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My experiments with Google Custom Search in a WordPress site

Google custom search“WordPress search sucks” – this you have heard a zillion times. And there are umpteen tutorials on the web about the procedure to set up Google custom search for your WordPress-powered blog/site. Most of them are well-written but some are obsolete since Google has been modifying and updating the custom search engine progressively. Things like iframe etc., are passé. The latest and by far the best tutorial is by DevPress written by Patrick Daly. But I have differed slightly from the procedure enumerated in the tutorial and tried out a few modifications myself which I wish to discuss in this article.

On Google Custom Search

As a preamble let me state that Google Custom Search Engine can be used not only to search one of your sites, but you can add any number of sites you own (or otherwise) and have the results appear on your site. You can even get the custom search the whole web too. The service is offered free by Google by serving ads. The ad-free offering is for $100 per annum. But the “Google Site Search” is altogether a different service meant for businesses looking to create a highly customized and Google hosted site search solution for a structured fee plan. The difference between these two are enumerated on this web page.

The search parameter question

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Google going full steam ahead on cloud offerings!

Google cloudGoogle has now added support for 12 new file formats in the Google Docs Viewer, in addition to Microsoft Word documents, PowerPoint presentations as well as PDF files.

The new dozen are:

  1. Microsoft Excel (.XLS and .XLSX)
  2. Microsoft PowerPoint 2007 / 2010 (.PPTX)
  3. Apple Pages (.PAGES)
  4. Adobe Illustrator (.AI)
  5. Adobe Photoshop (.PSD)
  6. Autodesk AutoCad (.DXF)
  7. Scalable Vector Graphics (.SVG)
  8. PostScript (.EPS, .PS)
  9. TrueType (.TTF)
  10. XML Paper Specification (.XPS)

Read more on Gmail Blog.

If you get any of these files as attachments, you can see a “View” prompt for opening them in Google Docs Viewer.

In addition, Google is also offering “Cloud Connect Plugin” for Microsoft Office suite. With this you can seamlessly share, backup and collaborate MS Office documents through Google Docs.

The following are the nifty things that you can do with the Google Cloud Connect:

  • Simultaneous editing for Word, PowerPoint and Excel files, no document or paragraph locking
  • Google Docs sharing URLs for each Microsoft Office file
  • Revision history for Microsoft Office files, stored in Google Docs
  • Offline editing with smart synchronization of offline changes
  • No Microsoft Office upgrade or SharePoint® deployment required

More information on this gizmo together with elaborate video tutorials can be seen at the Google Apps page.

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How I tweaked the 404 page

404errorIt may be a dead link, or a mistyped link or deleted page, image or any other media.

But it is true that web servers of Word Wide Web are busy returning “File Not Found” messages all round. It is part of the ecosystem. You can’t wish it away. After all, it is perfectly human to err, and continue to err.

So what can’t be cured may be endured in a more elegant way.

WordPress has made the process of rendering a “404 Error” page from out of the active theme itself without the need for creating one and assigning its path on the .htaccess file. You can spot a 404.php file in (almost) all themes. They are just bare-bones page merely announcing to the wanderer that he has lost his path and an error has occurred.
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Advantages of self-hosted WordPress blog

bloggerBlogger.com owned by Google, ushered in a “push-button publishing” revolution on the World Wide Web. This web-based tool enabled just anyone with a computer and internet connection, to have his words published on the internet without any knowledge of the technologies involved. Rather, just like writing something in a word processor. You type out what pops up in your mind, add pictures, press “Publish” and Bingo! Your Blog is published.

This watershed development gave a fillip to other players too to provided a similar “hosted solution” for blogging. And WordPress.com service was born. Right now it holds the second place in this arena, next only to Blogger. As of May 2009, over 6 million blogs are hosted with WordPress.com.

But both Blogger and WordPress.com fall under a “cloud” category, wherein your blog and the engine that drives it are hosted somewhere by someone and you only use that service, within the limitations of the allowed framework. That means nothing is under your control. The service provider may whimsically throw your blog out, lock, stock and barrel if he doesn’t like your face. And you can’t change any parameter. You have to live with what the landlord permits you to use!

And between these two major players, blogger.com is better since it allows you more elbow room to modify and customize. For deeper insight into this comparison, read this analysis in Pulsed’s “Blogger vs WordPress.com comparison Chart”.

But right here I am trying to bring into focus certain salient features of a self-hosted WordPress blog as against hosted solutions like WordPress.com.

WordPressAs of now there are over 9 million self-hosted WordPress blogs/sites existing in the blogosphere. That bears testimony to the popularity of a blogging software which is totally free and easy to use and more importantly you enjoy full freedom to customize, modify and enhance its features infinitely at will in a few easy steps. That makes it unique in the blogging ecosystem!

Here is a list of features of WordPress hosted by you:

  1. Complete control over look, feel, features and tools
  2. You own your content. It is in tact with you. Nobody can usurp it from under your feet
  3. You design it (or get it designed to your taste). You are not constrained by the limited offering of your service provider.
  4. There are about 7000 plugins and 650 themes – all free – which help you in customizing and enhancing the features of your blog
  5. WordPress enables you to make a regular web site sans the bloggish feel. It also functions as a CMS without being an overkill
  6. WordPress issues out a standards-compliant code and mark up
  7. It is compatible with different types of browsers and clients like handhelds, iPhone etc
  8. It is amenable to making e-commerce web sites with all requisite toolkits. Many professional sites employ WordPress for their mission critical applications and web services. You an find a snapshot of a few in the showcase.
  9. WordPress incorporates Internationalization (i18n) and Localization (l10n) techniques thus enabling fully configured non-English international websites in almost all known languages of the world.
  10. WordPress provides enormous elbow room for freelance developers to make a living out of providing support, developing themes and plugins and customized web hosting

Please come again. I’ll try to improve this list adding elements to the list as they turn up on my mind!

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