Why DuckDuckGo?

I have featured DuckDuckGo here in the Studio before, but this article at MakeUseOf has prompted me to bring it up again. That, and the fact that I always run substantive searches in DuckDuckGo as well as that other search engine everyone “flocks” to. Seems redundant, sure, but there are plenty of good reasons to do so if you want to make certain you are really getting the goods.

 

DuckDuckGo has the ubiquitous search box on its main page and a results page full of links. But it also has zero click pages which permit you to instantly access sources by the type of term you enter in the search box. Type “define” and a word and you will get a Merriam Webster definition. Or a name, and access Crunchbase. Or a song lyric and access LyricBase. And numerous other databases of information. Zero click allows you to get an “answer” rather than links – you will see results to queries that give answers from Wolfram Alpha, Wikipedia, and many other reputable sites, enabling you to collapse your search efforts and answer questions from the results page. If your term is more on the ambiguous side, DuckDuckGo will respond with variations on the theme, broken out by category, to help direct you to the right results. You can even enter emoticons into the search box and get back their meaning in the results.

 

Click the down arrow next to the search icon, and you can feel “ducky” instead of Google’s “I feel lucky” instant results. There are other prompts in the drop down as well.

 

Check out the Goodies page on DuckDuckGo for more search tools (there is also a Tech Goodies page, with more technologically specific data and tools).   You will boxes for entering searches for Calculations, Conversions, Dates, Entertainment, Facts, Finance, Food, Geography, IDs, Language, Random, Time Sensitive, and Transformations. There are some location aware searches that will pull relevant information from your locale in responding to your search request. For example, type in “Is it Raining?” and get a local weather report discussing the chances of rain in your area.

 

DuckDuckGo has built-in syntax for searching that will assist in formulating queries. Related to this, the search engine features a tool called !Bang – there are hundreds of sites that the engine will search directly when you precede the search term with an exclamation point. Such as typing in !Amazon portable basketball hoops and go straight to Amazon’s search results. This covers most major sites and most general terms. For a complete list, check out the !Bang page here.

 

If you are missing Google’s auto-complete, a DuckDuckGo user has created a browser add-on that combines the search engine with Google’s auto-complete – check out DDG + Google Suggest.

 

Private browsing is enabled by default, which is a nice change of pace. Furthermore, and this is the reason I like it for searching, it does not attempt to tailor results to your interests – you will get results based solely on your search terms. DuckDuckGo’s results are a compilation of many sources, including Yahoo! Search BOSS, Wikipedia, Wolfram Alpha and its own Web crawler, the DuckDuckBot. As I previously reported, the engine automatically deletes results from sites believed to be “content mills”, ostensibly improving the quality of the results. While Google recently has made attempts to cull out similar sites, DDG has been doing it all along. You can also employ voice search on DuckDuckGo with the Chrome browser, with another user submitted add on.

 

There are mobile apps as well:

Check out the add-ons page for more tools.

 

People tend to default to Google because it’s there. But there are so many other great search options out there – you may be missing some key information. Check out the browser comparison charts here to get an overview of some of the other choices you could make when searching your terms.

 

Broaden your search and broaden your horizons. DuckDuckGo is a great place to start. Load it into your browser using the instructions at the Tools page and you’re good to go.

Advertisements

Gmelius Makes Gmail Better

Hardcore Gmail users will love this – Gmelius is a cross-browser extension that offers lots of options for customizing and  improving your Gmail experience. First and foremost: Gmelius will allow you to excise the ads that show at the top of your inbox! Right now, it appears Gmelius has extensions for Chrome, Firefox and Opera – hopefully they will come to the aid of some  of those other browsers  soon.

 

Some of the other great features that are selectable within the extension include the ability to make the header auto-expandable, remove the People Widget, customize the navigation icons, add a row highlight, clear formatting from incoming emails to make them look-alike, add attachment icons for different types of docs such as Word or Powerpoint, disable the “consider including” box if you don’t want Gmail to suggest recipients to you, make the Google logo clickable (but watch out when you have multiple sign in’s activated), auto scroll to the top of your inbox when you click the black bar, and move email labels to the right in the inbox. In total, Gmelius is all about creating more space in the interface so that it becomes easier to work with your Gmail, definitely a good thing.

