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AFB  ®
Technology News for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
From the American Foundation for the Blind
 March 2008 Issue  Volume 9  Number 2

Book Review

Google It! A Guide to the World's Most Popular Search Engine, by Jonathan Mosen with Anna Dresner, National Braille Press, 121 braille pages, $12.00.

Even people who do not use computers have some sense of what Google is. Google is the only Internet search tool that became such an almost overnight phenomenon that its name became a widely recognized and accepted verb. Do you need to know something? Just Google it!

Jonathan Mosen is a familiar name to many who use assistive technology for people who are blind. He was first known as a voice on ACB Radio's Main Menu, then a major presence with large assistive technology companies. But his work as an individual--just one smart blind guy sharing what he has learned with others--is perhaps the reason why most people are familiar with his work. The tutorial was first an audio tutorial; then Anna Dresner, of National Braille Press, worked to update it and bring it onto the braille page. Now even more people can appreciate what Mosen has presented in this powerful and concise package.

What Mosen and Dresner have done with this cleverly concise tutorial is to give us heaps of tips and tricks for harnessing the power of Google in ways that can spark many an "aha" moment for even the most sophisticated Internet seeker.

Did you know, for example, that Google can be a speedy and powerful dictionary? Did you know that you can use Google as a quick and easy way to check the status of your favorite stock? Or, if you are expecting a package, did you know that Google is so smart that it can recognize whether your tracking number is from UPS or FedEx and take you directly to the tracking information that you need?

Organized into 25 convenient "chapters" or categories, the book is a wonderful reference tool. In other words, after you work through it once, if you later need to use Google as an efficient means for checking flight status or weather reports, you can locate these areas in the table of contents and go directly to them.

"Working through" the book the first time is an apt description of how it can be best appreciated. With either the hardcopy braille version or the downloadable one on your braille PDA or notetaker, you can sit in front of your computer and experiment with each technique that Mosen describes and experience the amazing power firsthand. Incidentally, one of the most valuable pieces in the book may well be in the early section where Mosen explains how to customize your Google preferences. Learning, for instance, how to set preferences so that each new link that is followed can be closed independently, thus returning you to your Google search results, is worth the $12 price of the book in itself.

Examples are clearly illustrated, and each includes a sample of how the results page should appear. Because or these examples, I quickly realized that all Google searches are not made equal. For some time now, I have used the Google "accessible" link--the link that will bring up only web pages that are accessible to users of screen readers. (This URL is www.labs.google.com/accessible.) Although this beginning location is often useful, it falls short of making the most of several of the tricks that Mosen has to offer.

Using Google as a calculator, for instance, fell flat when I entered an equation into the search box on the "accessible" Google page. Upon returning to plain www.google.com, however, I found that using Google as a calculator worked like a charm.

If you just want to be a power searcher of information, this book will show you how to fine-tune your search terms to obtain the precise information that you want. If you are a news junkie, you can learn how to track and organize the news that is most interesting to you.

The book is a quick read, a handy reference, and a powerhouse of information. If there is anything you really want to know, just Google It! This book will show you how to do so in ways that will dazzle your friends and associates.

To order, call 800-548-7323 or visit www.nbp.org.

If you have comments about this article, e-mail us at accessworld@afb.net.

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Blog On! Reading and Writing Blogs with a Screen Reader, by Anna Dresner by Reviewed by Deborah Kendrick


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