Gmail, Google Maps and Google Search: 19 cool tips

You can bookmark a Gmail message, track stocks in Google's search box, quickly estimate a taxi ride's cost in Google Maps, and do much more. We tell you how.

3 Google Maps Mashups

Google Maps is my tool of choice for driving directions and other basic routing. But some of my favorite uses don't come from Google at all--third-party mashups mix the power of Google Maps with new applications. Here are three great examples.

Track your walks and runs: Gmap Pedometer lets you trace around your neighborhood to calculate the distance, sticking to sidewalks instead of Google's street routes. Enter your weight, and it'll even calculate calories burned.

Preview the neighborhood: If you're moving or you're just visiting a new location, check out ParkScore, an app developed by The Trust for Public Land, for its color-coded map showing the distance to local green spaces. And Walk Score quantifies the layout of nearby drug stores, grocery stores, libraries, restaurants, and other destinations to rank local walking ability. (With a score of 98 out of 100, I feel better about my cost of living here in California.)

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Estimate taxi ride costs: TaxiWiz cross-references local taxi fares with Google's maps, projecting trip costs. It works in about 20 cities, between any two points; you may also choose from an assortment of preloaded landmarks, such as the airport and tourist destinations.

Let Google Maps Discover Your Location Without GPS

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I'm so used to Google Maps' knowing my position on an iPhone that manual entry of the information on my laptop has become a hassle. A little Wi-Fi voodoo, however, can triangulate your location without GPS. Sometimes it'll make a mistake, but usually it pegs me close to my actual position. Here's how to set it up in Firefox.

Install the Firefox add-on Greasemonkey if you haven't already. Then install Mozilla Labs' Geode (which is described as an experimental Firefox add-on to explore geolocation) and restart Firefox. Finally, install the Greasemonkey script called Google Maps & Geode - Together At Last.

Now, when you return to Google Maps, you can click the new Current Position text link. Just approve the security options, and searches can start from your location. It seems to work best in cities. Remember, too, that you have to be connected to a Wi-Fi network.

3 Greasemonkey Tricks

Greasemonkey, as mentioned above, is a Firefox extension that lets third-party scripts interact with the browser in many ways. User scripts can remix Web page interfaces, insert features that add to your convenience, and much more.

After you've done the basic Greasemonkey installation, click Add to Firefox. Restart the browser when prompted. Greasemonkey doesn't do much alone, but it will do quite a lot after you add scripts. Here are some cool options that enhance assorted Google services. You don't have to stop here, though: Go to Userscripts.org for all sorts of practical scripts that will turn you into a power browser user.

Google Account Multi-Login: Have more than one Gmail account? Use this script, and you can swap between multiple Gmail accounts through a drop-down menu. Instead of clicking the Sign Out link, you can jump right into your next account.

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YouTube Download: The Flash videos on the Google-owned YouTube work well in a browser, but you might want to use this script to download the original files for offline playback. You will need an FLV-capable video player, such as VLC, to play them later.

Greased Lightbox: On Google Image Search and other picture sites, you have to make a few clicks to reach a big view of a thumbnail image. With the Greased Lightbox script, however, you need click just once on the preview for a full-window image. Click again to go back to the thumbnails, or click View image in its original context to jump to that site.

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Zack Stern

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