Google has become so much a part of everyday life that the word “Google” has become a verb. Who hasn’t “Googled” something? Of course, to use Google you need to open up a web browser and go to Google’s home page. Or else, if you use Safari, Firefox, or any of the more modern browsers, you can set the search bar in the toolbar to use Google, and search that way.
But what if there was a better way? What if you didn’t need to load the browser first, and THEN do your search? What if you could initiate a Google search straight from your desktop, and have your web browser open up, not to a blank page, but to the Google search results page?
With a Mac running OS X and a fantastic utility called Google Buddy, you can do just that.
Google Buddy is an inexpensive piece of shareware (it sells for only $11.95), that can be downloaded and tried out for 30 days from Recurring Dream Software. In my testing, Google Buddy worked exactly the way I would have expected it to, and even did a few things that caught me completely off guard.
When you start up Google Buddy, a new icon is added to your Mac menu bar. You’ll immediately recognize it as the blue Spotlight icon that inhabits the upper-right corner of your menu bar, only colored in Google’s standard blue, red, yellow and green color scheme. Clicking the icon brings up a search box that looks identical to the Spotlight search box as well. However, unlike Spotlight, which searches your hard drive, typing in a search string and hitting return in Google Buddy immediately launches your default web browser and loads Google with the results to your query.
In my mind, after reading the blurb about Google Buddy, this was exactly what I had expected Google Buddy to do. Once I started using Google Buddy, however, I was surprised to see that not only does it search the main Google page, but it can also perform more specialized searches as well.
Along with the standard Google search (which gives the same results you would get if you typed in a search query into the main search box on Google’s home page), Google Buddy also gives you options to perform more advanced searches, which allows for typing in modifiers, so that your results will include only results in a certain language, containing some words (or not including some words), as well as targeting your results only from certain web pages.
But that’s not all!
Google Buddy also allows the same type of searches, only for videos, pictures and news. In addition, you can also perform specialized searches. These searches are ones that Google doesn’t offer a particular portal for (such as movies, weather or phonebook), but that can be targeted specifically by means of specialized search strings. For instance, if you were to search for “weather:55103” in a Google search bar, you would be given a detailed graphic showing the current weather conditions for St. Paul, Minnesota. This is a feature built into Google, but not necessarily advertised. The Google Buddy developers recognized the value of this, and built a tool so that you get those results, without having to know the correct format for your search.
Google Buddy, by default, will show you the standard search tool, but this is customizable. You can leave Google Buddy to search the standard way, but each of the more advanced search tools is only a click or two away. If you select a more advanced search tool, such as Videos or News, this will become Google Buddy’s default, until you change your preference.
Google Buddy has a few preferences, which I find nice and helpful. The first is that Google Buddy can be invoked by a user-determined key combination. Laptop users should love this, as it enables them to use Google Buddy without moving their hands away from the keyboard. As well, if you’ve used the Google Suggest feature, which shows suggestions as you type, Google Buddy can do this, or not, depending on your preference. Finally, you can choose how Google Buddy is displayed. By default, as mentioned, it will display a colorful Spotlight-like icon, but you can also decide to have an all-black icon, or none at all, and simply invoke Google Buddy into a floating window.
All in all, I found Google Buddy to be an absolutely wonderful, time-saving way of using Google. It’s quick, does what I wanted it to (and more), and stays out of the way when I’m not using it. It is inexpensive to purchase, and was incredibly intuitive and well-designed. If you’re a Mac user who’s constantly using Google, you’ll want to give Google Buddy a try.