In the past couple of years Google has grown beyond just a great Internet search portal; they now offer many web-based apps and services, including blogging, e-mail, desktop search and applets, online calendars and to-dos, and the like, all of which are free and incredibly useful. Although I will post on many of these features at some point, today I would like to talk about the Google Toolbar for your browser.

This strip of buttons is incredibly useful and quite the timesaver (which results in increased productivity). It puts a search window right next to a button that allows you to use that phrase to search Google, Froogle (their online shopping site), images, your own computer, their news service, and discussion groups. You can even type in an address and search Google Maps to get directions, all without changing the currently displayed web page by going to Google’s site. The handy Highlighter tool can then highlight the words in your search parameter (each in its own color) as they appear in the web page found by Google, so you can go right to the relevant section. Need to know where something is discussed on a site? The Autolink tool allows you to bring up a map for an address displayed on a web page.

Filling out forms on a web page can be a hassle, especially when you are typing in the same information over and over again, like your name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address. AutoFill can take away this drudgery. Simply type the information into its database once, and whenever form fields are displayed that can be filled in with AutoFill, they will be highlighted in yellow. Simply click on AutoFill in the toolbar, and everything is filled in. Not sure if you spelled something correctly in a form field? Click on the SpellCheck button to be sure.

Many of us have a routine of checking certain web sites every day to see what’s new. RSS (Really Simple Syndication) subscriptions can bring the new content to you, through an RSS Reader like Google Reader. The Subscribe tool will light up for any page that sponsors an RSS feed. Simply click on that button to add that site. Then the latest information from your subscribed sites will appear conveniently on one page. For more information on RSS Feeds and Readers, click on RSS Feeds at the top of this blog.

All in all, the Google Toolbar can make your Internet tasks much faster and easier. Go to the Google site and check out how it can work for you.