read, and see what's on their minds as they share and discuss news. Each participant has created a reading list with a feed you can subscribe to in Reader (or any other feed reader), and is also publishing shared items," says Google Reader blog.

While the ad from Google's homepage is misleading ("read what Barack Obama and John McCain are reading with Google Reader"), the idea of grouping related Google Reader shared pages could be expanded. Users could choose if they want to add their shared pages to a directory categorized based on the items that are usually shared. Google Reader could show the number of subscribers for each shared page and might even recommend shared pages related to your current subscriptions.

Sites like ReadBurner and RSSmeme let you discover people that share interesting things, but I feel that Google Reader could greatly improve this process. Shared pages act like a filter: instead of subscribing to tens of blogs about the US elections, you can subscribe to 3-4 shared pages that summarize the most interesting news and debates.


Update: Here's my shared items page and the corresponding feed. I mostly use it share blog posts about Google or technology in general, but it would be great if Google Reader added the option to separate the page in sections.

Knol's Advanced Search

Knol has recently added a search toolkit that lets you build advanced queries, a feature that wasn't available at launch. Many of the options from Google web search can be used in Knol: phrase search, negative terms, OR search. You can also restrict the search to titles, summaries, authors, reviews, recent knols. Google offers three options for ordering the results: by relevance, by creation date, by last modified date and an interesting "reverse sort".


The advanced search option should be a good way to discover knols related to a topic, but it fails to properly rank the knols. In a search for [Google Reader], the top result is a page copied from Google Reader's help center that has a higher rating than the second result, which is more relevant. If you don't use the advanced search, Knol shows less but better results.

A search for [the] returns 29315 results (507 edited in the past 24 hours), which should be close to the total number of knols, but many of them include content that already exists on the web, aren't very detailed or well-formatted. You can still find some good knols, but the signal-to-noise ration seems to be low. The knols that receive some attention are those that are featured on the homepage, but Google only features 5 hand-picked knols daily.

August 17, 2008

Google Calendar Agenda in Gmail

GmailAgenda is a Greasemonkey script that shows your Google Calendar agenda as a sidebar in Gmail. The script uses Google Calendar's embedded view and it includes an option to add events to the main calendar. The sidebar can't be minimized, so it remains visible even when you don't need it.


An alternative way to keep an eye on the Google Calendar agenda is to add the iGoogle gadget in the sidebar, as explained in this post. The advantages are that you don't need the Greasemonkey extension, the sidebar is visible even when you don't visit Gmail and it can be closed.

Automate File Upload in Google Docs

Google Docs has an option to upload files from web addresses, but it's not very convenient if you want to load many documents or you want to add a link for uploading a document. Here's the direct link that can be used to open a document from the web in Google Docs:

http://docs.google.com/?action=updoc&formsubmitted=true&uploadURL=DOCUMENTURL

This works for documents (.doc/.txt/.html/.rtf/.odt), spreadsheets (.xls/.csv/.ods), presentations (.ppt) and PDF files.

In Windows, you can easily create a batch file that automates the upload of multiple files to Google Docs, assuming that the browser is open and you are already logged in to a Google Account. For example, the following text can be copied in Notepad and saved as a .bat file. After executing the .bat, the two PDF files will upload to Google Docs in separate Firefox tabs.

start /d "%PROGRAMFILES%\Mozilla Firefox" firefox "http://docs.google.com/?action=updoc&formsubmitted=true&uploadURL=http://www.fireworksafety.com/pdfs/FireworkSafetyTest.pdf"

start /d "%PROGRAMFILES%\Mozilla Firefox" firefox "http://docs.google.com/?action=updoc&formsubmitted=true&uploadURL=www.fs.fed.us/fire/safety/wct/2002/brochure_2002.pdf"

A similar option is available in Google Toolbar for Firefox, which lets you open documents from the web in Google Docs.

August 16, 2008

Export Files from Google Page Creator

Update: the exporting tool is no longer available, now that Google Page Creator no longer exists.

You probably heard that Google intends to close Google Page Creator and migrate the users to Google Sites, a service that seems to be targeted to a different audience and that lacks many features available in Page Creator. Google Sites will add some of the missing features by the time Google closes Page Creator, but those who want to move to a different service or maybe to buy a domain can already export the files.

Requirement #1. There are three kinds of files that are trapped inside Page Creator: uploaded files and web pages created using the editor which can be public or unpublished. The following exporting tool can only work for uploaded files and the public web pages. If you have pages that are unpublished and you want to export them, click on "Publish all changes" in the sidebar. You can undo this action later.

Requirement #2. Another prerequisite for the exporting tool is a software that downloads all the files linked from a page. For Internet Explorer, try the excellent download manager FlashGet (I use the classic version). For Firefox, there's an extension called DownThemAll that has some of the features from FlashGet. In both cases, you'll have to restart the browser before continuing. As usually, Opera users don't need third-party software for advanced features: there's a sidebar panel that shows all the links from a page.

How to export the files.

All sites from Google Page Creator have a sitemap that lists all the public files from a site: it's available at SITENAME.googlepages.com/sitemap.xml. Just go to your site's homepage and add /sitemap.xml in the address bar. To copy the content of the XML file in the box below, you could right-click, select "view source" and copy the code (for Firefox, Opera) or open the file http://SITENAME.googlepages.com/sitemap.xml in Notepad.

