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A Gaggle of Useful Google Tips

March 2016

Okay, I know it's silly, but just try it. Go to Google.com and type in "Do a barrel roll." You'll see the Google search page do a 360-degree roll.

We'll get to some serious tips in a moment, but let's look at a few more fun things to try. Type "askew" into Google's search bar, and you'll see the page at a slant. Type "<blink>" and you'll see all the occurrences of the word "blink" on the page are actually blinking.

I first wrote about Google when it launched in 1998. Back then it hardly seemed like another search engine was needed, and at the time AltaVista reigned supreme. But the first time people tried Google, the results were so much better than the other search engines available that it quickly became everyone's favorite.

It looked quite different back then, and you can see how it looked by typing "Google in 1998" (without the quotation marks). The search results will appear just as they did in 1998.

Google has always had a lighthearted feel to it, and even makes a couple games available.

Go to Google.com and type in "zerg rush." You'll see a bunch of Google "o"s swarm onto the page and eat its contents. You can shoot them down before they eat everything by clicking your mouse button, but I wasn't so adept at that, ending up with a score of 1.

Another game is available on Google.com if you type "Atari breakout." When you get the search results, click on Image Search, and it will begin a game with colored bricks. I couldn't even figure out the object of play, but whatever clicking I did resulted in a score of 74.

Okay, enough fun and games. Here are some useful search tips.

• Use quotation marks to search for an exact phrase. Let's say I want to search for "Jim Karpen." Using quotation marks makes sure I find only Jim Karpen and no other Karpens.

• Use a minus sign to filter results. There's a judge in MIchigan named Jim Karpen. If I only want to see results that reference me, I can type in "-judge" (without the quotation marks), and results for judge Karpen won't appear.

• Specify a URL in order to search for content on a specific website. Let's say that I wanted to search for occurrences of "Jim Karpen" on the Iowa Source website. My search phrase would be "Jim Karpen site:www.iowasource.com." This is especially useful for those websites that have poor or nonexistent search functions.

• Use a tilde (~) to have your search include synonyms. Let's say you want to search for a cheap laptop computer. If you search for "~cheap laptop" Google will not only search for those keywords but will also include synonyms for "cheap" such as low-cost, inexpensive, and affordable. (Be sure not to put a space between the tilde and the search term.)

• Use two periods to search within a range. If you're looking to buy a mountain bike in a certain price range, for example, you can search for "mountain bike $250..$400." (Again, be sure not to use spaces.)

• Search for related sites by typing "related:" followed by a web address. For example, "related:www.nytimes.com" brings up links to The Washington Post, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, The Economist, and The Guardian.

Other handy searches that use an operator followed by a colon followed by a search term include "define:" (finds the definition of a word), "movie:" (finds show times and reviews for a particular movie), "stocks:" (finds current stock price for particular ticker symbols), "link:" (finds pages that link to a specific Internet address), and "info:" (when followed by a URL finds information about a particular web page).

You can also use the Google search bar as a calculator. Plus, it's great for doing conversions, such as "15 miles in kilometers" and "$25 in euros." For the weather, type in "weather" and a Zip Code or city/state. (No colon after "weather" in this instance.)

You can find many more tips by going to Google's search guide at www.googleguide.com. Be sure to check out the Cheat Sheet (a 2-page quick reference that you can print out).

Finally, one more Google feature that I find really useful is their news alerts. On that page you can type in any particular topic that interests you, and you'll receive email alerts whenever there's a news story or new web page related to it. Of course I set one of for "Jim Karpen" so if anyone mentions me on the Internet, I'll know right away!

This month's hot tip:

Canva offers simple drag-and-drop design software that's completely online and free. You can do a full-text search of millions of books at books.google.com.

© 2016 by Jim Karpen, Ph.D.

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