Google released a new beta version of its popular toolbar software this morning that adds some handy new features. The toolbar still features an integrated search box, pop-up blocker and PageRank display options that made it so popular, but now includes features like a translation tool, an autolink feature and an integrated spell checker.

The new translation tool will be of primary use to non-English speakers as it currently translates only from English into other languages. Languages supported include Chinese, Japanese, Korean, French, Italian, German and Spanish. The tool works by allowing users to set a default language in the options menu so that Google can display the appropriate translation whenever a user hovers their mouse over a word on a Web page. I turned my translation tool on to Spanish and easily found the proper translation to a multitude of phrases without taking the time to look them up one by one.

The new AutoLink tool takes advantage of Google's extensive mapping abilities without forcing a user to take the time to type an address into the Google Toolbar. Clicking the AutoLink button in the toolbar will cause the toolbar to immediately scan the contents of a Web page and convert any address into a clickable link to a Google map. I used this option while browsing CitySearch for a local BBQ joint and sure enough, the created map link worked perfectly. The autolink feature also works for package tracking numbers, car VINs and even ISBN numbers for books and publications.

Perhaps the handiest new feature on the toolbar is the Spell Checker. Anyone that spells as poorly as I do and posts online as much as I do will find this integrated little tool to be indispensable. For years I've taken the time to cut and paste long forum posts into Word or at least Outlook to run them through spell check before posting them. I know there are some browser-based downloads that purport to handle spell checking issues for you, but I've found them all to be lacking in at least one area. Plus, I like to keep my browser add-ons to the minimum number possible.

Simply put, the Google toolbar spell checker is wonderful. Simply click on the spell check option and Google immediately scans the content of any form on the Web page. It turns questionably spelled words red and when you click on those words, offers a drop down list of proper spellings. Simply select the spelling you were looking for and Google replaces the misspelled word. When you are finished, simply click the "stop spell checking" option that appears and Google returns your ability to type text into the form.

None of the new features are ones that couldn't previously be found and used at the Google Web site, but that's really not the point. "All these features add up to less cutting and pasting," explained Marissa Mayer, director of consumer Web products at Google. Mayer had no comments on whether or not Google planned to follow Yahoo!'s lead and work to develop a toolbar download for the increasingly popular Firefox browser.

Version 3.0 of the Google Toolbar is available for download from the Google Web Site.

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February 16, 2005

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.

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