Google has released an updated version of its popular toolbar, offering several new useful functions unrelated to search.
"We tried to improve the user interface and make it easier to use, to make it more intuitive for the user," said Tom Nielsen, a Google software engineer who spearheaded the project.
The version 2.0 beta version of the toolbar includes three new functions:
Popup Blocker: Automatically detects and prevents annoying popup windows from opening. The toolbar also now displays a count of the number of popup windows that it has blocked since the toolbar was installed.
To let a pop-up through on a one-time basis, press and hold the CTRL key as you click on a link. You can also create your own personal "whitelist" of popup windows that you want to see. "It's an intelligent popup blocker that attempts to determine good popups from bad popups," said Nielsen.
This means that the toolbar blocks advertisements, but will let popups containing useful information open on the screen.
AutoFill: Automatically fill in a form with the click of a button. The toolbar detects and can fill in fields for your name, address (including city, state, zip and country, as well as a secondary "ship to" address), and credit card details (name, number, expiration, etc).
Yellow-colored form fields are those that Google can complete. Select which information to include and click the AutoFill button for each field you want to fill. AutoFill works best on pages with forms that use the ECML (Electronic Commerce Modeling Language) standard.
Your information is stored securely on your own computer, and never sent to Google, or any other web site. Credit card data is encrypted and protected by a password you set. In this version, AutoFill works only with English pages.
Several years ago, Gator made an impressive debut by offering this useful functionality. Of course, it later went on to use the personal information it captured to serve its own, obtrusive ads to users. Will Google follow the same insidious path?
No, says Nielsen. "You almost have to be inside Google to realize how much privacy, and "don't be evil" is part of the culture," he said.
BlogThis: Create a post on your own personal weblog that points to the page you are visiting. This only works if you already have your own blog -- naturally, Google invites you to create your own free weblog using its recently acquired Blogger.com service.
Two other new buttons include Search Country, which restricts the search to a specified country domain, and Options, which opens the toolbar options window.
The new functions add to the utility of the toolbar, which can search all of the major Google catalogs and a number of other sources while you're viewing any page on the web.
If you have the Google toolbar, the new features are compelling enough that you'll probably want to upgrade to the new version. If you don't have the toolbar, it's one that you'll certainly want to try.
Download the Google Toolbar
Microsoft Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP
Microsoft Internet Explorer version 5 or later
(The Popup Blocker requires Internet Explorer 5.5 or later)
Note to Mac users: The Google Toolbar is not available in a Mac version. Google recommends Apple's Safari browser, which offers a Google search box. Safari can be downloaded for free from http://www.apple.com/safari/.
Google Toolbar Beta 2.0 Help Index
Google Toolbar Frequently Asked Questions
Common questions about the Google Toolbar.
NOTE: Article links often change. In case of a bad link, use the publication's search facility, which most have, and search for the headline.
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