 

 

 

Gmelius insists that it will never access, read, store, alter or transmit your personal data. Gmelius code meets the latest Content Security Policy (CSP) recommendations, making sure its users can keep browsing the Web safely.

 

Gmelius is constantly updating the extension, with new features in settings shown with a “new” tag. Plus they appear committed to cleaning up bugs as quickly as possible.

 

 

The extension is free, but the developers ask for a donation. With the advent of Google Drive and an increase in storage size in your Gmail from 7 to 10 GB to celebrate, Gmelius offers yet another good reason to move your emailing activity to the Gmail cloud. Hope you enjoy this great new extension as much as I do.

Fresh WebSuction – For The Page, The Whole Page & Nothing But The Page

Clipping with Evernote and streamlining with Instapaper are great, but what if you want to snag the entire page in its native glory for easy, off line viewing? There’s a browser for that! Fresh WebSuction, a creation from the folks at Fresh WebMaster,  is focused on your need to download Web pages or content for viewing off-line. You can pull reference material, software files, online books, e-zines or news articles for later viewing. This can be very handy when you are about to lose your internet connection, as you board your flight to Denver. Simply navigate to the browser’s web site, enter the desired URL into the box, and away you go. The service claims it can download up to 50 files at the same time. If this sounds attractive to you, hit the link here to download your new off-line viewing browser.

 

Sharing (The Web) With Channel.me

Browsing is more fun with friends. That is the concept behind Channel.me. This browser based tool will allow you to visit a website, open a channel to invite a friend and review and collaborate with each other. Start at Channel.me’s site and enter the desired URL. You can then send your Channel invitation by Facebook, email or phone. You will be notified when your friend connects to the channel. You will see the same page and even each other’s mouse movements. Use the chat box to the right of the screen to talk about the site or anything you might want to discuss. Or add notes to specific spots on the page to spur discussion.

Clearly a single purpose tool, but one that fills an interesting niche. You and your colleagues can search together on Google at the same time, or discuss web-based content. Nice one to add to the tool box.

Mergely – Browser-Based Text Merge Tool

Simple, but GOOD! Mergely offers a great little tool for comparing / merging two sets of text within your browser. Like the merge function in Word, but a LOT easier to manage. Head over to their site and you will be greeted with two side by side text editor windows. There aren’t a lot of buttons to mess with. Differences in text between the two panes are shown in red with a line through on the left and in blue on the right. Left is the original document and right is the “changed” document. Paste two different sets of text into each window, or type up text right into the boxes. No username or password required. Save your files, and send the link to the page to others for their input. The few buttons at the top allow you to replace left / right, swap left / right, clear text box, download file or search. The text is removed immediately after use, unless you save it.

Clearly this is directed at developers and can compare different sets of HTML coding for variations easily in the browser. It’s free, but requires and HTML5 friendly browser. It appears the creators have more plans for it, including multiple file, drag and drop, and cross browser file uploading, font and style settings and three way merging. Sweet!

Need To Fax? Use Google Docs

Google Docs is ubiquitous and getting moreso with extensions and applications that leverage its cloud-based storage goodness. Take, for example, InterFAX – a fax service that lets you hook up your Google Docs account and use it as a browser-based fax machine! Create an InterFAX account, select external apps and then Google Docs. Click on Activate and the Google Docs page will appear. Grant access to InterFAX (you can select the option to grant access without credentials to keep username private). Enable the “Fax This” bookmarklet, and you are pretty much ready to go. You can send and receive faxes via your Google Docs account, just as you would a fax machine. Received faxes are saved as PDF into a dedicated folder in your Docs account. There is a small cost involved –  as low as $.07 per page and you have to buy credits in minimum installments of $10. But the convenience factor (as well as a cost that is far lower than a dedicated fax line) are very compelling.

Hat tip to Digital Inspiration Technology Blog.

