Useful Google Tidbits

November 2006

Google gets it. Somehow Google just makes so many little tasks easier. Take looking up a number in the phone book. I can’t remember the last time I did that. I just go to Google, type in the person’s name and location — city or state or Zip or some combination thereof — and Google returns the person’s name, address, telephone number, and a link to a map showing where he or she lives.

I sit at a computer all day long, and there are now so many little tasks like this that Google makes easier. I thought that I’d enumerate some of these in my column, in the event that you’ll also find this a convenience.

There are various other tools and web sites with which you can accomplish these tasks, but, like a helpful Jeeves, the Google search bar is always there waiting to do whatever I ask it.

Calculator — The only calculator I now use is Google. You simply type in the numbers and operators, and Google returns the answer. Type in 456*333, hit the return, and Google helpfully tells you 151,848. Other simple operators are +, -, and /.

But Google Calculator goes far beyond this, if you so desire, including exponentiation, roots, trigonometric functions, logarithms, factorial, and much more. It does a range of conversions, including units of measure and currency. Type in “77 fahrenheit in celsius” and it tells you “77 degrees Fahrenheit = 25 degrees Celsius.”

[Note: in all examples don’t type in the quotation marks themselves.]

Weather — This one’s pretty simple. You type in the word “weather” and then a space followed by Zip code or city. Of course if there’s more than one city by that name then you’ll also need to specify state. Typing in “weather Fairfield Iowa” returns a four-day forecast along with current conditions.

Movies —  You can also quickly get local show times and movie reviews by typing in “movies” followed by Zip or city and state. It returns a listing of movie theaters in the area and what’s playing when, as well as address, phone number, and map location of the theater. For movies that are currently in theaters, you can also just type in the name of the movie, such as “Gridiron Gang.” You don’t even need to specify “movies.”

The Reviews link in the search results tells you the average rating and takes you to links to a wide range of reviews.

With both Weather and Movies, Google remembers your location once you’ve used the Google Local feature or checked the box telling it to remember your location. In the future you can then simply type “weather” or “movies” without even having to specify location.

Reverse Phone NumberLookup — Google’s Phone Book feature mentioned above also includes a reverse lookup: if you have a phone number and want to know who it’s for, you simply type the phone number into Google, and it will return the directory listing.

To have your personal information removed from Google’s directory, go to www.google.com/help/pbremoval.html.

Search by Number (FedEx, UPS, flight information, etc.) — This one’s amazing. Type in a FedEx, UPS, or USPS number, and Google gives you package tracking info. To get flight information, type in the carrier followed by flight number: “United 321.”

Stock Quotes — Type in a ticker symbol, and you’ll get a 15-minute delayed stock quote, including graph, open, high, low, volume, average volume, and market capitalization.

Definitions — Another feature I use a lot is Google Definitions. You simply type in the word “define” followed by a colon, and then the word you want defined, and Google will return only definitions that it finds on the Web. Typing in “define:bullwhip” gets you “woven leather whip normally used as an animal herding tool.”

Spell Check — The spell checker in Microsoft Word usually meets my needs, but not in those instances where I have only approximations of the spelling. This is especially the case with place names. I simply type in my best guess, and Google responds with, “Did you mean?” followed by the more common spelling online.

Currency Conversion — You can easily convert currency by typing in simple phrases such as “$389 in euros,” and Google returns “389 U.S. dollars = 305.7455 Euros.” Or I can type in “$389 in Brazilian money,” and Google responds with “US$ 389 = 860.8181 Brazil reais.”

I hope these tidbits help you. There are many more such features. To find out all that Google can do for you, go to www.google.com/help/features.html.

© 2006 by Jim Karpen, Ph.D

E-mail Jim Karpen