Google’s buried treasure: 18 hidden tricks and tools

googles buried treasure

With all the Google tools out there, it’s easy for some to slip through the cracks. Here are some lesser-known Google tools that can have an impact. (Icons via Christian Mohr, il Capitano, Dusan Popovic, H Alberto Gongora, Rien Mokel via

Google is a behemoth. With all of its tools and apps and programs and initiatives, there’s no way to keep tabs on everything.

As such, it’s easy for newer Google tools — and even some that have been around for a while — to slip through the cracks.

The problem with that: there are some really powerful, really unique offerings in the Googleverse that aren’t getting as much use by teachers.

Let’s work on that today!

Recently, I’ve started presenting a session at conferences and schools called “Google’s Buried Treasure: tricks and tools you’ve never seen”. All of the resources I introduce teachers to are below.

During each presentation to this point, I’ve periodically asked the group to raise their hands if they haven’t seen something new to them during the presentation. I’ve yet to have a session where someone left not learning something new.

Here they are, complete with presentation slides:

Can’t see the slides above? Click here.

1. Google Translate app: This one’s been around a while, but there’s a somewhat hidden feature in the Google Translate app. Use your camera to translate written text on signs. Click the camera icon and aim your camera at some text. Google Translate will translate it on the screen for you.

2. nGram Viewer: Google has scanned and indexed the words in thousands and thousands of books. Display a graph showing how often certain words show up over time.

3. Reverse Image Search: Using the standard Google Images search, upload a photo to see where it’s been used on the Internet. At Google Images, click the camera in the search bar. Upload your photo and see where it’s been.

4. Voice typing: Docs will let you type with your voice. In a Google Doc, go to Tools > Voice typing … and click the microphone. It will dictate what you say. (This also works for typing speaker notes in Google Slides.)

  • Voice typing: Click Tools > Voice typing … in Docs

5. Quick create new Google files: Instead of going to Google Drive and using the “New” button, try these links to create new files:

6. Quick Create extension: Instead of using the links above, install the Google Docs Quick Create extension. Click its icon in the top right of your Google Chrome browser and start a new file like that.

7. Extensity extension: Have too many extension icons in the top right of Chrome? Only run and display the ones you want with Extensity.

8. DriveSlides extension: Create a Google Slides presentation with images with a click of a button. Gather images in a folder in Google Drive. Open that folder in Drive and run the DriveSlides extension. DriveSlides creates a new presentation and drops each image on its own slide. Like magic. 🙂

9. SlideShot extension: Reflection is a good thing. Give students some visual evidence to help them reflect with SlideShot. SlideShot will take a screenshot of your screen every minute. When done, it will place each image on its own slide in a new Slides presentation. Students can flip back through and see what they did — and whether they spent their time wisely!

10. Quick, Draw!: Quick, Draw! tells you what to draw. Then, Google’s artificial intelligence tries to guess what you’re drawing. It’s a neat way to introduce students to artificial intelligence OR to look at how we convert words/ideas into images.

11. A.I. Duet: It’s a piano. You play some notes. A.I. Duet responds with its own notes. You make music together … with artificial intelligence.

12. YouTube Editor: You don’t have to shoot your own video to create a video on YouTube! Use clips from existing videos with YouTube Editor. Drag video clips in order. Decide how much of them you want to play. Add music or audio. When you’re done, your creation is uploaded to YouTube.

13. Google Keep: Google Keep is like virtual sticky notes that go wherever you do. Use the mobile app to take notes while on the go or type them into Keep in your web browser. Add images, create labels to organize and even color code. This will become your favorite organizational Google tool!

14. Incognito windows: Incognito isn’t a creepy tool to let you search for naughty things. When you use an Incognito window, it’s like all of the settings on your Google Chrome have been wiped. No account logged in. No location data. No cookies or anything. It’s useful to see things as if you’re not logged in (among others).

15. Set a timer: Want to give students a certain amount of time to complete a task? Do a Google search for “set a timer for two minutes” or any length of time. Google will create a timer for you and even start it automatically.

16. Searching instead of foldering: I used to be addicted to organizing my Drive by folders. Not anymore. I found that searching through folders is 2.5 times slower than doing a search to find a file.

  • Tip for finding files faster in Drive: Create a naming convention for your files. Example: For me, I included the class, the unit and the chapter in my naming code. A file from Spanish 2, unit 4, chapter 1 would always have this code in it: IIU4C1. If I searched for IIU4C1, it would pull everything up for that particular chapter.

17. Google Trends: Find out what’s hot in Google searches up to the moment. Filters let you see what’s popular in different countries over different time periods. You can even search preset categories.

18. Time Lapse in Google Earth Engine: Watch how the satellite images of the world have changed over the last 20+ years. Choose a location on the map and Time Lapse will show you how that location has changed via satellite in motion.

[reminder]What are your hidden gems in the Googleverse? What do you use that others might not, or how do you use what you have in unique ways?[/reminder]

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Interested in having Matt present at your event or school? Contact him by e-mail!

Matt is scheduled to present at the following upcoming events:

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