Today I thought I would highlight some Google products and tips sailors should be aware of to enhance your ability to share your experience, enhance your productivity, or even help with your cruising kitty. For years now, I’ve been writing a blog all about Google Earth – and have a fair bit of experience with a variety of Google products. Here’s a few of my favorites, why they can be useful for sailors, and some important tips:
(NOTE: Post has been updated 2021 to strike-out Google products that have been killed-off)
- Gmail – Fantastic e-mail! It allows you to consolidate multiple e-mail accounts into a single account, manage your contacts, very accessible, powerful search and filtering, great SPAM control, and much more. Important tip: Offline use (set it up through the “Settings” mode). Offline lets you download your E-mail and then still use Gmail to read, search, and respond while you don’t have a connection. Not only that, but it enables a very handy “Flaky Connection Mode” that is invaluable with weak WIFI connections sailors often encounter.
- Google Earth – Fantastic way to research places you are going. Turn on the Geographic Web layer to see pictures and important information about places you want to visit. There are many other layers in Google Earth that can open a wealth of information about locations. You can even see the undersea surface in 3D now – so, you know what its like underneath your boat while on long passages. Google Earth is also a great way to document your travels. Show your passages (GPS tracks or just draw approximate routes), show your photos tied to location, or just put placemarks of significant places or events during your travels. Just read this blog and look for Google Earth content for examples of what you can do. Important tip: Google Earth can be used when you don’t have an Internet connection using a local cache on your computer. The application remembers the last few places you visit. Simply peruse your next destination area and zoom in to view the imagery you want to remember. You can use Google Earth without the connection and still view those places! Very handy on a passage. You Google Earth content can also be viewed with Google Maps. Read Google Earth Blog for many, many tips. There’s a special category dedicated to sailing-related stories.
- Google Maps – when you just need 2D maps, Google Maps is another great mapping tool for looking or sharing information. Your same Google Earth KML files can be viewed with Google Maps as well, and in some cases is a better way to view them on your web site. You can also use what’s called “My Maps” to create and share maps. Very handy tools.
Picasa Web Albums – Your free Google account entitles you to a free amount of photo upload space on PIcasa Web Albums. You can also upgrade the space for a modest fee. You can place slideshows of your photos on your blog or web site and create galleries of your photo albums.Very disappointed the way Google killed off PWA. They introduced Google Photos to replace Picasa (see below), but never implemented a way to support photo albums with Google Photos. It’s taken me months to update all the Tahina posts from the trip to fix all the broken photo albums.
Picasa – a really great free photo processing tool that runs on Mac or Windows. It can help you store, manage, process, and organize your digital photos. It also has integration with Google Maps/Earth, and Picasa Web Albums. It does a great job of dealing with large numbers of images.Google introduced Google Photos – a cloud-based photo album storage option (for free mostly) that also has some photo editing capabilities. But, Picasa was way better at managing your photos when off line on your home storage devices and supported Google Earth and geo-tagging much better.
Panoramio – Another free photo service from Google allows you to upload photos and map them. Your photos are then viewable by anyone using Google Maps or Google Earth when users turn on the photos layers (your photos have to be approved first – usually takes less than 1 month – they prefer only scenic shots – not people shots).Google also killed off Panoramio which was a really great crowd-source geo-tagged archive.
- Mobile Phones – Many of Google’s applications can be used from your smart phone. You can access your Gmail, check your calendar, do Google searches and more. If you have a smart phone like the iPhone, you might be able to use applications like Google Earth and Maps to help you find your way around. I use Google Earth on my phone to have a hand-held way to check on aerial photography of places we are sailing for visual reference.
- Adsense – if you have a really popular web site or blog, you can actually use Google’s Adsense program to place ads on your site which can earn you some money – at least to help pay for some of your online expenses. If you have thousands of visitors a day, it could amount to a noticeable amount of income. You have to insert snippets of code in your web site’s pages to allow Google to place ads from their huge advertiser market place. Google automatically chooses ads based on the relevant content of your pages. So, ads are mostly of interest to some of your readers. Only a small percentage of your readers will click on ads, but Google pays competitive rates for legitimate clicks on ads. Just don’t click on the ads yourself or tell others to do so. That’s against the rules of being an Adsense partner and your account can be shut down.
Google is constantly enhancing tools and data which are helpful for travel related experiences. If you are technology oriented, you will especially enjoy learning about some of these products and trying them out. But, even if you aren’t, you can really make use of these free applications to help you learn about places, and share your experiences with your friends, family or more.