Use Google like a pro (Feature)
By Jay Dougherty Jun 25, 2010, 3:06 GMT
Washington - Google's main page may look simple, but don't be fooled. Behind that solitary search box lies power that most of us never tap - not because we don't want to, but because we don't know how. But with the right commands and shortcuts, you can start using Google in ways you never imagined: as a calculator, a weather forecaster, a travel agent, movie locator, and much more.
--- Search prefixes
One powerful way to refine your searches is by using search prefixes: words that you follow with a colon and then the search term itself.
For instance, use the prefix 'site' to specify that you'd like to restrict your search to a particular site. The search phrase 'site:microsoft.com windows xp downloads,' for example, tells Google that you'd like it to retrieve links to downloads applicable to Windows XP from Microsoft's web pages.
You can use the 'filetype' prefix to search for specific types of documents or files. This is very useful if you're searching for, say, Excel files - or for PDFs that you can download and print out in an attractive format. Let's say, for example, that you'd like to search for a PDF of Ernest Hemingway's novel The Sun Also Rises. The proper search phrase would be 'sun also rises filetype:pdf.'
Other handy prefixes include 'define,' for searching for definitions, and 'related,' to search for sites that are similar to ones you like. The 'define' prefix is especially nice for students, young and old, who can instantly retrieve definitions of a word from a wide variety of sources.
--- Trigger words
You can also perform targeted searches by using what Google calls 'trigger words' - or words that tell the search engine to return specific types of information, such as the local weather or local showtimes for currently running movies. Like search prefixes, some of these trigger words work best when they are followed by a colon and then by the relevant search phrase. There are a couple dozen trigger words.
Some of the more useful include 'weather,' 'movies,' and 'tracking.' For instance, a search for 'weather:Berlin' will quickly return the five-day weather forecast for Berlin, Germany, as well as dozens of related links to weather in that city.
Use the trigger word 'movie:*** brwill ask you for your location if you haven't registered it already with the search engine. Once you provide that information, Google will instantly return a listing of movie theatres where the film is playing, along with showtimes. The triggers 'film' and 'showtimes' work identically, by the way.
If you ever need to track a package sent using one of the major shippers, such as FedEx or UPS, you can do so right from the Google search field by typing 'tracking' followed by the actual tracking number. There's no need to use a colon after 'tracking.' Just a space and the number. In an instant, you'll receive a link that allows you to pinpoint the whereabouts of the package.
--- Math genius
The Google search field is a veritable math genius as well. In fact, if you simply type a math equation in the search box, you'll get nothing but the (correct) answer in return. Try it with a simple math problem first. Type 5 * 7, click Search, and Google shows you the result: 5 * 7 = 35.
Math lovers can take the Google search field to the next level, too, with complex problems such as 5*9+(sqrt 10)^3. The answer, 76.6227766, is returned in the blink of an eye.
Simpler conversions - such as for currency and temperature - are a cinch for Google, too. Need to find out how many dollars you can get for a certain number of euros? Easy. Just type, for instance, '400 euros in dollars,' and you'll have the answer even before you can finish typing 'dollars,' thanks to Google's Auto Suggestion feature. Similarly, if you want to get a quick conversion from Fahrenheit to Centigrade, just type, for instance, '98 f to c.' Again, you'll get the answer before you can finish typing.
For a full guide to the signs and symbols that you can use with Google to perform mathematical calculations, see the Google Guide (http://www.googleguide.com/calculator.html).
You can add certain words to the end of search phrases in Google to unleash additional features. If you need a quick map, for instance, just type the word 'map' after the name of any country, city, or town. Google will display a thumbnail map, which you can click to explore in a larger, scrollable format using Google Maps.
Similarly, to find an image of a search phrase, just add the word 'image' at the end of the phrase. For example, typing 'Jefferson image' brings up images of Thomas Jefferson. And adding 'time' to the end of the name of a city or country will result in Google's telling you what time it is in that place.
Know any other handy search box tricks for Google? Send them to email@example.com.