The Best of Google Labs

Some of Google Labs’ cool e-tools that aren’t quite ready for prime time.

Wear your safety goggles. That’s Google’s warning for visitors to its Google Labs site, a collection of less than fully baked tools from the search giant’s engineers and researchers. While the ideas might not all be version 1.0, here are the ones we think will be most useful in your day-to-day work.


Put Away Those Post-its

Compiling Web research just got a bit simpler with Google Notebook. Install the browser add-on and you can clip images, text, and links from Web sites and save them to your virtual scratch pad. Once the material is there, it’s easy to organize, add your own notes, share with others online, or print. You can also create multiple notebooks–one, say, for that big research project and one to keep track of vacation destinations. And unlike Post-its, these notes won’t clutter up your desk.


Almost anyone who uses more than one computer has had the bookmark blues. Google’s Browser Sync extension for Firefox helps eliminate that angst by synchronizing bookmarks–as well as certain cookies, saved passwords, and browsing history, if you choose–across all your computers. The shared data can be encrypted and must be accessed with a PIN number, easing safety concerns. There are other ways to make your bookmarks accessible from anywhere, and the initial Browser Sync setup can be a bit bumpy. But once it’s installed, you’ll never waste time reinventing how you like to work again.

Three Sheets in the Wind

There’s plenty of reason to spread the word about Google Spreadsheets. The Web-based software allows anyone with a Google account to create new spreadsheets online–or to import and share existing Microsoft Excel files. As with Excel, each Google workbook allows for multiple sheets, as well as sorting, formatting, and formulas. Spreadsheets really stands out, though, for how it lets multiple users view or edit data simultaneously, with on-screen chat facilitating the collaboration. No more emailing files back and forth. It can’t match all of Excel’s advanced features, but for most, there’s a new spreadsheet in town.