Google may be ubiquitous, but that doesn't mean you have to do everything Google's way. Customize and improve on the giant's email, apps, searches, and more with these free and affordable add-ons and utilities.
Google Downloads: Marry Google to Microsoft Outlook
Google and Microsoft may be at war, but that doesn't mean you have to be a victim. Outlook does not naturally get along with Google services such as Google Calendar, Google Contacts, and Google Docs. But downloads can induce them to work together.
For anyone who uses both Outlook and Google Docs, Harmon.ie for Google Docs is a handy tool. It's a sidebar that lives right within Outlook and lists all of your documents in Google Docs; you can get edit access to them merely by clicking. You can also upload documents to Google Docs via Outlook, search for Google documents from inside Outlook, and more.
If you want to use both Google Calendar and the Outlook Calendar, turn to CompanionLink, $40 (£25) with a free trial, for help. Run the software, and it automatically synchronises the two so that you can use your combined calendar from either Outlook or Google. In addition, it synchronises your Gmail contacts with your Outlook contacts.
Google Downloads: Ensure your privacy
Google's internet reach is extraordinary. That worries some people, who believe that the company is capable of gathering too much information about users. You might not realise that you don't need to visit a Google site in order for information about you to be sent to Google - visit a site that uses a Google service, such as Google Analytics or Google AdSense, and your information transmits then, as well.
The Google Alarm Firefox add-on can help anyone who wants to avoid sites that might be sending information about them to Google. Whenever a site sends your information, an alarm sounds. You'll also see which Google services the site uses, as well as an aggregate of the number and percentage of the sites you've visited that send information about you to Google. The tool won't block information from transmitting, but it can warn you away from such data-gathering sites.
Google Downloads: Improve Gmail
Like Gmail, but wish it were better? First, grab the free Firefox add-on Better Gmail 2. It brings plenty of features that Gmail lacks, adding icons that show what kinds of attachments you have, listing labels in a folder-like hierarchy, hiding Gmail's chat box, playing a sound when you get mail, and more. It's free, and it works without a hitch.
If you want to receive notifications whenever new mail arrives in Gmail, check out the free Spiffy. This lightweight app sits in the system tray, checks up to five Gmail accounts, and notifies you when messages come.
Finally, if you often search through Gmail, you'll want to get the no-cost CloudMagic extension for Chrome and Firefox. It does the seemingly impossible: It searches through your mail faster than Google's built-in Gmail search tool. It displays your results literally as you type.
See also: 14 ways to get more from Gmail
- Tweak Google's services to do more
- Marry Google to Microsoft Outlook