Much more than a search engine

JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin
JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin
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Alan Stainer runs an IT company specialising in technical advice and support and website design, based in the Horsham District. In each column he’ll look at issues affecting computer use.

When you want to find something on the internet, the chances are you will use Google’s search engine. Google is so popular it has entered the common vernacular. To Google something, means doing a search online. Google Search is much more than simply entering a few keywords into a text box. It has changed quite a lot over the years and there are many things you probably hadn’t realised you can do.

Surround your keywords in quotes (“”) to search for phrases, rather than individual words. For example, “friends, romans, countrymen” will return results with only that phrase. Search is case insensitive, so don’t worry about using capital letters.

Adding a minus sign (-) before a keyword excludes it from search results. So cheese -feta will display everything about cheese, but not feta.

Search for a range of things by adding two periods (..) between two terms. For instance beatles 1960..1965 returns anything about The Beatles between the years specified.

If you misspell something, Google Search will automatically offer you results for the correct spelling. You can search for dictionary definitions by adding define: before a keyword. For instance, define:computer

Typing an equation returns the answer, plus a calculator app for you to do more calculations. Try searching for 365*2 or sin(123) and see what you get.

If you want to search a specific website for something, add site: before the web address. “alan stainer” site:wscountytimes.co.uk will return all articles with my name on the West Sussex County Times website. More recently, Google have introduced Authorship (which uses Google+). So, in the example above you will see my Google+ avatar next to one or more articles, together with a byline and some other details.

In the last week Google announced a further improvement. Searching for your favourite TV show returns more information, including a list of episodes and the date they were aired. Try searching for doctor who and see the result.