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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Useful Resource: The Google Toolbar

A little while ago on my forum at www.mywriterscircle.com someone asked if there is an application that will check your spellings for you before you post an item.

Several suggestions were offered, but the favoured option was the Google Toolbar, which you can download free of charge from http://toolbar.google.com.

This is an add-on for the Internet Explorer browser (it's also available for Firefox - see below). Once you've installed it, a green spell-check icon will appear at the top of the screen. If you've written a message on a forum or online form and want it spell-checked before posting, just click on the icon. Any spelling errors will then be highlighted in red. Click on each highlighted item, and a list of possible alternatives will appear. Just click on the one you want and it will be substituted.

The Google Toolbar also has a range of other features. Another I particularly like is Autofill. You simply load into this any information you regularly put in online forms - name, address, phone number, email address, and so on. Every time an online form opens in future, any fields the toolbar can fill in for you will be highlighted in yellow. Then you just click the Autofill icon and the relevant information will be automatically inserted. It's usually correct but occasionally enters the wrong item, so it's important to check before clicking on Submit!

Are there any drawbacks to the Google Toolbar? Well, adding any toolbar reduces the space on the rest of the screen (though you can hide it easily enough using the View menu). Also, some people have expressed concern that installing it compromises your privacy (see, for example, this article from PC Magazine). I can't say that this is a huge worry for me, but obviously some people see it differently.

Finally, as mentioned above, you can also obtain a version of the Google Toolbar for the Firefox web browser. This popular free alternative to Internet Explorer is much less vulnerable to hackers and viruses, and also has a number of extra features. You can read more about Firefox, and download a version with the Google Toolbar ready installed if you wish, by clicking on this link.

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