Extreme Google Local
Think Google Local (formerly Google Maps) is cool and useful? As Al Jolson used to say, "You ain't seen nothing yet!" There are many amazing applications that layer information on top of Google Local, such as live traffic information, crime maps, and so on. All this is made possible because Google freely publishes an Application Programming Interface (API) that lets people create applications on top of Google Local.
Here's a short selection of some of the best:
Google Traffic Maps (http://traffic.poly9.com/) Want to make your morning or afternoon commute a little easier? Before you leave home or the office, head to this site, then type in your city and state or zip code, and you'll see a map that shows you a Google map of your area, with traffic hot spots superimposed on top of it. Click a spot to get details of the holdup.
NYSee (www.nysee.com) If you live around New York City, you can do even better—this site shows you locations of live traffic cams throughout the metropolitan area. Click on any to see the live view of traffic. The page also includes traffic advisories for specific locations.
Zip code finder (http://maps.huge.info/) Having trouble finding a zip code for a location? Just head to this site, click a location on a map or do a search, and you'll be shown the zip code. It's also a reverse zip code finder, so you can type in a zip code and it will show you where it is.
Find cheap gas (http://www.mywikimap.com/) One thing you can count on—gasoline isn't getting any cheaper. But driving from gas station to gas station trying to find the least-expensive prices is self-defeating, because you'll spend so much extra time and money driving around. This site solves the problem. Head to it and search for cheap gas using the "regular" tag, include your zip code, and you'll be shown locations of the least-expensive gas within five miles.
Update Blogger from Anywhere
Google owns the big blogging service Blogger (www.blogger.com), which makes it easy for anyone to create their own blogs for free. And a couple of free tools from Google make it easy for you to update your blog without having to visit the Blogger site.
To update your blog wherever you are on the Web, first download and install the Google toolbar (http://toolbar.google.com). Then turn on its Blog This! feature by clicking the Options button, clicking the More tab, checking the box next to "Blog This!," and clicking OK. The Blog This! button now shows up in your toolbar.
When you're on a Web page that you want to write a blog entry about, click the Blog This! button, type in your Blogger user name and password, and a small window opens that already contains the title and URL of the page you're visiting. Type in your blog entry, and you can use built-in tools for formatting text and creating links. When you're done, you can save a draft or publish the entry right away to your blog, by clicking "Save as Draft" or "Publish."
Another free add-in lets you update or edit your blog when you're using Microsoft Word. Go to http://buzz.blogger.com/bloggerforword.html and download the add-in. It installs new buttons that let you post to your blog straight from Word. After you write your post, click the "Publish" button to publish it, and click the "Save as Draft" button to save it as a draft. You can also edit posts you've already created. Click the "Open Post" button to open your last 15 posts right into Word, so you can edit and post them. You'll of course need to be connected to the Internet to do all this. The add-in requires Windows 2000 or higher and Word 2000 or higher.
Dig Deeper into the Web with Google AutoLinks
Google's search technology makes it easy to find untold amounts of amazing information and maps. But it often takes too much typing or too many clicks to get there. If you're visiting a page with an address on it and want to map that location, for example, you have to copy the address to the Clipboard, head to Google Local, and paste the location into Google Local before you see the mapped results.
The Google Toolbar AutoLinks feature eliminates all those steps. A little-used feature of the Google Toolbar, it searches every page you visit, looking for addresses, VIN (Vehicle Information Number) numbers, book ISBN numbers (every book is identified by a unique ISBN number), and more. Then it creates a link on the page itself for each piece of information it finds. Click an autolinked address, for example, and you'll immediately be sent to a map of the location in Google Local. Click an ISBN number, and you're sent to the Amazon page about the book.
To use the feature, download and install the Google toolbar (http://toolbar.google.com). Then turn on its AutoLink feature by clicking the Options button, clicking the Browsing tab, checking the box next to AutoLink, and clicking OK.
Now whenever you're on a page in which you want to dig deeper, click the AutoLink button. It creates links to whatever it can and highlights those links on the page. It also creates a list of every AutoLink on a page, as shown in the nearby figure