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We all know Google is more than just a search engine: It’s an suite web-based applications and services for everything from email to calendaring, document editing, and file storage. It’s even an online media store. However, that isn’t all Google can do. There are quite a few useful but lesser-known Google services you should know about.
From analyzing your Google account activity to holding video conferences, tracking your friends’ locations, and finding things to do near you, there’s something everybody can make use of here.
Account Activity is a feature you can enable for your Google account. After signing up, Google will generate a password-protected report each month and email it to you. The report contains insights about how much you used Google – how many emails you sent and received, what you searched for, and so on.
Gmail Meter is a similar tool that’s focused on your Gmail account alone. How many emails do you receive, who emails you, and on what day of the week do you get the most emails? Gmail Meter can help you answer these – and other – questions about how you use your Gmail account. We’ve written instructions for enabling Gmail Meter in the past.
My Maps is one of the many awesome features built into Google Maps. Using this feature, you can create your own maps – complete with custom routes and places – and save them. These maps can be shared with others – you can even collaborate on a map with other people.
Google’s Schemer is a website and mobile app that helps you find things to do near you. You can see things your Google+ contacts want to do and have done, so it’s customized to you (at least, it is if you use Google+.)
Google’s Hangouts are an amazing way to video conference. If you’ve avoided using Hangouts because you don’t want to sign up for Google+, there’s some good news – you can now hang out right in Gmail. Best of all, you can video conference with up to 10 people and it’s all free – to video conference with up to 10 people in Skype, the nearest competitor, you’d need a premium account. Here at MakeUseOf, we use Hangouts for our meetings.
Compared to other web services like Facebook, Google takes a refreshing approach to your data: your data is yours and Google makes it easy to download it, whether you want to quit Google or you just want a local backup copy. Google Takeout allows you to easily download the data from a variety of different Google web services.
For services that aren’t part of Google Takeout, check out Google’s official Data Liberation Front website for instructions on downloading your data. Your Gmail emails are the hardest thing to download – we’ve covered creating a backup copy of your Gmail in the past.
Zeitgeist & Hot Trends
Google Zeitgeist is an annual report Google puts together. For the most recent report, Google analyzed 1.2 trillion searches in 136 languages to look at what the world searched for in 2012.
Hot Trends is sort of like Zeitgeist, but more current. It will tell you what people are searching for today – you don’t have to wait a year.
Google Latitude is a location-tracking tool. Enable it on your smartphone and Google will keep track of where you are – you can link up with your friends and always see where they are nearby on a map. You can also use this feature to keep a log of where you’ve been. Latitude has other uses, too.
Google Public DNS
Google Public DNS is a DNS service you can use instead of your Internet service provider’s DNS servers. If your ISP’s servers are flaky, try changing your DNS servers to Google Public DNS. Google Public DNS also promises increased speed – although this will vary depending on your location and how fast your ISP’s DNS servers are. It has some bonus security features that may not yet be enabled on your ISP’s DNS servers, too. Google Public DNS is similar to OpenDNS.
Goo.gl URL Shortener
If you need a URL shortener, you can use Google’s URL Shortener. It’s used as part of the MakeUseOf Newsletter to create nice short links that won’t be split over multiple lines for the plain-text version of our email newsletter.
Google’s Ingress is an alternate-reality massively multiplayer online game with a twist – you have to physically move around the world to collect objects and complete objectives. It’s in a closed beta at the moment, but the idea is super cool.
Are there any other lesser-known Google services you love? Leave a comment and share the hidden gems you’ve found!