Google Updates Toolbar

Google released a new version of its toolbar Sunday night, and added one designed for the enterprise.

Google Toolbar 4.0 broadens its focus and functionality beyond Google Search, adding four new features: custom buttons, Web-based bookmarks and site-specific search.

“Custom buttons go to the heart of the personalization we’ve done,” said Sundar Pichai, group product manager of client software at Google. “We wanted a scalable way by which each user could customize the toolbar in meaningful way.”

The custom buttons allow users to search a favorite site from the toolbar. For example, if you usually get your tech news from, with a custom button you could type your query into the toolbar search box, and then click the button to search the site. Results appear in a drop-down menu within the button.

End users can select buttons from a button gallery; Google expects to launch with 50 buttons. Users also can right-click on a search box on any Web site to add it as a custom button. Simple APIs will let content creators quickly make their own buttons.

On a Web page or blog, publishers can create custom buttons that say, “Click this to add our site to your custom toolbar.” Those who click will be referred to Google, where they’ll be offered the opportunity to download the toolbar if they haven’t already.

“It could turn out to be that there is opportunity for us to reach more people, as well as for Webmasters to reach more users,” Pichai said. He added that the feature will be most useful to those who are heavy consumers of a particular site. “We just want users to define what’s meaningful to them.”

The second new feature is bookmarking. While browsers already make it easy to bookmark a page, Othman Laraki, product manger for Google Toolbar, pointed out that they’re PC-centric. By clicking on a yellow star on the toolbar, users can save bookmarks to Google’s servers, where they’ll be accessible from an Internet connection, as long as the person has signed in to a Google account.

The search box itself was enhanced with more options: As a query is typed, the toolbar corrects spelling, offers Google Suggestions and shows relevant bookmarks.

“It’s a very dynamic and quick way to refine queries,” Pichai said.

A Send To button lets toolbar users transmit a link as a Gmail message, SMS or a Blogger post.

Google also released its first toolbar for the enterprise. It has the same functionality as Google Toolbar 4.0, adding management tools for IT administrators. Google Toolbar Enterprise Edition complies with Microsoft Group Policy, enabling admins to centrally manage access to features and deployment of the toolbar itself.

Pichai suggested that enterprise administrators configure the toolbar with custom buttons to search their company’s intranet or specific parts of it, such as the employee contact list.

Google plans to make the latest toolbar available in 16 languages by the end of the quarter. Version 4.0 is in beta, but Pichai said its beta status would be removed in the next two to three months.

News Around the Web