Authors: Tara Calishain and Rael Dornfest
Publisher: O’Reilly & Associates
Since Google appeared online in 1998, it managed to cast a shadow over all other search engines and claim the throne of the most popular search engine. Google earned this position by providing surfers with great quality when searching. It was just a matter of time when someone decided to put together a book that will help users get the most out of Google.
If you’re wondering why the name “Google Hacks”, the answer is in the preface of the book where the authors explain that “hacks” here mean “quick-n-dirty” solutions to programming problems or interesting techniques for getting a task done. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
About the authors
Tara Calishain is the author or co-author of half-a-dozen books about the Internet. She’s the editor of the search engine newsletter ResearchBuzz. She is an expert on Internet search engines and how they can be used effectively in business situations.
Rael Dornfest is a researcher at the O’Reilly & Associates focusing on technologies just beyond the pale. He assesses, experiments, programs, and writes for the O’Reilly network and O’Reilly publications. Dornfest is Program Chair of the O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference, Chair of the RSS-DEV Working Group, and developer of Meerkat: An Open Wire Service.
Inside the book
At the very beginning you get an understanding of what Google is and what it’s not. The authors offer you a detailed look at Google’s syntax and how best to use it. You discover what the default Boolean for Google is and how it works, how many query words you can use, and more. In order to allow you to drastically narrow down your search results, Google offers extensive special syntaxes. Some of them can be combined for even better results. The authors move on to present you with advanced search options and after that you start getting the 100 hacks one by one.
What’s amazing about this book is the amount of ground it covers. You learn how to use language tools, understand search results, choose the right search words in the best order, hack Google URLs and search forms, finding weblog commentary, and a lot more.
Very popular among Internet users are the Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer and the Googlebar for Mozilla-based browsers. These add-ons offer great functionality and you learn about them here. Next you’re introduced to the standalone Google search application for Windows and to the use of Bookmarklets. The authors offer several links to Bookmarklets related websites to help you get started.
What follows is a chapter dedicated to Google’s special services and collection where the authors write about the various Google components that search a variety of data collections. Mentioned here are the current offerings such as Google Groups and Google News as well as some notes on the future. The people over at Google Labs will certainly bring out very useful stuff in the future.
The book continues with a discussion on third-party Google services. Third-party developers can use the Google Application Programming Interface (API) and develop applications that have nothing to do with Google outside of the application og their technology. There’s so much you can accomplish – integrate Google searching into Flash applications for example.
There are also a number of non-API Google applications and the authors explain the difference between these and the ones that use to Google API. Here you find a list of tools that violate Google’s Terms of Service, information on how to build a custom date-range search form, scrape Google results, and much more.
The authors proceed by introducing the Google Web API and show you how to sign up. Google released the Web API in the spring of 2002 and made it possible for developers to use Google’s database and create their own interfaces and use Google search results any way they wanted it. You get an understanding of the Google API query and the Google API response. The authors take a look at the Google API and how different languages work with it. This is where programmers hit the jackpot.
The fun for programmers continues as chapter six discusses Google Web API applications. What you find here is a variety of applications and links to online resources with more applications. The authors note that this section is very useful if you want to learn more about Perl. There’s excellent attention given to detail. For example, if a specific hack requires the installation of an additional Perl module, the link to it is noted.
Both Google and the Google API are being used for a myriad of games and pranks and chapter seven discusses them. Let’s take for example Google whacking where you have to find a two-word query that has only one result. Various scripts are provided with the hacks so you can analyze them and possibly alter them to suit your own needs.
The last chapter is dedicated to the webmasters. Here you read about all the things that can help you get some quality traffic from Google. In case you want to remove your materials from Google, there’s information on that too. This chapter, as all the others, is a very insightful read.
Even if you use Google all the time, this exceptional book will show you things you didn’t know were possible. The best thing is that you can go online anytime and try out stuff while reading the book. Since the Internet is developing and growing quite rapidly, the audience of this book is basically everyone. We all need to learn how to search more efficiently.
The book can be read as a whole of you can just flip over to what interests you at the moment since every chapter can stand on its own. This is useful, especially for advanced users.
The organization of “Google Hacks” is outstanding as the topics are cross-referenced throughout the book. This enables you to jump to another page and get instantly get deeper knowledge about a topic.