Getting Started With Google Chrome and Google Voice
By Rick Broida
Lots of users are probably trying Google Chrome for the first time, and maybe having some trouble learning the basics of the browser. Downloads in particular can be confusing if you’re moving to Chrome.
When it comes to downloading files, not all browsers are created equal. In Microsoft Internet Explorer, for example, clicking a download link produces a pop-up bar along the bottom of the screen, asking if you want to run or save the file. In Mozilla Firefox, the browser I used prior to Chrome, you get a pop-up requester front and center, followed by a big ol’ status window. For anyone accustomed to this, Chrome can be a head-scratcher. It’s easy to overlook the arrival and status of a file download, especially if you’re accustomed to looking near the top of the screen or seeing a pop-up window.
Chrome’s download-status indicator appears quietly and unobtrusively in the lower-left corner of the screen. If you blink, you’ll miss the little arrow that flashes at the start of the download. (Google no doubt added this because so many people had trouble finding any evidence of download activity.)
Of course, now that you know where to look, you’re all set. When the download is done, you can click it to run or open the file, or click the little arrow alongside it for a handful of options (including the always-handy Show in folder, which opens the folder containing the download).
Want to view all your downloads? Press Ctrl-J to open Chrome’s download manager in a new tab. You can also click the little wrench icon in the top-right corner of the screen, then select Downloads. This may seem like an obvious thing, but it took me a while to get accustomed to Chrome’s tucked-away-in-a-corner download indicator.
Three Things You Should Know About Google Voice
Have you tried Google Voice? If not, I think I can understand why. It’s one of those services that sounds a little confusing–and perhaps not terribly useful.
But Google Voice is a pretty cool tool, and it can solve more than a few hassles. Let’s take a look at three GV perks you might not have known about.
(Note: I’m assuming that you’ve already signed up for a GV account. If not, just visit google.com/voice and follow the instructions. You’ll need to have some sort of Google account already, like, say, Gmail.)
1. You can use it to send text messages. Why bother pulling out your cell phone and typing on its tiny keyboard every time you want to send a text message?
If you’re at your computer, you can simply open up Google Voice, click Text, enter the recipient’s phone number, and type your message. Click Send and you’re done. Best of all, replies will pop up right there, so you can hold an entire SMS conversation right in your Web browser.
Oh, and unlike with standard texting from your phone, GV texting is free (for you, anyway–the recipient still has to pay regular rates).
2. You can use it to make free calls (for now). Google Voice is, at its core, a voice-over-IP calling service. And a free one, at least until the end of 2012. That means you can make unlimited local and long-distance calls without spending an extra dime.
Looking for a way to integrate this GV goodness with your current phone system? Check out the Obihai OBi100 adapter, which plugs right into your router (much like a MagicJack, but with Google Voice as the service provider). Connect your phone’s base station and presto: You’ve got dial tone.
3. You can use it to record phone calls. Are you conducting an interview? Talking to a customer-service representative? Planning some blackmail? Might be nice to have a recording of the call. Google Voice makes this a cinch: Just press 4 during the call to initiate recording. When you’re done, you’ll be able to access the audio file from the GV dashboard.
Just one caveat: this works only for incoming calls. And depending on your state’s laws, you may need to get consent from the other party.