New Google Features: Quick and Informative

I was catching up on Google’s search blog this morning and wanted to share a couple of fun and useful new features they’ve integrated into their search page.

First up: holiday dates. Google has added a line to the very top of their results page that will state the date of the holiday for which you’re searching – without you having to click on any search results! They used the example of National Popcorn Day, but I chose to search something a little more traditional:

This feature only launched yesterday, so I’m guessing they’re still adding some of the quirkier holidays (National Popcorn Day notwithstanding): my search for National Take Your Dog to Work and Take your Child to Work Days did not bring up the magical result line. Still, it’s a neat little element that can save you time and clicks.

The second new feature: hurricane information. The 2011 hurricane season is off to a strong start, and meteorologists are anticipating an active spell this year, so Google is setting up search results to help people get important information quickly. (This is a big deal for a weather geek like me.) It’s explained in detail in their blog post, but here’s a summary:

–          If you search “hurricane”, the top result on the page will be from NOAA’s National Hurricane Center. Any active storms will be profiled within the result and will be clickable, with the link going straight to NOAA’s page for that particular weather event.

–          The above also applies for “tropical storm”: the top result will say “Tropical Prediction Center”, but it’s all the same entity within NOAA.

–          Tropical storms and their ilk are now defaulted to be present on Google Earth maps as long as the “Places” box is checked in the Layers panel. This means you can look anywhere in the world (business trip coming up? vacation?) and see the effects a storm might be having on your destination. There will also be storm status and forecast information available, and you can toggle different views via the Weather menu.

So even as Google has announced the folding of some of its divisions in favor of streamlining, they haven’t stopped trying new things that make our lives a little easier and more informed.

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