July 27, 2012

The Month Of Search Improvements Continues With Redesigned Search Page & Handwriting Recognition

In case you've been wondering if Google is still a search engine and not just an ad company, browser developer, mobile OS creator, email provider, video hosting service, and a social network, this past month should put your fears to rest. It started out slow enough with a couple of search experiments. Then Google followed up with some spiffy Google+ integration. Finally, Google went head-to-head with Wolfram Alpha with its latest addition to search. But now they are stepping the game up another couple of notches.

Handwriting Recognition On Phones & Tablets

For a while now Google has offered an app called Gesture Search. This let people search their phone for contacts, files, apps, and bookmarks by writing letters and words with their finger. Why did Google make this app and offer it for free? Because it gave them valuable data about handwriting recognition. This data allowed them to release its newest update to mobile search. Handwrite for phones and tablets allows users to open up Google's home page in their mobile browsers and use their fingers to write out their search. This is especially handy if you want to do a search without looking down at your phone or if you are in a shaky area where it's hard to use your phone's keyboard.

To enable it, open www.google.com on your phone or tablet, go to settings, and enable "Handwrite."

Cleaner Search Results Page

This update has been long overdue. When Google launched its left-hand bar, people complained that they lost sight of what made them Google. The company was once known for having a simple, clean search page. Since the launch of the left-hand bar they've introduced the Google+ box, the Knowledge Graph, and social buttons next to the search field.

image credit: TechCrunch
Now TechCrunch (among others) is reporting that Google is slowly rolling out a new results page design. The new design removes the left-hand bar and puts all the search options and tools above the search results (right below the search box). Various blogs have been reporting on this update throughout the last 7 days. It appears it's rolling out to more and more people, which makes us think it's not just a test.