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That’s a Wicked Google-y!: Refine Your Googling with Search Operators and Latent Functionality

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I’ve written previously here at the blog about some of the nifty applications and programs that the folks over at Google have introduced. Not that I ever really get into web stuff, but I have been generally impressed with Google. My like affair began when I made two almost concurrent moves: I stopped searching in Yahoo! and went to Google, and I switched my email over from Hotmail (Hotmail used to be good, but the new Hotmail (Windows Live) really, really, really . . . really sucks) to GMail. I love the threading of conversations, GChat and the search features in GMail. Google searching is much better than Yahoo! searching, and I don’t know why I wasn’t searching Google from the beginning: Oh, it was because Google wasn’t around when I was younger. Wow, I guess that makes me old. Depressing. And, I don’t know why I wasn’t using GMail from the start, either: oh yeah, see above. Damn. It’s gonna be a long weekend. If there is one thing that I have learned about the Google Universe, it is that it is vast, and there is always more to learn. As the great Socrates knew, I am now knowing that I know nothing. This makes for a lot to learn.

So, I was at a debate tournament this past weekend. (I know what you’re thinking. Wow! A debate tournament. Jared is even cooler than I thought he was. I know, I know. It’s a burden I’ve carried my whole life. It is difficult, but we all have our crosses to bear.) So, one of the coaches is talking about searching in Google, and how you can limit searches to specific websites (The New York Times, for example) or specific website types (.gov, .org, for example). Overhearing this, I immediately put down my Hershey’s dark chocolate (for the antioxidants) bar down, and eavesdropped. (I didn’t pick it back up–flu season and all.) And, of course, my first thought was not for myself, but for the faithful readers of the LOMAP Blog. Yes. Another week I would not have to think about my own topic: I had my blog post for the week of Halloween.

The search for Google search operators could only lead to one place: Google. A Google search for Google search operators yielded favorable results. And, what I learned was that my grail cup was overflowing, and that Google had unshrouded its mysteries, so easily. So, there was more to the story: there are a number more of helpful Google search operators to apply to the refining of your searches.

Most of you probably know about some of the simpler operations here: putting quotation marks around a phrase will make for an “exact phrase” search (for “exact phrase”, in this case–creepy); placing an OR between search terms means that your results will yield either of those options (Boston Red Sox 2004 OR 2007, for example); and, you can exclude certain terms from search by placing a minus sign before them (the Google web search help page gives a great example: jaguar –car –football –o(perating)s(ystem)). Beyond the simpler search operators, there are also some further nifty tricks (and treats) you can use: to search within one site, use the “site:” term before the website at which you’d like to search exclusively (balloon boy site: nytimes, for example); you can include an asterisk within the search box if you want Google to attempt to supply a missing word (try “jumbo *”–I thought I’d get jumbo shrimp, or something. Instead no, I end up reading through to a depressing story of an elephant that they hanged in Tennessee. Only in Tenessee, home of Miley Cyrus (well, pending the resolution of the Hannah Montana Movie, whatever that is) and Andrew Johnson. There appears a good lift of other, deep discovered search operators available at the Google Guide, which is unaffiliated with, and unendorsed by, Google: here’s a list, and a guide specific to using the search operators. Most of the simpler, and simpler complex, search operators, are on display, with examples, at the Google basic search help page.

In my travels around the Googlosphere, I also picked up on some other interesting uses for the Google search engine, that serve to convert it to some other operation. Let me explain: Need a calculator? Punch “9 x 3” into Google, and see what results. Here’s a hint: the answer. Google can also do far more sophisticated calculations, as well, for you interested math majors out there. And, I do wish that this was around when I was in 10th grade and had to buy that redonculously expensive graphing calculator. In addition to making calculations, Google can also run certain mathematical conversions (try 145 miles in km, for example). You can also access stock information by typing in the ticker symbol (try CSCO, for Cisco), find weather reports (type weather Boston MA) and even locate natural phenomena (try earthquake Cincinnati OH) like historical regional earthquakes. The Richter Scale comes home . . . well, not too close to home, but you get the idea, like, near at hand, or something.

Google is pretty good about providing information on some of these latent search tips if you know where to look, and start looking there. The Google search features page and unaffiliated Google Guide (which provides an historical record of Google search features added through September 2005) were pretty easily discoverable, and pretty helpful, too. If you use iGoogle, you can get Daily Google Tips broadcast to your homepage. Sign up here.

One of my favorite things about these Google search tricks (or treats, depending on how you look at them), is that the good folks at Google have extended the concept to the GMail search function, which was, even absent advanced search options, one of the best features of GMail to begin with. The GMail search operators are even easier to use than some of the headier Google search operators. Some of my particular favorites include: searching in folders (in: inbox/in: trash/in: spam); searching by message type (is: starred/is: unread/is: read); searching by to:/from:/subject:; searching with date restrictions (before: 2009/10/31; after: 2009/10/31); and, searching by attachment (filename: report (name)/PDF (type)). All of the GMail searching tools are available for your perusal, here. This help section also includes a short video link, generally covering the GMail search features.

If Google dressed up for Halloween, it would be a ghost, because, after reading this blog post, you can see right through it.

For Halloween this year, I am a Law Practice Management Advisor. Crazy Pickle Arm was taken.

Speaking of Halloween, let’s award some things, apropos of nothing:

Best Costume: Wolfman/Werewolf

Best Song: (tie) “Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers; “Thriller” by Michael Jackson; “Savoy Truffle” by The Beatles

Best Candy: “100 Grand” (eaten) by me

Best Monetary Gift: 100 Grand

Worst Train Commute: the Newburyport/Rockport Line (passing through Salem)

(Hey, Wait, that’s my line. Check that. New best costume: Disgruntled Lawyer.)

Thanks to Professor Susan Miskelly, of Bridgewater State College, for jogging this post out of me by referring to the site specific search available through Google.

CATEGORIES: Productivity | Technology

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