After twenty years of enslavement to Microsoft's software, I swore I would never let another company gain too much of my loyalty. But Google is making it damn hard, turning out product after product that I find makes my computer life easier. Those I use daily include:

Google Reader: For gathering RSS feeds (the sometimes-truncated posts from the many blogs I follow so I don't have to visit each one individually) this reader is the most convenient I've found. It allows me to tag, forward, and group interesting content in a logical, pleasing layout.

Google News Alerts: This service allows me to create search terms (Tom Barlow, for example). Each day (or more often if I choose) it searches the internet for new content in which my name appears, and sends links to each in a consolidated email. Very handy for tracking hot topics.

Google Notebook: When researching topics for posts, I often visit a number of internet sites. Notebook allows me to clip out relevant text/pictures from those sites and compile them in my notebook tagged with the address from which the info came. This makes assembling the final story with proper attribution a snap.

Google Maps: In the novel I'm currently working on, the heroes ride a motorcycle from Seattle to Ohio. I was able to create the route on a Google Map and keep track of time and distance. Using the Google Earth feature, I was also able to virtually drive the route to see what my characters would have seen.

Gmail: I have a number of email accounts, but I now dump them all into Gmail and use is spam filter, one of the best I've found, before retrieving them. I also use it as a quick backup for my fiction, emailing myself the document every hour where it stays on Google's servers.

Google Docs: When I'm organizing a series for WalletPop, I can post a spreadsheet with the info so that my Editor and others can all share and edit the schedule, keeping us all on the same page.

GrandCentral: A Google purchase, this free service allows me to have one local phone number, that will ring my home phone and cell simultaneously, and allow me to answer either. With the push of a button, I can record the conversation. If I don't pick up, the service acts as an answering machine, and I can retrieve the message via phone or internet.

Googlepages: I see that this service is not currently being offered; too bad. Googlepages allowed me to create a web site using its user-friendly tools, and Google hosts it free of charge.

So here I am, tied to one company again. But every time I look to alternatives, they don't seem to work quite as well as Google's. I can only hope it continues to live by its dictum, Don't Be Evil.


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