Google has been testing this redesign for a long time, and today it’s going live globally. You will see a new logo and a new left-hand side bar in results. The logo feels brighter and flatter than the old one, the search results have become less minimalist.
I’ll wait to see if I grow used to the side bar, I get a feeling that for the most part I will simply ignore it as I don’t need it (I rarely do a web search and then want to switch to book search, or videos; often when I want a maps or image search, I go straight to that particular search). But who knows, perhaps it’s useful for certain types of research tasks, and it does make the different Google sites discoverable for users who might not know them (though with Google’s “jazzy” onebox model, which is still in for the “everything” search, discoverability of the other sites was also provided). The UI of Google’s sub services also feels more consolidated now, part of a single search. In the meantime the crown for most uncluttered search results might have to be passed on to another site in 2010.
What do you like about the new design, and what do you dislike?
Last week, Facebook added a suite of new features that let websites like Pandora and Docs.com access some of your personal information and use it to instantly personalize your experience. Pandora, for example, will recommend streaming music stations built around artists you’ve Liked on Facebook in the past.
Most of the time this information is harmless and you shouldn’t worry too much about it being used for nefarious purposes, but if you want to err on the side of caution, you can actually opt out of the program for privacy reasons — the option is called “Instant Personalization” and it’s sitting deep inside of Facebook’s privacy settings pages.
Opting Out at Specific Sites
You can either turn Instant Personalization off entirely at Facebook, or you can opt out at individual websites on a case-by-case basis. The latter is easy; the first time you arrive a website that uses Instant Personalization, a bar will appear at the top of the page letting you know that’s what’s happening and giving you the option to either accept that or to tell it “no thanks.”
Blocking Instant Personalization For All Sites
The feature is on by default when you first arrive at a site, though, and if you’re sure you never want to use it anywhere, you can dig deep from your Facebook home page to make sure no other website can ever access your Facebook information for Instant Personalization purposes. To do that, start by clicking on “Account” in the upper-right corner of the Facebook homepage. Select “Privacy Settings” from the list that drops down below.
You’ll be presented with a list of five privacy settings pages. You can do a lot with these pages — customize who can see your profile info and news feed updates, for example — but the option we’re looking for now is right in the middle: “Applications and Websites.” Give that a click.
There it is at the bottom of this list: “Instant Personalization.” Consider clicking “Learn More” by the top item, too, though, as it explains exactly how your other privacy settings affect what information is shared with other applications and websites. Anyway, click “Edit Setting” by “Instant Personalization” at the bottom.
This last stop in the rabbit hole tells you what Instant Personalization does, and provides a lone check box at the bottom to enable or disable it. It’s on by default. Click the check box to turn it off.
There you go. It’s done! Facebook won’t share your personal information with websites for Instant Personalization again until you re-enable this feature. You can do that by going back and re-checking the box at any time, so if you decide you want the new features after all, this isn’t irreversible.
Preventing Friends From Sharing Your Info
You should be aware that friends can still sometimes share your information from their own profiles with websites even though this is turned off. This is easy to change. Just jump back one level to “Applications and Websites” and click “Edit Settings” by the second option — “What your friends can share about you” — instead of “Instant Personalization.
Here you can check and un-check boxes to specify what information your friends’ connections can share with other applications and websites. If you un-check everything here, none of your information will be shared. It’s nice to be able to choose exactly what you are and aren’t comfortable with, though.
First, the shortcuts that are so fundamental to computer use that you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them. Almost all of these shortcuts should be performed with the LEFT hand, with your thumb on Alt or Ctrl.
- Ctrl+T — opens a new tab in all major Web browsers.
- Alt+Tab — cycles through currently-open programs. If you also hold down Shift, it cycles backwards.
- Ctrl+Tab — cycles through Web browser tabs (you can use Shift to go backwards too).
- Ctrl+W — closes the current window or tab. Some applications can be closed with Ctrl+W, but Alt+F4 is universal.
- Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V — copies selected text (you can use Shift and arrow keys to select text!), and then paste it. Use Alt-Tab to switch between source and destination for bonus points.
- Ctrl+Z — undoes your last action. This works in almost everything except Web browsers. ‘Redo’ varies from program to program (check the ‘Edit’ menu to find out!)
