Google You Don't Know
You say: Yet another column about Google?
I say: Man, I could write one every month and
still hardly keep up with the features. I was just
exploring some of them. Only one word for it:
"awesome." Or maybe "cool."
These are useful features, features that you
want to know about.
Take, for example, the calculator feature. Type
in any calculation you want, such as 14*82, and
click Google Search or hit Enter, and Google will
return the answer (1,148). Google's calculator will
find percentages ("20% of 150," for example),
square roots, trigonometric functions, unit
conversions, and much more.
Or for fun, type in your phone number. If you
have a listed number, Google will return your name
and address, as well as the amount in your bank
account. (Kidding on that last one.) Just to the
right of your name and address are links for Yahoo
Maps and MapQuest. Click on that and you'll get a
map of where you live.
OK, so maybe you don't like that anyone can type
in your telephone number and instantly have your
address and a map showing where you live. No
problem. Just to the left of the info that Google
returns when you type in your number is a little
telephone. Click on that, and you'll be taken to
the Google help page, where there's a link you can
click to be removed from Google Phonebook.
To look up a phone number, just type in the
person's name and city.
Google also helps travelers. To look up the
status of your flight, type in the name of the
airline followed by your flight number. If you want
to know the weather conditions at an airport, type
in the three-letter airport code followed by the
A feature that I use a lot now is the one I
mentioned in last month's column: the ability to
look up definitions. You simply type in the word
"define" followed by a colon, then a space, and
then the term you want to define. (define:
boustrophedon) This will find terms and phrases not
necessarily in a dictionary but that do exist in
specialized lexicons on the web.
You can also use Google to find dictionary
definitions. You may have noticed that when you do
a search, at the top of the page of results Google
will say "Searched the web for boustrophedon." The
term you searched for is underlined. If you click
on the underlined term, it will look up the
definition at Dictionary.com.
I also regularly use Google as a spelling
checker. Recently I was writing an article about
China and needed to check the spelling of place
names. I'd simply type the name in Google. You've
probably noticed that if you use an uncommon
spelling of a word, Google will say at the top of
your results page, "Did you mean: xxx." Because
Google's spell check is based on occurrences of all
words on the Internet, it is able to suggest common
spellings for proper nouns that might not appear in
a standard spell check program or dictionary.
Let's stop right here and ask the burning
question some of you are thinking: why would I want
to use Google as a calculator or dictionary? Think
of the time that it takes to dial up the Internet,
go to the Google web site, and then use Google. It
would be faster to pick up a calculator or
I'd feel the same way if I were you. But in my
case, I'm sitting at a computer all day long and am
always connected to the Internet via my broadband
connection. Doing these things via Google is always
a lot faster.
PLUS, I have a Google search function built into
my web browser (Apple's Safari). I don't even have
to go to the Google web site. My browser is always
booted up, and many many times a day I turn to it
to type something into the search box.
Here's good news for you PC users: the free
Toolbar lets you add a Google search box into
Microsoft Internet Explorer. I recommend this
highly. It saves so much time not having to go to
the Google web site to do a search. In addition,
the Toolbar has other features such as blocking
popup ads and filling in forms with one click.
Other Google features include looking up stock
quotes, UPS and FedEx tracking numbers, and more.
© 2004 by Jim Karpen, Ph.D.