Top 5: Favourite Google products

Google sure has grown as a company. What started out as a research project conducted by two Stanford University students is now quite possibly, one of the largest forces behind the internet today. What started our as merely a search engine, is now the driving force behind one of the most successful companies in history. It's quite astonishing how a company who got its start in just one area - providing an internet search engine - now has so many different products for all different types of purposes. If you ever need an online service, chances are Google have your back. Need an e-mail client? Gmail. Need to learn how to cook? I'm sure there are videos on YouTube. Want to see what the fastest route is from A to B? Google Maps. Need a tool to help you and your colleagues work on collaborative documents? Google Drive. Chat service? Hangouts. Internet browser? Chrome. And as always, if you need to find information, Google Search is the best way to go. The list just goes on. I personally pretty much use a Google product for everything I do, and I'm sure many others do to. So here I would like to share some of my favourite Google products and why I use them so much.

5. Google Drive
Google Drive has been around for quite some time, but I've only been using it for a few months, and I already love the concept of it. Everyone needs a word processor, especially a student like me. While Microsoft Word has been by my side (and I assume many others') ever since I started writing documents for school, I no longer live in a world where I can work in isolation. My work needs to be checked by others (usually my postgraduate supervisor) and I sometimes work on collaborative projects with other students. The old way of doing it would be to write out a document, send it via e-mail or flashdrive to others, wait for them to edit and comment, and wait for them to send it back. But since documents in Drive are cloud-based, everyone can simultaneously access the document at the same time, and work on it together in real-time. This is the most powerful feature I believe of cloud-based word processing, and a vital tool for increasing productivity. What would normally take a few days - writing, sharing, receiving the edited version, making corrections, sending it off again, repeat cycle - can now be done instantly no matter where the collaborators are. I can only imagine how useful this must be for businesses.

4. Google Keep
Having all your notes accessible from all your
devices is great for productivity. Image: The Verge
Another Google product I just started using is Google Keep. Well, that's because it was just launched. Before Google released Keep, a quick note-taking service, I was using Evernote (which was also what I was using before Drive). Now that I use Google Keep (and Drive), I have stopped using Evernote all together. I know Keep isn't as robust or has as many features as Evernote, but it's all I need in a note-taking app. It has a simple app interface with sufficient options to make it useful, and an extension in Chrome which lends credence to Google's philosophy of living in a multi-screen environment. When I get an idea for a blog post, I put it in Keep (usually from my phone) and refer to it via the extension in Chrome when writing the post. When I need to buy something, I make a list in Keep. When I listen to a song on the radio which I like, I put it in Keep so I remember to download it later. Having the ability to colour code notes is a nice addition, and while there is definitely room for improvement (like grouping notes in a folder/notebook or adding a search function), I don't see myself ditching Keep anytime soon.

EDIT: Well what do you know. While in the process of writing this article, Google have updated Keep!! OMG, maybe Google read my post while it's in its draft stage. My privacy has been breached!

3. Google Search/Now
As I mentioned earlier, Search is the heart of Google. The driving force behind everything they do. It's a lot more than just a typical search engine. Google's Knowledge Graph has made looking for answers to your questions (and answers to questions you never knew you had) much easier. No longer do you need to go through a list of links to find your answer. If your answer is in Google's database, it will be displayed right there on the results page, eliminating the need to go to any links. Sticking to Google's multi-screen philosophy, Search has been reborn in the mobile industry as Google Now. Being given useful information before having to ask for it has got to be one of the most innovative breakthroughs of modern mobile computing. Google Now is able to tell you the best route home from work before you search in Google Maps, it reminds you of your flight plans before you check the confirmation e-mail, it gives you directions to the hotel you booked a few hours before check-in, it shares articles with you based on your recent search history, it truly is a good digital assistant, not just a pretty voice.
Syncing of user data
is extremely useful.

2. Google Chrome
There's only one reason why Chrome is the most used browser in the world; it's the best. From a consumer standpoint, the features offered by Chrome are extremely useful, which is why it's #2 on my list. Synced tabs is one of the features I love the most. Again, thanks to Google's understanding of our multi-screen lifestyles, we are able to browse on the web, and continue where we left of on mobile. Tabs that are open in Chrome on the desktop will be synced with the Chrome app on our mobile device, so we don't have to search for the webpage all over again. Bookmarks are also synced, so our favourite websites are never far away. Another handy feature is syncing of our saved passwords and auto-fill data. Once you sign-in to a website on the desktop, opening the same website in the Chrome app will not require you to re-enter your credentials, as Chrome pulls the info from your Google account, making sign-ins much easier. It only makes sense that the company behind the best search engine on the internet also has the best browser, doesn't it?

1. Google+
Ah yes. The product Google envisioned to be the backbone to all their other products. We've really seen Google push their social network forward this year. Most notably, we had the amazing redesign announced at Google I/O, in addition to Google Play Games, which uses Google+ to achieve a Game Centre like experience, similar to iOS. I've been using Google+ regularly since earlier this year, and I have loved every second of it. The redesign came just as I was getting into the swing of things, and that just acted as a catalyst to my adoption of Google+ as my #1 social media network. That's right. I like it way more than Facebook, despite only having a circle of 11 friends (I follow 92 people/pages in total), while I have close to 500 "friends" on Facebook. So what is it about Google+ that has me listing it as my favourite Google product? Well you could read my earlier posts highlighting exactly why but in a nutshell, it's the fact that it is so much more than just a social network, the same way Search is more than just a search engine. Google+ acts as a news hub of sorts for me, something I use in place of other services like Flipboard or Appy Geek. It's not about how many people you follow (or follow you), it's how you interact with them. My encounters on Google+ are so much more intellectual and fun, while on Facebook it's just pictures of food and selfies. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not leaving Facebook. The interaction with friends and family there is important, but I can go a whole day without checking my Facebook timeline, while I couldn't go a couple of hours without checking my Google+ stream. That's how much I value the interaction with people on Google+. Despite not being as popular as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, Google+ is definitely the best social network in my eyes, and a vital part of uniting all things Google.

Honourable mentions
Of course, I use more than just five Google products, the above are just my favourites. Honourable mentions go to Maps, Gmail and YouTube. I drive around a lot, sometimes to places I'm not too familiar with. After the update to v7, Maps has been my go-to navigation app, taking over from Waze. Which isn't a problem anymore, since Google have started sharing features between Maps and Waze. 100% integration between the two will make the resulting experience unbeatable. Gmail is basically e-mail, but better. The overall design, pop-up compose windows, Hangouts integration and thread-like replies are great. But the defining feature of Gmail has to be the auto-filtering of incoming mail. Instead of just one inbox, you now have several, and Gmail automatically sorts new e-mails accordingly, making your job of going through them much much easier. Lastly YouTube. Not really a Google product, but still worth a mention. It's basically Google Search, but with video results rather than links.

What are your favourite Google products?

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