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Catalogs: Search and Browse Mail-Order Catalogs

NOTE: Google no longer supports the Catalog service.

After acquiring a fancy scanner, Larry Page, co-founder of Google, encouraged engineers to come up with a search service that would take advantage of its speed and flexibility. Lauren Baptist started by developing a service around mail-order catalogs because they posed the least copyright issues. Some vendors have better pictures in their catalogs than on the websites. Now you can throw out your mail-order catalogs and browse or search for their contents online, even if the company hasn’t listed them on the web. Visit catalogs.google.com/. But, if you don’t have a high speed connection, the catalog pages load slowwwwwly.

Screen shot of Google Catalogs home page.

Google tries a lot of things. Some projects succeed and are supported; others fade away. As of this writing (mid-2008), Google Catalogs seems to be one that may fade away. For instance, some catalogs in the Computer category are from 2002 or 2003 — an eternity in that fast-paced market.

Another interesting point about a not-so-developed service like Catalogs is that not all search features may be supported. For instance, searching by price with the numeric range operator, like $250..$1000, would be useful in a catalog search. But that operator was developed after Catalogs, which may explain why it doesn’t work.

Still, the service is interesting — and some of the catalogs are fairly up-to-date. Since IKEA gives out their catalogs sparingly, check out their catalog online.

View IKEA's mail-order catalog online.

Like Google Product Search, Catalogs doesn’t sell things. Instead, use this service to browse and/or search print page catalogs. For example, search for a sun hat.

Google Catalogs search box with [ sun hats ].  

Screen shot of results from a Catalogs search for [ sun hats ]

As with other Google services, the Advanced Catalog Search gives you more search choices. Advanced search lets you choose the latest issue of a catalog or all issues. You can also name a certain merchant.

For more information on Google Catalogs visit catalogs.google.com/googlecatalogs/help.html.

Exercises

These problems give you practice with shopping with Google Catalogs. For hints and answers to selected problems, see the Solutions page.

  1. Find 100% cotton comforter covers.
  2. Find radios at a consumer electronics store. Then try a general search and notice that merchants in other categories may also have radios.
  3. Tired of putting on sun screen? Find sun-protective clothing.

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This page was last modified on: Tuesday April 14, 2009

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By Nancy Blachman and Jerry Peek who aren't Google employees. For permission to copy & create derivative works, visit Google Guide's Creative Commons License webpage.

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