Saturday, September 16, 2006

The New Google Toolbar

I must say that I am a big fan of Google. Beyond anything else, they created the best search engine on the net. Google News is the easiest way to find news stories on any given subject. GMail is perfect for webmail. And, of course, Google is the parent company of Blogger. Among the many things Google has developed over the years is the Google Toolbar. From the beginning I always found the Google Toolbar to be a useful tool. The only criticism I have is that Google periodically updates the Toolbar whether one wants it updated or not. That brings me to what I believe is one of the first serious missteps Google has made, at least in my humble opinion. Namely, Google Toolbar 4 (for Internet Explorer) is largely inferior to the previous versions.

The problem with Google Toolbar 4 is that Google has sacrificed the convenience of the old versions for features that I largely find, well, useless. Among the things that I liked about the Google Toolbar is that it could save searches from session to session. This was very useful in doing research. There would be no need to type the search terms into the Toolbar again, as I could just use the drop down menu to perform previous searches. At least in my short time using Google Toolbar 4, it seemed to me that it did not save searches. Another thing I liked about the older versions of the Google Toolbar is the convenient Page Info button. It is not a part of Goolge Toolbar 4, having been combined with the PageRank button. Personally, I do not care for this at all. Both PageRank and Page Info should have their own buttons.

While it appears that it is no longer possible to save searches in the latest version of the Google Toolbar and they combined the PageRank and Page Info buttons, Google has also loaded down the Toolbar with features which I, at least, will never use. Perhaps the most annoying of these is Goolge's suggestions. Any time one types terms into the Toolbar's search box, a list of suggestions will appear based on "popular" Google searches. First, I found most these suggestions to be utterly useless in helping me find what I wanted. Second, I have never really needed a search engine to suggest things to me in order to find what I want on the net. And then there are the Bookmarks. By Bookmarking pages on the Google Toolbar one can then access these Bookmarks from any computer with the Google Toolbar. As I don't use any other computer than the one own, I have absolutely no use for this feature. Google Toolbar also has a "Send To" button, through which one can send web pages to others via email or SMS. Now this could be useful, but then about the only web pages I send to other people are news stories, which usually come with their own "Send To" link.

The one good thing I have to say for Google Toolbar 4 is that it comes with a "Button Gallery," allowing one to add new buttons to the Toolbar. Among the things one can add are Buttons to search specific web sites or even stay updated on one's favourite RSS feeds. While I can see how this is a nice feature and quite useful, it is not useful enough for me to give up the ability to save searches or having two separate buttons for Page Rank and Page Info. And it is not worth putting up with Google's annoying Suggestions.

Anyhow, I uninstalled Google Toolbar 4 and reinstalled Google Toolbar 3, which Windows 98/ME users must still use (apparently Google Toolbar 4 is incompatible with those versions of Windows). I realise that sooner or later Google will try updating to Google Toolbar 4 again, but in the meantime I can still use my beloved Google Toolbar 3. And when it does update to Google Toolbar 4, I'll just uninstall it again...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't use the toolbar but I do find Google is trying to be everything to everyone these days. I miss the stark white search page. Even if you don't customize it there are still multiple messages cluttering up one of the few open space left on the web.