The Evolution of the Web

This is so gorgeous, I couldn’t wait until tomorrow to write about it. Hyperakt has created a beautiful, interactive application that showcases the Evolution of the Web, specifically browser and web based technologies. The explanation from the site:

The web today is a growing universe of interlinked web pages and web apps, teeming with videos, photos, and interactive content. What the average user doesn’t see is the interplay of web technologies and browsers that makes all this possible.

Over time web technologies have evolved to give web developers the ability to create new generations of useful and immersive web experiences. Today’s web is a result of the ongoing efforts of an open web community that helps define these web technologies, like HTML5, CSS3 and WebGL and ensure that they’re supported in all web browsers.

The color bands in this visualization represent the interaction between web technologies and browsers, which brings to life the many powerful web apps that we use daily.

The app scrolls open to reveal a timeline with your favorite browser badge at the appropriate spot on the continuum. Click on the badge and get more information about it. The app comes in several languages and there is an incredible breadth of information available if you click all the links. The take-away is that a whole lot has happened in web development in a relatively short time – and development appears to be moving faster all the time. Can you imagine the infographic  / visual application needed to document this information in ten more years?

Happy browsing!

LinkedIn and Tetris? Really?

How could I NOT write about this? Hi, my name is Martha. I used to play Tetris. A whole freaking metric ton of Tetris. I used to curse that Microsoft included the habit-forming game right in its operating system. Minesweeper was bad. Tetris was far far worse – the most addictive game I have ever played. But that is all behind me now. Or is it?

Matthew Shoup and Steve Pecko created this dastardly mix of Tetris and LinkedIn. The game, called DropIn, is a great little Java script program that works in your browser. The blocks consist of the profile pictures of your LinkedIn connections. Authorize the app to connect with  your LinkedIn profile, and you are good to go. Just like the classic version, the arrow keys to move and rotate the shapes and then you can slam that puppy to the bottom with your space bar. Just like the classic, you can see the next shape on the right side of the screen.

Sort of like the “building blocks” of your professional networking community. Heh, heh. Couldn’t resist.

Hat tip to Digital Inspiration Blog.

 

Putting the Social in Search with Wajam

Big news last week when Google further integrated social connections into search results. The trend to merge social with search hinges on the perception that personalization will improve relevance. While my sense of this is that it fully depends upon what you are searching (i.e., personalization may help a great deal when searching a restaurant, but might not be so helpful when searching facts and figures), there is little doubt that social savvy, personalization, and relevance are the direction in which the Web is inexorably moving.

That said, you can one-up Google’s social by integrating a nifty little extension into your browser called Wajam (link here). This social extension meshes your friend’s content with your search results within the browser itself, and not just in Google. As a result, you can get that social-personal-relevance goodness in Google, Yahoo and Bing while using Chrome, Firefox, Safari and even IE.

Once installed, simply search in the engines and the most relevant Wajam results show at the top. The result includes information about the sharer, their comments and whether any other friends shared the same content. Implicit in this latter stat is the concept that 10,000 people can’t be wrong – the more trusted sources sharing an item, the more relevant, important and useful that item must be.

Image from Wajam FAQ.


There are further stats along the very top of the results. Additionally, starred or shared items of your own will also show at the top. View more results from friends  will show the top 11 results. If you click a friend’s name, their specific shared items will show. 

Image from Wajam FAQ


There are even more stats – see how many people shared a particular result and click the number showing to see all comments. Sort results by newest or oldest and by sources.

Image from Wajam FAQ.


There are search terms listed under the top result and clicking on them will further refine the results.

You can link your Twitter, Facebook and Delicious accounts to serve as social sources for your Wajam results, and you can even import bookmarks from your browser. This enables you to leverage your own saved and shared content as well as the content saved and shared by your Twitter and Facebook friends.

I have commented in the Studio on the ability to search and leverage your social content before in connection with my review of Greplin (link here). Wajam offers another take on that task, this one residing in your browser and happening as naturally as a Google search. Whether you buy into the whole social/personal/relevance formula or not, Wajam is a heavyweight contender and deserves a spot in your Web search tool box.

Wajam is in private beta right now, unfortunately, but you can attempt to jockey for a spot by “liking” their Facebook page or following them on Twitter. Can’t hurt to cut the line, so to speak.