One of the best features of Google is its simplicity. With a predominately white page and simple search box set in the middle, even young children today know how to Google. And we’ve all typed in countless searches and found what we were looking for without giving Google a second thought.
But lurking behind this simple Google search box is a wealth of functionality. Whether you are looking for movie show times, checking the wheather, helping your child with math homework, or doing research for your PhD dissertation, Google search has a lot to offer.
So we are going to look at two types of Google search functionality: (1) advanced search tricks and (2) some really cool search features.
Advanced Search Tricks
Sometimes when you search for information on Google, you need ways to refine your search. Here are several tips you may not have tried before:
- Double Quotes: Sometimes you are searching for a very specific phrase. By putting double quotes (“”) around search terms, you are telling Google that you are looking for pages that contain those exact words (no synonyms) in that exact order.
- Site Specific Searches: There may be times when you want to limit your search to a specific website. You may recall an article on CNN, for example, but can’t seem to find it. To limit your search to www.cnn.com, your search would look like this: retirement cite:www.cnn.com. Obviously you would replace the word “retirement” with whatever you are searching for. As a side note, the search box you see at the top right of Dough Roller accomplishes the same thing. Search from that box, and the results returned will all be for this site (which is how most search boxes on websites function).
- Type of Site Search: While you may not want to limit your search to one site, you may want to limit your search to one type of site. This is most common when you want to search just government sites that end in .gov or education sites that end in .edu. To borrow our example above, the search retirement site:.edu, would return results for retirement only from those sites that end in .edu.
- Exclude Words: To exclude words from a search, add a minus (-) sign in front of the word. For example, you might run the following search, retirement account types -ira, to find retirement accounts other than IRAs.
- Wildcard: You can add asterisks (*) to a search phrase and Google will treat it as a placeholder for unknown terms.
You can check out more advanced search techniques here.
Cool Search Functionality
Now we get to the really fun stuff. That simple looking search box can do a lot more than just search for content on the web. So let’s put it through its paces:
- Calculator: Did you know that the search box functions as a calculator when you “search” on a math problem? Search on 2+2 and here’s what you get:
Want something a little more challenging? How about 5*9+(sqrt 10)^3=:
The calculator has come in handy when I’m trying to help my kids with algebra!
- Movie Show Times: Need to find where a movie is playing and at what time? Just enter the word “movies” followed by your zip code and you’ll get a complete listing. Enter a movie title and zip code, and Google returns show times and movie theaters were the move is playing:
- Weather: If you want to know the weather, just type in the word weather followed by the zip code. Man is it going to be hot in D.C. tomorrow:
- Earthquakes: While it might not be everyday that you want to know if there has been an earthquake, Google still has you covered. Just type in the word earthquake followed by the location of interest. Can you believe that San Francisco had two earthquakes (small ones) today:
- Currency Conversions: If you need to figure out the value of another currency, just enter the amount, followed by the currencies, as in 150 USD in pounds:
- Stock Quotes: If you want to look up a stock quote in a hurry, just enter the symbol in Google (GOOG):
- Sports Scores: The scores of your favorite teams are just a simple search away. For example, a search on “Spain Soccer Team” yields the following:
- Dictionary: Need to lookup a word? Just enter “define:” followed by the word. Google will list available definitions from websites across the internet.
- Flight Tracking: And finally, one of my favorites is checking on flights. Rather than going to the website of the airlines and trying to figure out how to check on a flight, just enter the flight number into Google:
There are even more features offered by Google. You can check out a complete list here.
Published or updated July 15, 2010.