Every day we type searches into that little box in our browsers, and think no better of it. After all, Google knows everything, right? But then comes along that one query that, despite your best efforts, just can’t give you the answers you’re looking for: 50,000 results here, 40,000 results there! What do you do now?
Don’t panic! With just a few tips and tricks, you too can be a search superhero.
Entering in search terms willy-nilly into your browser’s search bar is often good enough, but sometimes the results are just too overwhelming to sift through. Think about your deadlines! Trim down and get specific with some basic yet useful operators to make your searches more accurate. Note that these operators will work with most of the search engines powering the Internet today—and certainly with the three bigwigs: Google, Bing, and Yahoo!.
Searching for Exact Terms with Double Quotes
The most basic operator to help you search is the use of double quotation marks (“ “). Every term within the quotes will be searched exactly as they are, which means that searching for “crocs sale” would get you results specifically regarding sales for Crocs, rather than all results involving Crocs and sales.
Narrow It Down with the Minus Sign
Want a more specific search instead? Using the minus (-) operator helps trim down your searches. Say you wanted to search for flu first aid but don’t want any results involving the recent swine flu, you would do a search for flu first aid –swine flu.
The Asterisk, AKA “Whatchamacallit”
Don’t know quite exactly what you’re looking for? The asterisk (*) acts as a wild card for terms you want Google to “guess” at, which is perfect for searching for a particular title or song lyric or phrase that’s just on the tip of your tongue. Searching for gwen stefani lyrics * refrigerator would probably have helped all those American Idol contestants during Hollywood Week!
Looking for something on your blog or Twitter feed but just can’t seem to find it using the built-in search? The site (site:) operator helps narrow down your search to just a specific website. So typing site:femalenetwork.com pets into a major browser’s search field, for example, will search Female Network for all pages containing the term “pets.”
Finding Particular Filetypes
Not after a site but a particular file or document instead? Looking for a PDF of a government report or an Excel spreadsheet to help you do your finances? Searching by filetype (filetype:) is your friend in these situations. A search for filetype:pdf gdp south america gives some very interesting results regarding South American economy, for example.
“SECRET” GOOGLE FEATURES
Not content with just searching the web, Google also has additional, less-known features that can help with your day-to-day tasks. You never know when these might save your hide when you need to find a quick answer!
- Did you know Google can do your math problems for you? Try entering in an equation like 254 * ((19+21)^4 ) and look at the top of the results to see Calculator in action.
- Traveling in the near future and trying to figure out how much money to bring? Get currency conversion in a snap by using the built-in currency converter! Typing in 500 usd in php will tell you how much pocket money you should bring on your Stateside trip, and 15000 php in hkd gives me my budget for shopping in Hong Kong this weekend.
- Speaking of traveling, what time is it right now where you’re going? Searching for time in new york or any major city will let you know how to set your watches.
- Reading a good article online and don’t have a dictionary handy for that big word? Typing define lethologica into the search field is an exercise in irony!
See the rest of Google’s hidden features at http://www.google.com.ph/intl/en/help/features.html!
OTHER FISH IN THE SEA
While Google is popular and oftentimes the best search engine to go to for finding stuff online, don’t count the other alternatives out just yet, especially for specific needs.
For Money Matters
Into investments and trading on the stock market? Can’t get any better than Yahoo! Finance, considered by many to be a fantastic resource for financial news and information about public companies. Make more money today at http://finance.yahoo.com/.
Math Mess Messiah
Need a bit more than simple math equations? Graphing and derivatives perhaps? Banish your homework (or your kid’s) with Wolfram Alpha (WA). Try entering in x^2 sin(x) into WA and prepare to be amazed. Don’t forget to study the solution though; this tool isn’t meant to let you cheat!
Got any more searching tips and tricks? Feel free to share them in the comments! You can also check your search-savviness with this quick quiz.
(Magnifying glass photo source: sxc.hu)