Google is a great general-purpose search engine, and is so popular that many people refer to searching for something on the Internet as “Googling”. Ubiquitous though it may be, many people do not know the full power of what Google offers, or even how to extract every ounce of granularity from their standard Google searches. With over 3 billion pages in Google’s index, you need to know how to refine those searches down to a manageable number. Google’s default search option is beyond simple (a single text input box), but several options can open up this simple input to a remarkably powerful tool that enhances your Internet exploitation. Here is a look at some of Google’s lesser-known tools.
Syntax Search Tricks
Using a special syntax is a way to tell Google that you want to restrict your searches to certain elements or characteristics of Web pages. Google has a fairly complete list of its syntax elements at www.google.com/help/operators.html. Here are some advanced operators that can help narrow down your search results.
Intitle: at the beginning of a query word or phrase (intitle:”A Tale of Two Cities”) restricts your search results to just the titles of Web pages.
Intext: does the opposite of intitle:, searching only the body text, ignoring titles, links, and so forth. Intext: is perfect when what you’re searching for might commonly appear in URLs. If you’re looking for the term HTML, for example, and you don’t want to get results such as www.mysite.com/index.html, you can enter intext:html.
Link: lets you see which pages are linking to your Web page or to another page you’re interested in. For example, try typing in link:http://www.ocmodshop.com. Try using site: (which restricts results to top-level domains) with intitle: to find certain types of pages.
For example, get scholarly pages about Mark Twain by searching for intitle:”Charles Dickens”site:edu. Mix and match various elements an you’ll develop some strategies for finding and filtering what you want. The site: command is an excellent alternative to the mediocre “dedicated” search engines implemented on some sites.
Search Within a Timeframe
Daterange: (start date–end date). You can restrict your searches to pages that were indexed within a certain time period. Daterange: searches by when Google indexed a page, not when the page itself was created.
This operator can help you ensure that results will have fresh content (by using recent dates), or you can use it to avoid a topic’s current-news blizzard and concentrate only on older results. If you were doing a research paper on pre-war Iraq, you might want to date your searches BEFORE 2003.
Daterange: is actually more useful if you go elsewhere to take advantage of it, because daterange: requires Julian dates, not standard Gregorian dates. You can find converters on the Web (such as http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/JulianDate.html), but an easier way is to do a Google daterange: search by filling in a form at http://www.researchbuzz.org/2003/09/goofresh.shtml or www.faganfinder.com/engines/google.shtml. Unfortunately some operators can’t be mixed (you can’t use the link: operator with anything else).
Google does your math homework?
Google has a number of services that can help you accomplish tasks you may never have thought to use Google for. For example, the new calculator feature (www.google.com/help/features.html#calculator) lets you do both math and a variety of conversions from the search box. In addition to math problems, it can do conversions for weights, measurements, and temperature. For extra fun, try the query “Answer to life the universe and everything.”
Google as a Spell Checker
Let Google help you figure out whether you’ve got the right spelling—and the right word—for your search. Enter a misspelled word or phrase into the query box (try “thre blund mise”) and Google may suggest a proper spelling. This doesn’t always succeed; it works best when the word you’re searching for can be found in a dictionary.
Once you search for a properly spelled word, look at the results page, which repeats your query. (If you’re searching for “ocmodshop hartware,” underneath the search window will appear a statement such as Searched the web for “ocmodshop hardware”). You’ll discover that you can click on each word in your search phrase and get a definition from a dictionary.
Phone Number Hookup
Suppose you have a person’s name or company, but don’t have their phone number with you. Google can help you using the Google Directory (www.google.com/Top/Reference/Directories/Address_and_Phone_Numbers/Yellow_Pages/). Just enter a name, city, and state. (The city is optional, but you must enter a state.) If a phone number matches the listing, you’ll see it at the top of the search results along with a map link to the address. If you’d rather restrict your results, use rphonebook: for residential listings or bphonebook: for business listings.
Voyeur on Group Sects
Google offers several services that give you a head start in focusing your search. Google Groups (http://groups.google.com) indexes literally millions of messages from decades of discussion on Usenet.
Google even helps you with your shopping via two tools: Froogle (http://froogle.google.com), which indexes products from online stores, and Google Catalogs (http://catalogs.google.com), which features products from thousands of paper catalogs in a searchable index (and this only scratches the surface). You can get a complete list of Google’s tools and services at www.google.com/options/index.html.
Certainly you’ve noticed all those special Google logos on a particular holiday? They are called Google Doodles, and you can browse through all of them at www.google.com/holidaylogos.html.