6 Google features you’re probably not using

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Google is a company of many talents, but most people will know it only for its search and mail products. Yet even those, along with Google’s other products, have features that most people don’t use. Often they’re just obscure and hidden, but sometimes they’re hidden in plain sight, rather than being top secret; the button you never clicked, because you’re just too focussed on getting something done.

To change that, we’ve chosen the six most-overlooked features in Google that we think people should be using. Some are for fun, and others for education, but all of them deserve to earn a place in your bookmarks.

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Google Phrasebook


Google Translate, the service that’ll turn your English text into foreign gibberish, recently had a new feature added, and it’s one that’ll endear the service to travellers.

If you’re logged in with your Google account, Translate will let you build a phrasebook using the sentences that you ask it to convert into foreign languages. Why rely on a pocket phrasebook when you can build your own, right on Google? Even better – if you use the Google apps on your Android or iOS device, you can access your phrasebook offline.

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Google Moon and Mars


For Google, not even space is the final frontier. It’s gone and mapped both the Moon and Mars, for daydreaming explorers and astronomy students. The Martian landscape, seen above, has imagery supplied by NASA. View modes can be toggled between elevation, visibility, and infrared maps. There are even shortcuts to see where all the exploration crafts have landed.

Similarly, Google Moon has photos of our satellite, along with bookmarks for the Apollo landings. Load ’em up in Google Earth, and you can explore the moon in 3D.

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Google Scholar


Any student who’s had to do research at a library will know how painstaking it can be compared to Google. Heck, the search engine even has a Scholar portal, where you can search legal texts, published papers, and patents. No more long hours using the outdated search system at the public library.

Knowing its target audience, Google also included a tool to let professors and reliable sources enter their credentials for citations in papers and search results.

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Google Reverse Image Search


Google Image Search is pretty well-known – it’s that part of Google where you go to find all those cat photos. But over the last few years it’s been revamped to not only get a new search interface, but also to have its search capabilities enhanced.

It’s now possible to upload an image to Google Image Search, and it will find similar images, or a larger version of an image that you uploaded. Perfect for finding out who’s stealing your pics.

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Google Groups


When all else fails and a Google search hasn’t helped you find what you’re looking for, you can use Google Groups to ask real people questions.

Built on the concept of Usenet discussion boards, Groups brings likeminded individuals together to debate, discuss, and seek answers. It’s easy to navigate, and you can build you own groups, too, if you so fancy.

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Google Cultural Institute


From the Eiffel Tower and art galleries, to the Kirstenbosch Gardens and Great Barrier Reef – Google’s recording it all for posterity, at the Google Cultural Institute.

Think of it as a museum, powered by Google Street View, where you can zoom from the Apartheid exhibit to modern day images of heritage sites, without leaving the comfort of your home. At the very least you’ll save on expensive fees for plane tickets.


Christo van Gemert

Christo van Gemert

Eleven years ago Christo started writing about technology for one of South Africa's (then) leading computer magazines. His first review? A Samsung LCD monitor. Hey, it was hot news, back then. Nowadays he gets more excited about photography, cars, game consoles, and faster internet connections. He's sort of an Apple fan, but will take any opportunity to remind you about his Windows-powered home theatre PC and desire to own a vanilla Android tablet.   Currently uses: Apple 13-inch Macbook Pro with Retina Display, Apple iPhone 5, Microsoft Laser Mouse 6000, Audiofly AF78 Earphones, Xbox 360, Nikon D50.