You're always welcome at Google, but wouldn't it be nice if Google came to you on occasion? Google Alerts enable you to specify topics you want to track (Hurricane Ivan, election polls, the latest Survivor odds) and deliver news updates as well as the latest changes to websites directly to your email inbox. Alerts are also a useful tool for tracking what's doing in business, whether you request updates about your own company or your competitors. Currently in test (beta) mode, Google Alerts are yours for free (no asterisks or strings attached).

To set yours up, go to the Google Alerts home page. Just specify a keyword, the type of alert you want (news, website, or both), delivery options (daily, weekly, or as it happens), and an email address. You can receive alerts in either plain text or HTML format. You can also access a central console to create new alerts, check their status or edit your existing topics. Alerts are available in English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Chinese (simplified) and (traditional).

- Adam Smith
Google Alerts product manager