Google Hacks: 100 Industrial-Strength Tips & Tools by Tara Calishain & Rael Dornfest, ISBN 0-596-00447-8

Reviewed by: Bill Frazier, send e-mail
Published by: O'Reilly & Associates, go to the web site
Requires: Internet connection
MSRP: $24.95 (US), $38.95 (CAN), 17.50 (UK)

If you want to use a search engine to find something on the Internet, you probably know about Google. Most people think of Google as nothing more than a simple search engine. They look at its deceptively uncluttered default search page, enter one or two words, and make their search. Google does index more than 2.4 billion web pages, but for those in the know, there’s much more functionality than just simple searches. Google also provides a general web site directory, an index of newsgroups, an image archive, and other special services and collections. Google Hacks, by Tara Calishain & Rael Dornfest and published by O’Reilly, provides information on all these subjects, taking you far beyond the opening search page you see when you type into your Internet browser.

Google Hacks has 327 pages of tricks and techniques for use with the Google search engine. The book is divided into eight chapters and appears to be fully indexed. Chapters 1 and 2 provide an overview of fundamental search properties and Google special services and collections. These chapters contain information for all types of search engine users - from advanced scientific needs to the comparatively simple requirements of novice computer users. Chapters 3 and 4 go a little deeper, introducing the use of scripts (for automatic and referential searches) and third-party services (online and programmatic software and services which use their own interfaces to access Google's engine). Chapters 5 and 6 introduce Google Hacks using the Google Web API and Google Web API applications. This appears to be an excellent source of information for any web programmer interested in creating the best possible third-party applications for the search engine, and for creating corporate applications based on the Google engine. Chapters 7 and 8 cover Google pranks and games and Google for the Webmaster.

Google Hacks is an excellent general reference for almost anyone. The experienced computer user and the brand new computer novice will both find something of value in the opening chapters of this book. As you delve deeper into the chapters, it appears that the book’s audience narrows significantly. Many of the examples will require that you upload the hacks to your web server space - something which is obviously the domain of advanced web programmers. You should have some knowledge and understanding of Perl , Java, or other Web scripting/programming languages in order to make full use of and understand the later chapters.

I found one thing of particular interest in Google Hacks. It's a standalone Google search application for Windows called GAPIS. I now use it daily. GAPIS (Google API Searching in an Application) is available as freeware from Softnik Technologies at GAPIS, which is Hack #27, is a quick, easy tool you can use to conduct searches that return 30 or fewer results. If you don't find a relevant answer in the first 30 results, you probably need to refine your search terms. You can view the results one at a time in your web browser by double-clicking on them.

Google Hacks is a pretty good book. The amount of material available behind Google’s deceptively simple interface is amazing. The only real shortcoming is that the later chapters will completely baffle beginners. Aside from that, Google Hacks is recommended reading for anyone who wants to get the most out of Internet searches.

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