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Keywords: Google, search engines, Java, Perl, PHP, GMail

Title: Google Hacks, 2

Editors: Tara Calishain and Rael Dornfest

Publisher: O'Reilly

ISBN: 0596008570

Media: Book

Level: All

Verdict: An interesting and useful read

We liked the first edition of Google Hacks, at the time we gave the book a fairly positive recommendation. Here we are getting on for two years later with a new book and changed search engine ecosystem. Google has changed - new services have been developed, including GMail and Desktop search - and its competitors in the search engine ecosystem have continued to evolve as well. Do these changes warrant a new edition of the book?

The first thing to note is that this isn't just a minor tweaking of the first edition. It has been extensively re-written, with the addition of plenty of new hacks (25 new ones, including a selection devoted to GMail) as well as the re-working of material from the original. Whether this warrants rushing out to buy the book if you already have the first edition depends very much on how much value you'll get from the new stuff. If, for example, GMail is important to you, then the chances are that you'll want to take a look at some of the hacks.

For new readers, however, the question is straightforward. If you use Google a lot, or want to get the most out of it, then this book has plenty to offer. It shows the reader how to maximise the efficiency of searches, it high-lights the lesser-known features of querying, the additional services that exist beyond the simple Google front page (such as Groups, image searching, language tools etc). Even seasoned Google veterans are likely to pick up useful pointers from the many hacks listed.

The first edition also included a section on Google pranks and games, (Google Whacking, for example). This section has been dropped, (and a good thing to, in our opinion), to make way for some of the newer and more useful material.

For web masters the two chapters on making your sites Google-friendly and on Adwords/AdSense are essential reading. As we all know understanding page rank is essential to increasing traffic and there is good coverage on this and on how to make the most of AdSense and AdWords.

For those who want to go further and are willing to roll sleeves up and play with code then there is even more to glean. While the book is packed with useful snippets of code that make use of the Google API or which screen scrape or otherwise automate activities it's the final chapter of the book which details of how to program the API in various languages, including Perl, PHP, Python, Java, C# and VB.NET.

In all this remains a useful resource for Google-users, web masters and developers. If you've got the first edition take a detailed look at the content first, but if you missed it first time around then go for it.

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Contents © TechBookReport 2005. Published February 24 2005