Sunday, December 16, 2007

New GSD Blog "Power Search" & Hidden iGoogle Themes

One of the reasons why I started this blog was to provide a place to the links that I need to access or reference.

Sometimes I don't have my trusty USB sysadmin stick with me and need a utility.  But I can't quite find the link.

Or maybe I want to load a desktop wallpaper on a friend's system, but can't remember the specific one.

Stuff like that.

Adding the category/tag cloud helps narrow the entries down, but that can be a lot to sort through.

Then there is the Google "search-this-blog" field at the top.  It's handy when I am looking for a specific word, but it has some shortcomings; the biggest is that the key-word(s) are not highlighted in the blog posts.  So I have to use Firefox's search to hone-in them.

I began wondering if there wasn't a better Google-powered search API I could add that would give my blog a more powerful search ability.

After a bit of work, I found one; from Google's Blogger believe it or not.

It's now installed under our picture in the sidebar.  And I am very pleased.

Google Custom Search module

If you use the Google Blogger templates, you probably know by now that you can add a number of modules into your blog very simply; clicking the "Add a New Page Element" link presents Blogger users with the following elements:

  • Slideshow (New) - photo-stream
  • Poll (New) - create your own visitor surveys
  • List - show off a list of items
  • Link List - hyperlink collection
  • Picture - add a graphic
  • AdSense - make money on referring ads
  • Text - text field
  • HTML/JavaScript - advanced code additions
  • Feed - insert RSS feed sources into your blog,
  • Labels - list your posts' category or tags
  • Newsreel - feed Google News elements onto your page
  • Video Bar - add YouTube and Google Video clips
  • Logo - splash you blog with Google Blogger logo
  • Profile - add a box to display info about your Blogger profile
  • Blog Archive - link to older blog posts,
  • Page Header - display blog title and description.

Notice here that there isn't any offerings for a search element.  Luckily Google Custom Search Blog team has a solution...and it is easy to do.

Rock your Blogger Blog Searches!

This widget isn't very well known...but it provides an amazing amount of power to aid visitors (and you) in searching your blog.

Not only can you search your blog, but you can extend the search scope across all the link lists,blog-rolls and the links themselves you've made within your blog and posts.

To get it do this:

  1. Click this link to Blogger's draft/beta website:
  2. Log in just like you would normally do to your Blogger account.
  3. Your usual Blogger Dashboard should appear.
  4. Click on the Manage Layout link for your blog.
  5. Click on an "Add a Page Element" link.
  6. Select "Add to Blog" under the "Search Box" element.
  7. Now go and edit the Search Box element.
  8. You can include a tab to search only your blog, search pages you've linked to from your blog posts, and you can include Web-wide searches.

Save your changes and save your template changes.


Notice that when a search is performed, it temporarily inserts a mid-sized search-results box field at the top of your posts.  You can select each tab you want, depending on what you are looking for.  The search-word(s) are bolded and now easy to pick out in the post/result context allowing you to quickly sift-through the results.  If you want to see additional links, a background page will open in your browser with the normal Google page-search format for larger results listing view.

It's really slick and will enhance your blog searching ability.

Other beta/draft elements you might want to look into are:

  • Gadget - lets you add many of the Google Gadgets to your blog
  • Subscription Links - allows subscription to your blog from additional feed-readers.

Search your blog world - Google Custom Search blog.

Learn more about the Blogger Draft zone for Bloggers.

Hidden Themes for iGoogle

When I started my life on the net I used the Excite! portal as my homepage.  That eventually got switched to Yahoo! and finally my own blog page.

Google offers users a customizable iGoogle portal page.  Widgets galore and some themes may be applied to it.

The theme choices rotate a bit, and some contain amusing "Easter Eggs".  However there really isn't as big a theme selection as say My Yahoo! offers.

Google Blogoscoped recently found two "hidden" themes you can use, if you know the trick.

One is called "TC" and is a subtly modified version of the default iGoogle theme.  The other is an urban skater-girl theme that is dark and a bit edgy.  Good stuff.

If you read through the comments, there is also a way to get the Carbon Footprint theme.

It is a bucolic view of cows grazing on green grass meadows.

  1. Log into your iGoogle page.
  2. copy and paste the following script in your address bar (blank the address bar out first!): javascript:_dlsetp('preview_skin=skins/carbon_footprint.xml');
  3. <Enter>
  4. The new "hidden" theme should appear.
  5. Click "Save" in the theme selection section on the page-body
  6. Done!

If you are interested, hop this link and get modding!

Happy searching and iGoogle themeing!


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