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Summary:

I’m always amazed that more people don’t know the little tricks you can use to get more out of a simple Google search. Here are 10 of my favorites.

I’m always amazed that more people don’t know the little tricks you can use to get more out of a simple Google search. Here are 10 of my favorites.

  1. Use the “site:” operator to limit searches to a particular site. I use this one all the time, and it’s particularly handy because many site’s built-in search tools don’t return the results you’re looking for (and some sites don’t even have a search feature). If I’m looking for WWD posts about GTD, for example, I could try this search: GTD site:webworkerdaily.com.
  2. Use Google as a spelling aid. As Rob Hacker — the WWD reader I profiled last week — pointed out, entering a word into Google is a quick way to see if you have the right spelling. If it’s incorrect, Google will suggest the correct spelling instead. Additionally, if you want to get a definition of a word, you can use the “define:” operator to return definitions from various dictionaries (for example, define: parasympathetic).
  3. Use Google as a calculator. Google has a built-in calculator — try entering a calculation like 110 * (654/8 + 3). Yes, your computer also has a calculator, but if you spend most of your day inside a browser, typing your calculation into the browser’s search box is quicker than firing up your calculator app.
  4. Find out what time it is anywhere in the world. This one’s really handy if you want to make sure that you’re not phoning someone in the middle of the night. Just search for “time” and then the name of the city. For example, try: time San Francisco
  5. Get quick currency conversions. Google can also do currency conversion, for example: 100 pounds in dollars. If you would like to convert minor currencies, be sure to be specific about the country. So, if you want to find out how many nuevos soles your dollars might buy, you could try: 100 dollars in Peruvian nuevos soles.
  6. Use the OR operator. This can be useful if you’re looking at researching a topic but you’re not sure which keywords will return the information you need. It can be particularly handy in conjunction with the “site:” operator. For example, you could try this search: GTD OR “getting things done” site:webworkerdaily.com
  7. Exclude specific terms with the – operator. You can narrow your searches using this operator. For example, if you’re looking for information about American Idol but don’t want anything about Simon Cowell, you could try: “american idol” -cowell
  8. Search for specific document types. Google can search the web for specific types of files using the “filetype:” operator. If you’re looking for PowerPoint files about GTD, for example, you could try: GTD filetype:ppt
  9. Search within numerical ranges using the .. operator. Say, for example, you want to look for information about Olympic events that took place in the 1950’s, you could use this search: Olympics 1950..1960
  10. Area code lookup. Need to know where a phone number is located? Google will let you know where it is, and show you a map of the area, too. For example: 415

What are your favorite Google search tricks?

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  1. for the “site” operator use:

    javascript:Qr=prompt(‘Search%20Site%20for’,”);if(Qr)location.href=’http://www.google.com/search?&q=site:’+encodeURIComponent(window.location.hostname)+’+’+escape(Qr)

    Drag it to your bookmarks bar, give it a name, and give it a try.

    1. For some reason, which I will endeavour to discover, this is not now working.

      1. ProjectSyndicate Joan Mas Monday, April 5, 2010

        Joan, it worked after replacing the characters that are at the moment with normal apostrophes ie ‘ .

      2. The second parameter on the prompt() should be 2 apostrophe, not a double quote. Nice trick though.

        javascript:Qr=prompt(‘Search%20Site%20for’,”);if(Qr)location.href=’http://www.google.com/search?&q=site:’+encodeURIComponent(window.location.hostname)+’+’+escape(Qr)

  2. Fantastic tips for “getting the juice” to Google!!!. If you want to search in Google the definition of a word, just use the keywords: “define: word” (more the word you want the meaning)

    1. Yep, I noted “define:” in point 2 :)

    2. I also love that you can text D and a word to GOOGLE (466453) and you will get an immediate text back with the definition

      1. very cool! I just tried it. I will remember this one. Thanks, Erin!

  3. Joshua Guffey Thursday, April 1, 2010

    Nice! I knew about and have used all except number 9. I’m always using these operators to tweek searchs. It’s so very powerful.

    You can also use the site: operator for some pretty amazing Twitter search results.

    -@JoshuaGuffey

  4. Your trick #2 does not work, for the reason that spelling and grammar is not a democracy. So some words are incorrectly spelled, by the majority. When you use google, you will replicate this behaviour more. When the spelling doesn’t matter, why check? If it does, use a proper site!

    1. It does, because google will know the correct word not because of the majority, but because of the huge r&d of google linguistics. So they basically know the correct word plus the common mistakes to provide you with a corrected version of your input.
      So they are not suggesting you the way most people on the web write it.

  5. Regarding tip #4, it works even better if you type “time in” followed by a location. For instance, when typing “time in san francisco” it will actually show you the time in the suggestion dropdown…you don’t even have to hit enter.

    1. that’s nice tip, though it doesn’t work from Firefox’s search bar, only the Google site

  6. USPS, UPS & Fedex tracking codes can be entered to get updates from their real time APIs about what city the package is in or if it is sitting on your doorstep.

    I just tested it again with Fedex and have done the others in the past.

  7. Chandra Clarke Thursday, April 1, 2010

    Thanks – I knew about most of these, but hadn’t seen the one about time before. I’ll be using that one a lot!

  8. For #2, I suggest using the define: operator. If you type “define:nuisance” into Google, for example, you get definitions of the word ‘nuisance’ from various Internet sources; if you misspell a word, say by typing “define:noisance”, you get a suggestion for the right spelling (“Did you mean: nuisance?”).

    Also, an addendum to #5: Google can convert all sorts of figures and values for you, not just currency. Try entering “12 miles in kilometers” or “10 years in minutes“. It doesn’t work for everything, though…at least, not yet.

    1. I did note the “define:” operator in point 2, but it’s under the image so perhaps you missed it.

      1. Your #2 only mentions define: as a way to get the definition. Your “spelling” suggestion was to enter the word and let Google suggest a correctly spelled alternative.
        Oh? Enter “alot” and see whether Google correctly apprehends that you’re an illiterate idiot in need of spelling help. There are other similar malapropisms being perpetuated all over the web.
        Anyone serious about spelling should ALWAYS use define: or, better still, consult a dictionary (digital or paper).

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  10. Nice trick!

    I would like to find also nice search “strategies”.

    For istance looking for info regarding a deasease, or a business model, or a trend, or a scientific method, ecc… could be done both using naif terms to define it or with the proper terms. The first will provide you “naif” info and website, the second will provide you “technical” info and website.

    For example: searching “organize documents in a website” will not provide as many technical resources and info as searching “card sorting”. The first will direct you to general web site with easy to understand resources, the second will direct you to interesting website with specific resources.

    That’s why you shouldn’t search directly to the info you need, but first you should make 3-4 searches looking to the “right keywords” you need, especially when you search something that could be an accademic field of study. <— This is an example of “strategy” and I would lke to read more of these; you don’t need to be an expert, because everybody of us has their own strategies; we should just share them more.

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