Tools and tips for using Google more efficiently

By Randy Hollowell, information technology services

Google is always striving to create new and better ways to help you store and organize your information. With that in mind, here are a couple of tools you might find interesting to try out.

google-keepGoogle Keep

The Google tagline for Keep is “Save your thoughts, wherever you are.” And that is exactly what it does. It allows you to create and store notes, lists, photos and even audio to the app. Like all Google apps, it also allows you to interact with those items on any of your devices.

Here are some examples of what it can do for you.

Going to the store? Create a shopping list, and then set a location-based reminder to pull up that list when you get to the store. You can also create time-based reminders so all your tasks get done when they need to.

You can also create interactive lists. For example, share a to-do list and watch as items get checked off in real time as each task is completed.

Remember, this is a Google tool so it has robust searching and filtering capabilities. It also allows you to give attributes to items like color-coding.

To try Keep yourself, just visit

Google Inbox

Email is obviously a huge part of what Google is about, and so they are always looking at ways to improve the user experience. That is where Inbox by Gmail comes into play. They refer to it as “The inbox that works for you.”

google-inboxInbox is basically a new interface for your current Gmail account. A major characteristic of this tool is the way it allows users to bundle their messages. Preset options like Promos, Purchases and Trips can be joined by whatever categories work best for you.

If you are a more visual person, the Highlights option is right up your alley. It allows you to see details, photos and status updates right from the message list without having to even open the message.

Reminders are built right into the inbox, so you never miss an important task or event. There is even a handy Snooze feature which allows you to delay messages and reminders to a more convenient time.

It is easy to get started with Inbox. It is available for iOS, Android and the web. Just visit and download the app.

Additional Google Tips

Here are some simple Google tricks that you may not be aware of that may save you a little time and effort.


If you want to do two Google searches at the same time, just add “or” between the items in the search field. << “cats” OR “dogs” >>

If you want to search for something, like the name of a song, but only know some of the information, simply replace the blanks with asterisks (*) in the search field, and Google will attempt to complete the search for you.


If you would like Google Maps to navigate to your home or work instead of having to enter the address, just save your home and work addresses. To do this, open up Google Maps, tap the menu button — the three vertical lines in the top-left corner — and tap Your Places. You’ll see entries for Home and Work. Put your addresses in. You can also then do searches like “restaurants near work,” and get a list of viable suggestions.

If you are a regular user of Google Maps, then you probably know that you “pinch” in order to zoom in and out, but you can also zoom one-handed in Google Maps. A double tap will zoom partially. However, if you tap twice on the map and leave your finger or thumb on it the second time, you’ll find that you can swipe down to zoom in and swipe up to zoom out.


Everyone likes a shortcut. If you want to quickly view all of the available keyboard shortcuts in Google Drive or any Drive app, just hold the Ctrl key and type ‘/’ on a Windows computer or Command + ‘/’ on a Mac.

To quickly translate a document from a foreign language, simply upload it into Google Drive, open it as a Google Doc, click Tools, then Translate Document. Drive will create a second document that has been translated into your preferred language.