The Google Toolbar and Why you should be using it

By Curtis Dicken

Where do I find it?

One link fits all, just go to and you will be presented with a download option for your browser. The all-knowing Google auto-detects your browser when you first arrive at the page and presents you with the appropriate download for the browser that you are using, provided there is one for your browser. It also has support for different languages.

Installation is simple, just click on the download button, select your configuration settings then download and run. The toolbar features and configuration options are different for each browser, so read the privacy policy carefully as well as the configuration options before you install. For example, the Internet Explorer version has three checkbox options including Page Rank which triggers a supplemental privacy policy box when you select it. The Firefox version does not have any checkbox options until after you install and restart the browser when it gives you the Page Rank feature explanation.

Caution: When you complete the install it will request you restart your browser so that your new toolbar can be made available. So, before you restart you might want to be sure you don't have some tabs open in your browser that you don't want to lose.

Note: At the time this article was written the Google Toolbar was in version 6 for Internet Explorer and version 5 for Firefox. For the purposes of testing and writing this article I downloaded and installed the Google Toolbar on both Internet Explorer and Firefox running on Windows Vista Ultimate.

Why is it cool?

There are several different features of the toolbar that make it a usefule addition to your browser. Most features are not unique and some are more ingenious than others but all are very intuitive. Let's run through them:

Searching - Google's most notable specialty

It wouldn't be Google product without an emphasis on searching. The first thing you will notice in the toolbar is, of course, the search box and button. As you would expect, anything you type in this box gets run through the Google search engine and the results are displayed in the browser window below. No surprises here.

But wait, there's more!

The search button next to the search text box gives you a whole host of wonderful options to narrow down your search. Click on the drop down arrow of the search button and it will reveal several options for you to narrow down your search results. Most of the initial options are Google owned and operated. I know, big shock. However, the one that I use the most is the non- Google USA country filter. I am often searching for answers and code samples related to ASP.NET and VB.NET and I hate having to sift through search results that are in Korean, Chinese or other languages that I can't read. By selecting the USA search filter I will see only results from US websites. I would actually prefer but have not yet found an "English" filter that is a bit broader in scope but the USA filter works just fine for now.

If you don't like any of the standard filters there are more available. You can add a new filter by selecting "Add Search Type…" at the bottom of the Search drop down list. A window of options is then displayed in your browser. Thumb through the options and select as many search type options as you like. To add one to your list simply click the "Add to Toolbar" button. Google Toolbar will automatically add the button to your toolbar and your Search Type filter list. My personal favorite search types are The Weather Channel, Wikipedia, Dictionary and CNN but there are literally hundreds more to choose from. If you take a look at the buttons when you add a new Search Type you'll notice that each button may have its own unique drop down list with links to articles, recent news or whatever else the button maker decided to include. Clicking on the button itself will usually take you to the button maker's website. By default, you will also see a button that allows you to add buttons. This button is organized a bit differently than the add method described above. It takes more of a paging approach which you may find easier to navigate.

If you are like me and you don't like a bunch of clutter on your toolbar then you will probably want to make changes to the search drop down list and the buttons that are displayed on the toolbar. To manage your "Search Types" just select Manage from the Search drop down list and you will be presented all of the Search Type options you currently have available. The check box to the left of each option indicates whether the option will be displayed in the toolbar as a button. Clicking the Edit link button for any option will allow you to select whether or not the search type option is displayed in the "Search" drop down list. You can also remove any unwanted options by clicking the "Remove Link" button.

Note: Not all options can be removed. The default options are permanent and can only be turned off, not removed.

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