10 Simple Google Search Tricks

77 Comments

I’m always amazed that more people don’t know the little tricks you can use to get more out of a simple Google (s goog) 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?

77 Comments

Chris van Engelen

The time trick only seems to work when the query includes “hl=en”, like in the example. When I use it from the Google text input in My Safari browser, the query is “search?rls=en&q=time+san+francisco”, and this does not work. Any body has any idea?

sime0n

Fill in the blanks (*)
The *, or wildcard, is a little-known feature that can be very powerful. If you include * within a query, it tells Google to try to treat the star as a placeholder for any unknown term(s) and then find the best matches. For example, the search [ Google * ] will give you results about many of Google’s products. The query [ Obama voted * on the * bill ] will give you stories about different votes on different bills. Note that the * operator works only on whole words, not parts of words.

Chuck Hildebrandt

Here are a couple of others I use a lot:

When I want to see when a celebrity or public figure was born or died, I type their name and “born” or died”, such as “Chris Rock born” or “George Wallace died”

When I want to see the score of the game, or when the next game is, I type in the name of the team: “Detroit Tigers”.

When I want to know the definition of a word, I type in “define:” and the word, as in “define:accede”.

Silvio

I wonder about resource efficiency giving that each google search is reported to consume as much as 1 hour of an 11W light bulb.
While e.g. tips 1 or 7 render more specific results and thus need less clicks/energy, task from tips 2, 3 and 4 might well be more efficiently done locally or via special websites and not delivering unwanted ads.

Stephen Margolis

phonebook: lastname state zip

phonebook must be all lower case followed by colon

zip is best, use standard 2-letter abbreviation for State

This was part of Google Labs, worked for a while, stopped working, now works again. Look up your own phone to test. Land lines only.

Lars-Erik

Being a translator, I often search for terminology in other languages than my own and English. In this case, I use ixquick.com, which is a meta-search engine. It’s using Google for sure, but also a lot of more or less specialised local search engines in areas where the language is spoken. You know, Google contains only about one third of all Web content, and sometimes these small, local search engines will find something useful that Google ignores.
http://www.ixquick.com/uk/aboutixquick/

kit crump

type a known area code and/or the @ sign and the name of a person to find their phone numbers and/or email address(es).

PPK

BTW, all of these work on Yahoo as well, in case you prefer not to use Google (like me).

Alex

if you enter to it allows you to search for plane tickets on major ticket sites really quickly – try it out

Laurel Ferejohn

Thanks for great new (to me) info and reminders. I often use quote marks to zero in on something. E.g., I often need to find the source of a quote or its exact wording.

kissu

are there limits to how many operators you can use at once?

JB in San Diego

Some of my other favorite tricks
– You didn’t describe the usefulness of double quoted phrases, though you used that trick in some of your examples.
– When you use the “weather” trick, include your zip code.
– type air airline and a flight number to track that flight
– type a UPS or FedEx tracking number, and get the status of your package
– type a movie title and your zip code and find out theaters and show times

More tricks shown here:
http://www.google.com/intl/en/help/features.html

Jeff Briere

My favorite is quotation marks. Put quotes around your search phrase and Google will return only the pages with the words in the exact order you entered them.

BillWare

Tried:
stock quote QQQQ

and got today’s chart, present quote and other info about today’s trading plus other general info about the stock.

nj46chief

I’ve used the googmeister to fix cars! Many times, not just once. Once had a 96 Taurus, while driving, the radio would stop, the windows wouldn’t work, occasionally. googled these symptoms and got the culprit, the TRS (neutral safety switch). $19 later, done. Took me to a Ford chat room, where a guy had the same problem.

BECKY

I like to let Google do the searching for me, via Google Alerts. I type in the search terms I want to keep track of (the name of a competitor in my field, parties in a court case, a new piece of hardware), tell Google whether I want a Comprehensive search (yields a lot of meaningless hits) or a News search (much more useful), and how often I want it to report back to me with its search results. Automated search!

Rowby

When you do a search on a website I sometimes click on the “cache” version — this especially works when I get to a page not found. I go back to google and click on the cache’s version of the page — and it will usually bring up the “deleted” page.

…Rowby

Ken

Do these tips work for many other search engines such as Bing, webcrawler, dogpile, etc.?

Greg
  1. The OR operator: “or” should be all caps.

(Nice job on getting on the Times’ top 10!)

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