After clicking on "Obtain URLs", you should see a pop-up window that lists all the files from your Page Creator site. Right-click inside the page and select "Download all by Flashget" or "DownThemAll!", depending on your browser. Make sure to check "All files" in DownThemAll and to choose a folder where the files will be copied. In Opera, press F4, click on the "Links" panel, select all the links using Ctrl-A and click on "Save to Download Folder".


Unfortunately, there's still some manual editing you need to do for the pages created using the editor: replace <img src="name.gif/name-full.jpg" style="border: 0pt none ;"> and similar code with <img src="name.gif" style="border: 0pt none ;">.

Two free alternatives to Page Creator are Weebly and Synthasite. Wall Street Journal has an article that explains how to buy a domain and host a site without paying too much.

{ Inspired by Peter Dawson. }

August 15, 2008

Google Launches AdSense for Feeds

I noticed a new option in my AdSense account: AdSense for feeds, a program that displays contextual and placement-targeted ads in FeedBurner feeds. FeedBurner announced in May that AdSense for Feeds will be available to a small number of publishers and now it seems that everyone can use it.

FeedBurner has recently closed FAN, its advertising network. "No new applications for FAN publishers are being accepted and we expect the broad variety of options provided through AdSense (including the new AdSense for Feeds product, powered with FeedBurner feeds) will give publishers valuable new revenue-earning potential," says a FeedBurner/Google employee.

The new AdSense for Feeds option lets you create a new ad unit that has a format automatically selected from 468x60 and 300x250. "Generally, the 300x250 size will display when there's more content and when your feed is being viewed in a device with a larger display," explains Google. You can choose if you want image ads, the ad frequency, the position (top or bottom of the post), the colors and a channel that tracks the ad performance.



For the moment, there's no connection between your AdSense account and the FeedBurner account, so Google automatically adds the FeedBurner service to your AdSense account. Unfortunately, your feeds are still connected to the old FeedBurner account and you need to migrate them first. The migration process is manual: just send an email at adsense-support-aff@google.com and mention your FeedBurner username and the AdSense account email address.


From AdSense, you can easily burn a new feed by entering the address of your blog and selecting some tracking options. The feeds can be managed at the new FeedBurner site, but there's no visible change other than the integration with Google Accounts and the new URLs for feeds: http://feedproxy.google.com/NAME.


Here's an ad from a feed of a FeedBurner/Google employee:


I doubt that these ads are an effective way to monetize feeds, since people use feed readers to get timely updates from a lot of sites and spend less time for each item. Besides, feed readers are mostly used by tech-savvy readers that are less likely to click on ads.

At some point, I may experiment with some infrequent ads in Google Operating System's feed and I'll post my findings.

Resources:
AdSense for Feeds Help Center - you should read the tips
Migrating an existing FeedBurner account
The new FeedBurner homepage

August 13, 2008

Google Search Results Show Metadata for Scientific Papers

Google started to integrate in the search results information about the scientific papers included in Google Scholar. Below the snippet, Google lists the authors, the number of citations and links to related articles and other versions available online. The integration is not perfect and the search results look cluttered, but it's yet another class of results that have richer snippets.

Here's the top search result for buddy tree (a data structure):


... and the same result at Google Scholar:


Google also shows additional information next to videos, books, web pages that include addresses and tests displaying metadata for forums and extracting specialized information from web pages. While Yahoo tries to convince webmasters to make structured data explicitly available, Google has a more practical approach and uses what's already available to enhance search results.

{ via Blogoscoped Forum }

Plot Feeds in Google Finance

Google Finance has a very cool new feature that lets you plot the items from a feed on a stock chart. For example, you may want to find more information about Google's stock and see how it correlates with the latest news about Google. In addition to the articles from Google News, there's a new tab with blog posts and another one that lets you view the posts from a feed. You can choose from the examples offered by Google, enter the URL of a feed or type some keywords related to the feed you want to find.

For Google, you may select New York Times feed offered as an example, search for [Google blog] or enter the address of this blog: googlesystem.blogspot.com. Google Finance lets you filter the posts from the selected feed using the "search within items" option. There's even an interesting trick that lets you plot some custom events on the chart. "Google Spreadsheets can be treated as RSS feeds and plotted on a chart. Just make sure your document contains a date column and some basic formatting, and that it's published to the web." Here's an example of spreadsheet plotted in Google Finance.


If you want to obtain a permalink for your custom chart, click on "Link to chart" and copy the address. Unfortunately, you can't save a list of feeds or connect them with certain companies.

{ Thank you, Alexis K. }

August 12, 2008

Photo Albums in Google Docs

Google Docs will expand beyond documents. After adding support for storing PDFs, Google Docs will provide ways to create photo albums. It's not very clear if you'll be able to access the photos stored in Picasa Web Albums or create different photo albums, but GDrive is certainly here and its name is Google Docs.

The first screenshot has been created using information from Google's code, which already includes an icon of the photo section. The other screenshots show an empty list of photo albums and a new image search feature.




I suspect Google Docs will become the place where you can upload, share and manage any kinds of files. It's also likely that all the files that are uploaded to other Google services will be accessible in Google Docs in much the same way as the photos uploaded to Blogger blogs can be found in Picasa Web Albums.

Update: Radu noticed that if you go to docs.google.com/#photos and type the first letters from the titles of your Picasa Web Albums, Google shows the full titles as suggestions. It seems that it only works for public albums.