Without Google, it’s difficult to picture what the internet would be like. The search engine wasn’t the first, but it beat off competitors like AskJeeves, Yahoo, and Bing to become the most popular after going online in 1998. It has since grown so common that the word ‘Google it’ has become synonymous with browsing the web, independent of your preferred platform.
The search engine has subsequently spawned a dedicated web browser, mobile phones, smart home devices, and a variety of online productivity applications, riding on its own popularity, and there are still many exciting secrets to find if you know where to look.
We have touched on a couple of these in our list of the top 5 things you can do with Google Maps, but that was only the beginning. While some of these lesser-known functions are truly beneficial, others are merely a comical gimmick to keep us entertained, so keep reading to find out what Google and the Google Chrome OS can do for you.
Look for malicious software
If you use Google Chrome as your primary online browser, you may notice that it is occasionally slow, or that you have mistakenly clicked on a few dubious links. To set your mind at ease, Chrome comes with its own built-in malware scanner that you can use to remove any potential threats from your system.
Simply open your Chrome browser and click Settings from the drop-down menu at the top-right of the page to find it. Then, on the left, select the Advanced section and click ‘Reset and clean up,’ which will display a new section with two new options.
If you choose ‘Clean up computer,’ your system will scan for any malicious software and give you the opportunity to opt out of giving Google a digital report on its results if you don’t want your system data to be shared with huge corporations.
Look for really low-cost flights
Although the flight option isn’t precisely hidden, it does feel underutilised. Many of us have a favourite website or service that claims to discover cheap flights, such as Expedia, Kayak, or Skyscanner, but if you’re feeling brave (or simply need to get away from reality for a moment), Google Flights might be a better option.
Simply go to Google Flights’ ‘Explore’ page and type in the airport or city you want to depart from. Leave the destination blank, then choose from the boxes that display the departure and return dates. This will allow you to switch from fixed dates to flexible dates where you can choose between two options.
You’ll need that flexibility, but the results of this search will show you the cheapest fares to numerous destinations, which should open up some alternatives that were previously unavailable to you.
On top of that, you can add other criteria to your search, such as direct or non-direct flights, certain airlines, the number of baggage you’ll be taking, price constraints, and even prioritise cities based on activities you wish to experience, such as skiing, visiting museums, or relaxing on the beach.
Image search in reverse
When you come across an uncredited image for which you require extra information, it can be really annoying. Perhaps a model or influencer was seen wearing a pair of shoes that you want to buy, or you want to track down the artist who created an unwatermarked illustration.
Fortunately, Google can save you time and pain by allowing you to search for that image, which will return not only every instance of that identical image being posted somewhere online, but also related images if there aren’t many. Select the camera icon in the search bar to see two options: one to search using a picture’s URL, and the other to directly upload an image.
I’ve found this feature particularly useful for locating the original source of images and identifying the names of items such as perfumes and vintage accessories that would otherwise have required me to search for vague phrases such as “old heart-shaped designer lipstick” by hand, with mixed results.
You can also use this as a security feature if you feel that your images are being used online or that someone you’re conversing with on a dating site is catfishing you by using someone else’s photos. What an incredible time to be alive.
View and listen to video and audio files
Like the rest of us, I miss the old-school Windows media player, but now that the Google web browser can play all of my media for me, I doubt it would receive much use. If you wish to watch any audio or video files, simply drag them into a new tab in Google Chrome and they’ll start playing in that window.
It’s a little basic, so you won’t be using it to make major changes to your files, but it’s simple and straightforward to use if all you need is something to play, rewind, and control the volume without having to launch a separate media player.
Return with me in time
This has no practical application, but it’s certainly entertaining and nostalgic for those of us who remember the internet in the late 1990s. When you type ‘Google in 1998’ into the Google search engine, instead of getting a new page of search results, the entire window will turn into what Google’s front page looked like when it originally began.
This is entertaining, but it falls short when you realise that if you pick anything on the page, the page will revert to its modern-day appearance (despite a dedicated button that says “transport me back to the present”). It would be fantastic if Google could bring up some historical search results.
In the last 23 years, the IT giant has come a long way, and there are far more than just five underappreciated features that deserve more attention. There’s no doubt that Google is working on additional entertaining and useful features for us to discover in the coming years, but there’s plenty to do now. If you’re bored, Google phrases like ‘perform a barrel roll’ or ‘askew’ will give you a few minutes of mindless enjoyment.
Here’s why you should get the latest Google Maps update: