Friday, August 17, 2007

Google as Personal Information Management Suite

The July 2007 issue of The Library Insider featured a new iGoogle gadget that allows library patrons to access WorldCat from their iGoogle homepage. This month we are featuring iGoogle as a personal information management suite. Students, faculty, and staff can use iGoogle to craft a personal homepage by selecting content in the form of gadgets and RSS feeds of personal interest.

Google gadgets, like the WorldCat gadget, allow you to access tools and information available from other websites from within your iGoogle homepage. Some popular websites that offer iGoogle gadgets include MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, the Weather Channel, and the Babelfish language translator.

There are also gadgets available that will serve up daily quotes, Garfield comics, or themed images to spice up your homepage. Other popular gadgets include videogames, map services, free iTunes store downloads, and IM chat clients. Google also offers a range of gadget templates that allow you to create your own gadgets that you can share with friends and family.

Getting Information through RSS Feeds

iGoogle allows you to subscribe to RSS feeds that will serve periodically updated content to your homepage from blogs and other serial websites. You can select information sources that interest you to develop an iGoogle homepage that allows you to scan large amounts of information in a short period of time. Whether you are interested in basketball, English Literature, or knitting there are a wide variety of blogs and websites targeting you as an audience that are available via RSS feed.

The Ball State University Libraries offers a list RSS feeds, see, that will help you to keep up to date with recent developments in the libraries and librarianship.
To learn more about RSS feeds and how to make use of them, visit the Libraries’ page, FAQ about RSS,,,42833--,000.html.

Google offers several web-based software applications that can be integrated into the iGoogle environment, including the following:
· Google Calendar allows you to set appointments, remember birthdays, and check event locations from any internet connected computer
· Google Notebook lets you take notes and organize them so that they can easily reference them later
· Google Docs & Spreadsheets is a web-based word processor and spreadsheet application that uses an interface similar to that offered by the popular Microsoft Office Suite of applications

Documents that are created in the Google applications are stored on Google’s servers and can be designated as private, shared with the world, or shared with a select group of peers. Sharing documents allows you to work collaboratively and track one another’s calendars to facilitate coordinating schedules.

Integration of E-mail Services

iGoogle supports the integration of email services such as Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, and Google’s own Gmail. If you have several e-mail accounts, you can have all of them forwarded to one Gmail account and set up filters to keep the different accounts sorted under distinct “labels,” which are similar to folders in other e-mail clients. Use of one e-mail account also allows you to keep all of your contact information in a central location.

One of the major advantages of the iGoogle interface is that it allows you to easily create a tabbed environment. Your homepage content can be separated into distinct tabs that organize the information into thematic categories. A Ball State student’s homepage, for example, might include tabs such as School, Work, Play, and Friends. The ability to quickly tab between contexts makes multitasking in the digital world all the easier.
With this in mind, iGoogle provides an environment where user and context specific information can be quickly organized and digested.

Creating a Google Account

Remember, to create an iGoogle homepage you must have a Google account. To create a Google account, visit, click on “Sign In” in the upper right hand corner and then click on “Create an account now” in the lower right hand corner. If you already have a Google account, you can just click “Sign In”. You then return to and can begin adding content by clicking on “Make it your own,” which is locted under the search box.

Some privacy advocates caution against too liberal a use of services such as those offered through the iGoogle interface. Users should be aware that a security leak could expose data that they publish to the Google servers to hackers. In addition, information stored on the Google servers is subject to discovery, i.e., legal subpoena of the data to support civil or criminal proceedings.

For more information about the iGoogle interface, contact Philip James Deloria, Assistant Archivist for Digital Projects and University Archives,, or call (765) 285-5078.

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