Google is fast, accurate, and fun to use, but you can get even more out of the boss of search engines. We've found more than 20 ways to customise your Google searches; locate the sites, images, and news you want more quickly; and train Google to work even more intelligently - more the way you do.
MASTER ESSENTIAL SEARCH SECRETS
Use the Toolbar: Google's handiest tool is its toolbar (http://toolbar.google.com), which augments Internet Explorer with a search field and links to other Google services. The toolbar lets you initiate a search - even an advanced one - more quickly than by loading Google's page every time. All of our tips assume that you can use the toolbar.
But there's a catch: the toolbar works only with IE 5 or later. Users of other browsers can drag and drop Google buttons onto the toolbar, instead (see www.google.com/options/buttons.html for instructions), or download GGSearch (www.frysianfools.com/ggsearch/download.asp), a third-party plug-in for Google (and other search engines) that works with most browsers, including IE.
Highlight search terms on a Web page: on some large and complex Web pages, it can be hard to find the text related to your search query. Don't despair - the Google Toolbar gives you two cool tools. Click its Google button, choose Toolbar Options, scroll to 'Finding words within a page', and fill the check boxes next to the Highlight and Word Find buttons. From now on, you can click the Highlight button on the toolbar to toggle coloured highlighting of the words in your most recent search, or you can click one of your search word icons beside the Highlight button to find the next occurrence of the search words.
Results open a new window: if you left-click a link on a Google search results page, you might lose your way back to the search results. Instead, tell Google to open a new browser window with each click - the same effect as if you use the Open in New Window option, only easier. In the Google Toolbar, click the Google button and select Search Preferences Page. Fill in the check box labelled 'Open search results in a new browser window'.
Translate whole pages: I often get search results for Web pages written in German, but English is easier for me to read. Google can translate an entire Web page from German, Spanish, French, Italian, or Portuguese into English - or vice versa. To do this, simply copy the page's address, click the Google button on the toolbar, select Language Tools, paste the copied URL into the 'Translate a web page' field, make your language selection from the drop-down list, and click Translate. Presto!
Translate foreign phrases: Google can quickly turn a phrase into French, German, Italian, Portuguese, or Spanish, or it can translate something from any of those languages into English. On the Language Tools page mentioned above, enter the phrase you want translated in the 'Translate text' box, and use the drop-down list beneath it to pick your language. Computerised translation is still in its infancy, so be warned: Google text may elicit a puzzled response from native speakers.
What's the date?: Google doesn't let you search by date, but you can work around this limitation by using plus and/or minus signs (+ or -) next to a date or year. If you want to view only articles about the 2003 tour of the band REM, for example, try "REM tour" +2003 -2000 -2001 -2002. If that's not good enough, or if you need to search by date often, try the Google Ultimate Interface (www.faganfinder.com/google.html), a cool site that lets you add more parameters for Google searches, including date ranges, file types, language, and country.
Search for Shakespeare in the original Klingon: multilingual Web searchers rejoice. You need suffer no longer the ignominy of having to use an English-language interface in Google. You can modify Google's interface so that its menus, buttons, and advanced search fields are labelled in any of 86 languages or language variations (including a few silly ones, like Elmer Fudd, and, yes, even Klingon). On the Google home page, click the Preferences link and then choose a language from the Interface Language drop-down menu located at the top of the page.
|The competition: Search alternatives offer cool features
You shouldn't rely exclusively on Google for your Web searches. From time to time, it makes sense to use one of these other search engines.
Alltheweb (www.alltheweb.com), like Google, is graphically sparse, so it responds to search requests with blazing speed. It's also hot on the heels of Google with News, Pictures, Video, Audio, and FTP file tabs. AlltheWeb is smart, too. For example, Advanced Search (under Video) lets you specify whether you want streamed or downloadable files, and in which video file format.
Ilor (www.prefound.com/) simplifies the task of keeping track of links while searching. Let your cursor hover over any link on a page of Ilor's search results, and up pops the Lorlinks menu, which contains various handy tools. One tool sticks links into a pop-up box for your convenience (you can e-mail the links to a friend later, for example). Another tool adds the saved links to your Favorites list.
ProFusion (www.profusion.com) allows you to search within 22 broad categories, including legal, living, career, technology, science, and travel. ProFusion's Alerts feature notifies you by e-mail when a designated page changes or when new results appear for search queries you specify.
