Google by the bundle

Get a bundle of popular programs and keep them up-to-date with Google's auto-updater.

Google Pack is another useful idea from those nearly ubiquitous, ever-industrious Google folks. The Pack takes a bunch of disparate but essential programs, tosses in the entirety of the Google desktop suite, then loads and automatically updates all of them as future changes are made. A pre-installation checklist lets users opt in or out, and the program is flexible enough to allow users to change their choices easily after installation.

The latest version adds options to download Google's browser, Chrome, in addition to or instead of Mozilla's Firefox with Google Toolbar. From Google's repertoire come Earth, Desktop, Talk, Picasa, Photo Screensavers, and the Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer. There's also Skype, RealPlayer, Adobe Reader, Spyware Doctor Starter Edition, and a six-month subscription to Norton's Security Scan. StarOffice, a suite of word processing and spreadsheet tools, and Ad-Aware have been nixed from previous versions.

It's encouraging to see a range of programs being offered, though it would be nice to see Google Pack, which is a not-so-subtle Googlification of the Microsoft Windows Updater, cover a wider range of applications. Shockwave and Flash would be good places to start, as would QuickTime or a good, freeware FTP program.

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