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Google Hacks Tara Calishain and Rael Dornfest
Published by O'Reilly and Associates
ISBN:0-596-00447-8
352 pages
£ 17.50
Published: 31st January 2002
reviewed by Mike Smith
   in the June 2003 issue (pdf), (html)
bookcover  

Maybe I've been working too hard recently and ignoring the rest of the world, but the O'Reilly Hacks series is a new one on me. The format is simply to list 100 tips on the subject matter at hand - some are simple one-liners and others more complex (perhaps a bit of code, or an explaination or something). I really like this style. The tips are categorised into sections and its easy to dip into when you have a spare moment. Both of these books are therefore excellent. You can probably pick all of this information up from the web (if you knew what to look for) but its nice to have it altogther in one place.

There is a list of all the hacks in these books (but not the details) at: http://hacks.oreilly.com/

This gives tips all the way from specifying search terms in the Google search form, to writing apps to use the Google API. Even the early ones I found interesting. In the bad old days when using AltaVista I used to use the search modifiers (such as putting a minus sign to remove a word). Google has similar and more powerful functions that I hadn't realised (though I have done the odd link:www.long-clawson.com in the past to see who's linking to the village website I constructed). So its pretty good value all the way from the start.

Some of the more interesting hacks are in the chapters about the API. There are two types of activities documented here - those hacks which you can do yourself and those which make use of other peoples' work. In the latter case performing searches by email and using the XooMLe interface are examples. So I now have my own developer key! Some of hacks here are more perl coding exercises than google related, but still useful for ideas.

There is a fun chapter near the end on the obligatory Google games - such as Whacking, Art, the Google Mirror site etc. One thing I will try is the Recipe finder, which locates appropriate meals based on what you've got the fridge. Though I'm pretty sure I know the things I can make with a Tesco Vindaloo ready meal tonight - not a lot of scope in that.

The last chapter is for the web master - interesting stuff on Adwords and getting removed from the Google Phonebook, for instance.

I didn't spot my own little hack - a one click google search. Add the following to your Favourites (I put it on the toolbar.) Then you can highlight a word in a webpage and click on the link to Google it. Probably only works in IE though.

Ah, having just said that, check out hack number 28 - it looks like it covers this area.

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