I have become dependent over the past couple years on Google Calculator. This is the feature that allows you to type in queries like “X in Y” and get meaningful (not search results), immediate responses.
For example, even though I’m a technical person, I can’t seem to memorize anything metric to save my life. So I often end up looking at some programming API and thinking “hmm… ‘in ms’ … is that milliseconds or microseconds … and how much is a millisecond anyway?” It’s easy for at least this American to let the “milli” part of such words remind me of “million” more than of “thousand” (yes, even after learning much Spanish and a bit of French). So, never wanting to waste much time with trial and error when it comes to API navigation, I pop over to Google and type in:
Yielding the extremely concise and accurate:
Not only have I confirmed that “ms” means milliseconds, but I know that yes, there are a thousand of them in a second. Phew! Glad I got that out of the way for the billionth time in my life. Metrislexia is hard!
It’s not just technical values that Google is good at converting. Take money, for instance (but not mine!). If you type in something reasonable like this:
Which not only tells me exactly what my leftover vacation money is worth, but also reminds me that I’m a big dummy for assuming that “$” means “US$”.
I have come to depend on the calculator so much that I seem to be good at discovering things that are not (yet?) covered. So what is missing? Just about everything! Off the top of my head:
- Quickie word translations. Google has its obvious “Language Tools” section which allows you to translate a sentence or web page from one language to another as quickly as you can configure a complicated form and press “Submit.” Much better for everyday use would be a facility where I could type “english ‘happy’ in japanese” and have something meaningful appear.
- Historical money. They’ve got a nice head-start in the currency department, but what we need now is expanded tools to deal with money in real terms. For instance, in the news and such you often hear explanations of money from times past: “The young painter earned about $30 a week, or around $650 in present-day dollars.” So if there’s anything close to a consensus on what money was worth historically, Google should be willing to do to the work for me. I want to type “13 dollars in 1983″ and have the magic answer appear. Instead, I get close to 9 million results from across the entire, faulty spectrum of web content.
What have you found to be lacking? If you’ve been using Google Calculator for a while, what have its relatively magical qualities led you to believe should also be smartly handled? If you’ve never used it before, give it a spin and see what you’re inspired to expect. I look forward to seeing some brainstormed ideas for improving Google Calculator. Maybe if we get a good enough collection the Google people themselves will find this page through a Google search and start acting on our feedback!