- Ctrl+Mouse scroll wheel — zoom in, zoom out. This works in almost every kind of app, including Web browsers. Great for increasing the size of tiny ‘aesthetic’ text on normal websites… or tiny thumbnails on nefarious ones. Also scales the size of icons on your desktop, if they’re too small for you!
- F5 — refreshes your current folder/directory or Web page. Yes, you can hammer a button on your keyboard rather than foolishly clicking a button over and over!
- Alt+D — selects the address bar in your Web browser or folder/directory view! Yes, I know — how awesome is that?
Really Neat Keyboard Shortcuts
This next block of shortcuts is for the power users, the administrators, those of you that want to squeeze just a little bit more out of your PC. These shortcuts are nearly all Windows Key combinations, so first… a little bit of trivia (you never know when you might get asked about the Windows Key in a pub quiz!).
The Windows Key (the one with the flag on, next to ‘Ctrl’ and ‘Alt’) is a relatively recent addition to modern keyboards. It’s functionally identical to the Mac’s Command Key, and both of them originated on the awesomely-named ‘Space-cadet keyboard‘ at MIT. Along with its bastard cousin the ‘menu key‘ (I can only assume that key was thrown in for special people with one-button mouses), it started to appear after Windows 95 was released. And now on with the shortcuts!
- Windows Key+L — locks the computer! BLAM! It’s really fast and probably the best (and most secure) way to quickly clear your screen of anything offensive.
- Windows Key+D — shows your desktop. Hit Windows Key+D again to bring the windows back! Another great way to hide whatever you’re up to — or maybe you just want to declutter your workspace.
- Windows Key — pops up the Start Menu. It also focuses the ‘instant search/run’ box, so you can start typing immediately. Type the name of an application and press enter! Windows Key+R is the same thing but without the as-you-type search.
- Windows Key+Number (0 through 9) — opens the program pinned to your Superbar/taskbar as indicated by the number. Windows Key+1 would be the first icon on your taskbar… +5 the fifth, and so on. If the program is already open, you switch focus to that window. Shift+Windows Key+Number opens a new instance of the pinned program.
- Windows Key+Tab — a pretty, Aero Flip version of Alt+Tab. Cycle through your open applications in 3D! This can be quite slow on laptops or older PCs.
- Windows Key+Shift+Left Arrow — on multi-monitor setups, this moves your current window to the left-hand screen. +Right Arrow would move it to the right. If you only have two screens it doesn’t matter which combo you use.
Note: these shortcuts all work with Windows 7; most of them work with Vista — and only some work with XP and earlier.
Kinda Cool Keyboard Shortcuts
This last section is dedicated to the shortcuts that no one really knows about. These are fairly obscure, and in some cases completely useless, but who knows: maybe you’ll find something useful!
- Ctrl+Shift+Left Click — use this on a Superbar or Start Menu item to run it as an administrator. One of the many ways to combat UAC annoyances…!
- Hold Shift — if you hold Shift after putting a CD into your computer it will stop it from Auto Running (this one goes way back to Windows 95!)
- Ctrl+Shift — switches between keyboard layouts. Usually you’ll change keyboard layout without noticing… now you know the shortcut to change it back! (Or just uninstall the other keyboard layouts — that’s what I do)
- Left Alt+Left Shift+Print Screen (PrtScrn) — changes Windows to ‘high contrast’ settings. Good for Web sites that all ‘fade into grey’ — or for older people with weaker eyes!
- Ctrl+Shift+Esc — opens the Task Manager. No, you don’t have to access it via Ctrl+Alt+Del!
- Ctrl+Alt+Del — yes… this one reboots your computer. Surprising how rarely you have to hit it nowadays, eh?
- Windows Key, Right, Right — no, not a cheat code! This brings you to the Log Off/Shut Down/Sleep menu.
- Ctrl+Right Arrow (or Left Arrow) — when word processing, this moves the cursor one word to the left or right. Much faster than simply ‘holding down the arrow key’. If you hold down Shift you also select the text as you go; very cool.
- Home and End (Page Up, Page Down, etc.) — the whole ‘block’ to the right of the Enter key are actually used for moving around documents and pages. Home takes you to the start of a line; End… to the end. Hold Shift to select text as you go.