Vivisimo (www.vivisimo.com) breaks down search results into category clusters, enabling you to quickly choose the most valuable URLs. If you search on 'scuba', for example, Vivisimo builds a left pane with sub-categories such as magazines, equipment, and islands. You can also search any of 30 specific sites or portals.
FIND PEOPLE, PLACES, AND THINGS
What did others think of this site?: What do people on other Web sites have to say about the pages you find? Instead of conducting a normal search, give WebQuotes (http://labs.google.com/cgi-bin/webquotes) a spin. The results include commentary (if there is any) about the result pages, published by other Web sites. You'll get the most value out of this tool on queries about large, well-known Web sites. For example, enter amazon into WebQuotes to see what others have to say about the online bookseller.
News you choose: Google News (http://news.google.com), though comprehensive and frequently updated, can't be customised. Maybe you want only business news. Try this: drag the linked name of a section, like Business, to IE's Links toolbar, and then click that link when you want to see that news. Links to the other Google news sections appear on the left side of each news section's page.
Find words within a URL: if you know part of the URL, precede your Google search terms with allinurl: to search for words within the URL itself. For instance, if you're looking for a Sony remote control, you might try allinurl: sony remote control.
Did Google grab your site?: Ever wondered whether your Web site is listed in Google's database? For the fewest and most accurate hits, substitute your Web site's domain name for each example in example site:www.example.com, and enter it into Google's search box.
Get images immediately: need a picture of, say, a 1949 Ford hot rod? Google Image Search (http://images.google.com) found more than a dozen. For best results, select Advanced Image Search and start with the 'related to the exact phrase' field. You can sharpen your search by choosing specific file types, or a particular image size or colour.
CLEAN UP YOUR SEARCH RESULTS
More search for your click: if you have a broadband connection, don't limit yourself to 10 results per page. You can raise the count to 30 results per page for a scant additional delay of a nanosecond or two. Make the changes in Google's Preferences page (in the Google Toolbar, click the Google button and choose Search Preferences Page).
Trim excess results: Google probably gives you more results than you want if you're searching for something popular, like 'Beatles'. Instead of trying to wade through the almost 2.7 million results (in this case), tighten your search by first choosing Music under the Arts category in Google's Directory (http://directory.google.com).
Use the Adult Filter: to banish adult-orientated text and images from search results, click Google's Preferences link, scroll down to SafeSearch Filtering, and select Use Strict Filtering.
Grab an opinion: there's no better place to find out what others think - about pretty much anything - than on Google Groups, an archive of Usenet discussion group posts. But you can easily find yourself overwhelmed by huge numbers of results. Narrow your search by using Google's Advanced Groups Search page (www.google.com/advanced_group_search), and change the Message Dates drop-down to something more manageable - say, past year.
Get more results: if you're faced with too few search results, it's time to use Google's 'Similar Pages' link and check whether Google's 'repeat the search with the omitted results included' option is included at the bottom of the page. In many cases, you can glean enough information to make that search (or the next one) successful.
View in HTML: Google often lists Adobe PDF files in results. To browse the contents of these without opening Acrobat Reader, click the View as HTML link. The presentation isn't always pretty, but you can get a quick look at the text to help you decide whether to download the whole caboodle.
Drill down with wild-card searches: to find a phrase or quote, you don't have to know the entire line. Wrap a portion of the quote that you know in quotation marks; to get better results, add related words, such as the speaker's name.
|Google section||What you can do|
|Search for or browse categories organising hundreds of thousands of products for sale on retail Web sites or at auctions.|
|Google Advanced Search
|Start here for searches where you need more control - Advanced Search lets you customise 12 aspects of your search criteria.|
|Ask self-appointed experts for answers to difficult-to-solve problems, for as little as $US2.50 per question.|
|Narrow your search to just pages in Australia or access the local version of Google News.|
|Browse the Web, drilling down to the specific topic categories and sub-categories that you want.|
|Find word definitions not only from dictionaries, but also from references in medical, legal, scientific, and scholarly Web sites.|
|Browse archived posts of Usenet newsgroups going back to the late 1970s, or post new messages in discussion groups.|
|Google Image Search
|Search more than 425 million publicly accessible images from every site Google spiders, by file name, description, or keyword.|
|Google Language Tools
|Change Google's user interface to any of 86 languages; translate French, German, Italian, Portuguese, or Spanish Web pages.|
|View news stories culled from news and information Web sites around the globe. Site updates every five minutes.|
|Google University Search
|Search content spidered from university Web sites, including campus news and class schedules.|
|Scroll to the bottom of the Language Tools page to open a localised Google for any of more than 50 countries and territories.|