Google Hacks:
100 Industrial Strength Tips and Tools

Tara Calishain + Rael Dornfest

O'Reilly & Associates 2003
A book review by Danny Yee © 2003
Google Hacks is divided between tips on using Google for searching, an introduction to the Google API and some of the applications built to use it, and a range of other material, including advice for webmasters and a number of Google pranks and games. It is aimed at techies rather than a mass audience, and readers will need at least a little programming experience to appreciate most of it. For those curious about what's "under the hood", however, Google Hacks will be an entertaining and informative volume.

As well as explanations of the full range of search options, the 35 tips ("hacks") on searching include brief introductions to Google Groups, the Google Directory, Google News, and Froogle. Some of the tips are reasonably technical — one, for example, explains how to use Julian dates and the daterange: command to restrict searches and another how to create your own customised Google search form. I consider myself a pretty experienced Google user, but I learned a couple of new things from this material.

A general introduction to the Google API — and how to sign up for a developer's key — is followed by explanations of how to use it in Perl (using the PoXML and NoXML modules as well as SOAP::Lite), PHP, Java, Python, C#, and VB.NET. 26 tips then describe different applications built with the API, most of them coded in Perl, and there are another 9 "non-API" applications and 5 items in a grab-bag "third party services" category. These range from a way to use Google as a spell-checker in Microsoft Word (no use to me, but looks like a neat hack) to an introduction to the TouchGraph visual browser to a script for finding (pseudo)random pages. And Google Hacks ends with a look at some pranks and games (such as Googlewhacking) and some tips for webmasters. Some of the tips (especially in the final section) are contributed by specialists: Brett Tabke's "A Webmaster's Introduction to Google", for example, and Andrew Goodman's "Getting the Most out of AdWords".

Full source code is included for most of the applications, though I only glanced over most of this and think some of it would have been better provided online. In general, though, code samples and the occasional screen shot supplement clearly written explanations to make the tips easy to understand. Any geek should find a fair bit of interest in Google Hacks and many of the hacks come with suggestions for extensions, so the volume would make a decent source of small programming projects for students.

Note: a third (2006) edition of Google Hacks is available.

April 2003

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%T Google Hacks
%S 100 Industrial Strength Tips and Tools
%A Calishain, Tara
%A Dornfest, Rael
%I O'Reilly & Associates
%D 2003
%O paperback
%G ISBN 0596004478
%P xxi,329pp