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Five cool Google features you’re probably not using

Google does more than search and e-mail, if you know where to look.

Most of us interact with Google at least a few times a day – if you’re a Gmail user, it’s way more than that. But the bright folks at Google are constantly updating features and adding cool tweaks to various Google products, and you could probably be getting a lot more out of Google than you do.

Let’s take a look at five nifty things you can do with Google that you might not already be doing.


1.      Google Public Data Explorer

This can be a very handy tool, especially for people who are studying, or whose jobs involve doing research on other countries. The Google Public Data Explorer basically aggregates tons of publicly available data from places like the World Bank and various country statistical offices (including some data from Statistics South Africa). You can type in a query, like “population growth rates by country,” and then use the Explorer’s options to create your own charts. You can embed the chart you make into your website or any internet-linked document, or you could use your computer’s screenshot tools to snap a picture of it – great for school projects.

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2.      Google translations

When you live in a multilingual society, you often come across phrases that are in a language that you don’t speak. With Google’s translation utilities you can quickly translate back and forth between a large number of languages. You can visit for a complex translation, or you can simply translate a few words by typing “translate (the word you want translated) into (the language you want it translated into)” – for example, you might type “translate bread into Zulu.”

Google’s translation is not, I should note, flawless. It has trouble with any subtleties of grammar and meaning. However, even with fairly complex passages it usually gives you enough of an approximation to either understand or make yourself understood.

3.      Google as your diet’s best friend

If you’re watching what you eat, Google is your new best friend. Google let’s you easily and quickly compare the nutritional values of different foods. All you need to do is type the foods into the search bar like so: “compare (food) to (food)”.  Comparing your two options side by side can help motivate you to make the right choice!

4.      Google flights

When you’re planning a trip, Google’s flight search is a handy port-of-call to find the ideal price and time. Unfortunately, Google flights doesn’t yet support the rand, but you can change your currency to dollars or pounds, and you still get the convenience of comparing prices and seeing all the flight times that are available. Presumably you’ll eventually be able to search in rands.

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5.      Google is a dictionary

Heard a new word and not sure what it means? Google’s got your back. Just type “define (word)” and Google will tell you what it means, and how to pronounce it. You can even click the audio button to hear it said out loud, to make extra sure you’re saying it right.

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