It’s pretty hard to imagine what the internet would look like without Google. The search engine was certainly not the first, but with the victory over rival offers such as AskJeeves, Yahoo and Bing, it became the largest since it appeared online in 1998, and has since become so widespread that the phrase ‘Google it’ has become synonymous with search the web, regardless of the platform chosen.
Consistent with its own success, the search engine has since also spawned a dedicated web browser, mobile phones, smart home systems and a range of online productivity tools, and there are still many fun secrets to discover if you know where to look.
We’ve covered some of them on our list of top 5 things you can already do with Google Maps, but that just scratched the surface. While some of these lesser-known features are really useful, others are just a funny trick to keep us entertained, so read on if you want to discover what tricks you can accomplish with Google and Google Chrome OS.
1. Check for malicious software
If you use Google Chrome as your dedicated web browser, you may sometimes notice that performance may be a bit slow or you may have accidentally clicked on a few suspicious links. To calm you down, Chrome actually has its own built-in malware scanner that you can use to remove any potential inconvenience that might lurk on your system.
To find it, simply open Chrome and go to Settings by selecting the drop-down menu in the upper right corner of the webpage. From there, find the Advanced section on the left and click ‘Reset and clean up’ which will open a section with two new options.
Selecting “Clean your computer” will check your system for malware and give you the option to opt out of sending Google a digital report of its findings if you’re aware of sending your system data to large companies.
2. Find really cheap flights
Okay, so the flight option isn’t exactly hidden, but it seems a bit neglected. Many of us have a preferred website or service that promises cheap flights, such as Expedia, Kayak or Skyscanner, but if you feel adventurous (or just need to get away from reality in any way it takes some time), then Google Flights might actually was a better option for you.
Just go to the “Explore” tab on Google Flights and enter the airport or city you want to leave. Leave the destination blank, then select any of the boxes that show departure and return dates. This will then allow you to switch from specific dates to flexible dates where you can select an entire month as your search window or even a time frame such as a one-week return trip within the next six months.
You’ll need to have that flexibility, but the results of this search will give you the cheapest possible flights to multiple destinations, which should give you some options that may have been out of your budget before.
You can even include additional filters for your search on top of that, with options for direct or indirect flights, specific airlines, how many bags you will carry, set price limits, and even prioritize locations based on activities you want to try out, like skiing, visits museums or relaxing on the beach.
3. Reverse image search
It can be very frustrating when you find a non-credit image that you need more information about. Maybe the model or influencer was filmed wearing shoes you want to buy yourself or you want to find an original artist in a watermark-free illustration.
Fortunately, Google can save you time and frustration by allowing you to search using that image, which will then not only run every example of that same image that has been published elsewhere on the internet, but also similar images if it doesn’t give much results. When in Google Images, select the camera icon in the search bar and two options will appear, one for searching using the image URL and the other for uploading the search image directly from your system.
Personally, I found this feature especially useful for finding the original source for images and finding the names of things like perfumes and vintage accessories that would otherwise make me look for vague phrases like “old designer heart-shaped lipstick”, usually to mixed success.
You can also use this as a security feature if you believe your images are being used online or suspect that the person you are talking to on a dating site may be hunting you using someone else’s photos. What a time to be alive.
4. Play video and audio files
I miss the old school Windows media player as well as the best of us, but I doubt one could look much these days when Google web browser can play all my media for me. If you have audio or video files you want to watch, simply drag them directly to a new tab in Google Chrome and they’ll start playing in that window.
It’s a bit basic so you won’t use it to edit or make big changes to your files, but it’s simple and easy to use if you just need something that can play, rewind and adjust the volume without opening a dedicated player media.
5. Bring you back to the past
This is of no practical use, but it is certainly interesting and a bit nostalgic for those of us who remember the internet from the late 1990s. Open Google search engine and type ‘Google 1998.’ and instead of loading a new search results page, the whole window will turn into what Google’s first page looked like when it was first launched.
This is great for a bit of fun, but unfortunately a bit disappointing when you realize that the page will return to its modern form if you select anything on the page (despite a dedicated button that says ‘bring me back to the present’). It would be great if Google could display some archived search results from the late ’90s to research them to give this feature a little more time.
The tech giant has come a long way in the last 23 years, and there are significantly more than just five under-loved features that could benefit from additional recognition. There’s no doubt that Google is currently developing more fun and useful ones that we’ll come across in the coming years, but there’s a lot we can continue to do. If you’re bored, try typing in phrases like ‘make a barrel’ or ‘askew’ for a few extra minutes of mindless fun – thanks to Google.