Enjoying the weather before the next storm (Pt.1)

Or, a quick look at a few of my favorite pages which have sprung up with all of this web 2.0 nonsense. The Google "Suite" were just going to be a part of this article, but there are so many I've decided to split it up into two parts and devote the first half just to the big G:

Gmail - Perhaps the first mainstream appearance of the web too point oh, and frequently referred to as "web mail done right" Gmail features massive storage space (and seems to increase it at a rate of ~1 gigabyte per year) a great search function, handy dandy labels, an excellent filter system (and I don't just mean spam), unobtrusive advertising, free pop and smtp access, and idiot-proof integration with the google chat service, Google Talk, in an easy to use interface. Everyone should have gmail. Seriously. Call your congressman, send a letter to the UN, something. If you have more than one gmail account, I highly recommend the firefox plugin "Gmail Manager" which acts as an account manager and mail notifier, allowing you to monitor both accounts and access them quickly, in addition to allowing sendto: links to work with gmail.

Reader - Google Reader is an aggregator for rss feeds. In addition to plugin-free integration with firefox (2.*) this reader features a sharing function, allowing you to create your own rss or html feed of articles selected from your aggregated feeds. I swear, it's as neat as a snake eating it's own tail, and from what I hear the practically-trademarked super-slick minimalist google interface is up for improvements in the near future. I'm not sure how they intend to improve on perfection, however.

Docs and Spreadsheet - I'll roll these two together, even though they are two separate services. Spreadsheet was google's baby and docs, if I am not mistaken, was birthed after the acquisition of startup http://www.writely.com/. Regardless, this is stone simple office document creation right here, although simple may be a deceptive word. I admit that my needs are generally simple, but I have yet run into a feature here that I needed but couldn't find. I think that the sheer brilliance in this user interface, when compared to MSOffice, OpenOffice, or even my favorite, Gnome Office, comes from its inability to hide features in the menu bar. Everything just has to be there on the page. Again, collaboration and publication is built in so that it feels down right cozy. Have to wonder why Google Docs is missing the discussion tab that Spreadsheets feature.

Pages - I am sad to say that while I like Google Pages, it is the most poorly implemented service I have tried. As far as Google services go, I mean. The interface is smooth and clean and well thought out, everything I would expect, but the layout/editing engine seems buggy as hell. Seriously, it reminds me of Microsoft Word circa 1996. At least with Pages, I can go to the code and fix those little bugs as they arise. Still, I would expect more from a wysiwyg interface, even one as advanced as this. There is also a limited selection of templates, considering the tech powerhouse that is backing this home page service. What I would really like to see are theme generators, a la the proliferous myspace layout generators. The ability to make your Google page your Google Wiki should be there too. Not a full blown world-writable Wiki mind you, but an invite only affair. Google is really pushing collaboration in all of their other services, I'd like to see Google Pages catch up.

Calendar - This is a very functional, clean, standards compliant, and easy to use service-- Although I have to admit that sharing your calendar feed should be easier. This is another service made all-the-more valuable with a Firefox plugin. While there is no official plugin, the aptly named "Google Calendar Notifier" is quite effective and adjusts well to personal preference. Having said all this, Calendar is seriously hurting for some Gtalk notifications, a la Remember the Milk.

Notebook - If you have ever tried Microsoft's OneNote office application, Google Notebook will seem familiar. I'm really not using as often as I should. The Firefox plugin (recently overhauled)for this is the one thing that really makes it worth having in my opinion, although it can act a bit of the insect at times. As someone who constantly saves snippets here and there from various web pages, it should be essential for me. Still a little hooked on notepad though... this essentially makes notes into a scrapbook for the web, and like most of Google's other offerings, you can make your notebook publicly viewable and search-able.

Blogger removes the hassle of remembering yet another - The new non beta blogger is quite nice indeed. Those rat-bastards who designed myspace should really look at how the new template editor works (while taking extensive notes) and then shoot themselves in the head. The fact that I can now use my Google loginusername and password, too. Unfortunately, The interface still seems a little out of place with the rest of the minimalist-yet-hyperfunctional offerings from Google. Integrating the editor into the post management page would go a long way toward fixing that though. BTW: looks like you can now post to blogger directly from Google Docs as well as Reader.

Groups - Oh, man, Newsgroups. Nothing can quite pique fond memories of those early days of the web like newsgroups. Ok, so they were mostly used for porn and posting copyrighted material for public download, but at one point newsgroups were *the* forum for expressing our simian ideas. Google groups manages to capture this wondrous past and breath new life into the service whilst making the whole shooting match indexed and searchable.

That's all for now kiddies. Did you learn anything?