Search secrets

searchMost people’s search techniques are lousy. They’ll bung a few words in the Search box, hit Enter and hope for the best.

But search engines offer so much more. Google in particular. Try typing time in Tokyo or weather in London or the square root of 2401 and you’ll see what I mean.

The basics

Searches are case-insensitive. Searching for Australia and australia produces the same results.

Use quotes to find explicit phrases. A search for popular books will list all sites containing those two words (around 660 million), but a search for “popular books” will return only sites containing that explicit phrase (a mere 1 million).

Exclude words with the minus sign. Searching on holiday -US -UK -Australia will exclude those destinations.

Find similar terms with the tilde (“~”) key. A search for ~money will not only find “money” sites but those containing “gold” and “currency”.

Add alternatives. Use the OR operator (it must be capitalised) to find alternatives. For example, camels OR ducks OR geese will find sites mentioning all three.

Use wildcards. If you’re not sure of a word, replace it with a “*”. This is great for half-remembered lyrics or quotations, for example bridge over * water.

Search a range. Search a range of consecutive numbers by separating them with two dots. A search for cars 1930..1950 will only find models in that range. You can search by dollar amounts too, for example computers $500..$1000.


Search extras

Find the time. Want to know the time in Timbuktu? Type in time in Timbuktu and the first line of the result will tell you.

Weather and weather forecasts. Not only will weather in Boston give you Boston’s weather, but it’ll show you the forecast for the next few days too.



Sunrise and sunset.  Similarly, type sunrise or sunset followed by a place name.

Exchange rates. Provided you know the currency codes, Google can perform exchange rate calculations. 100 NZD in USD will convert $100 Kiwi into US dollars. Here are some of the more common symbols: AUD (Aussie dollars), GBP (UK pounds), EUR (Euros), JPY (Japanese yen), CNY (Chinese yuan).

Quick conversions. It’s not just currency. Google happily converts between metric and imperial systems. Try these examples: 32C in F, 32cm in inches, 100US gallons in UK gallons, 100bar in PSI.

US stocks. Type in the appropriate NASDAQ code and see how your US shares are performing. For example, AAPL (Apple), GOOG (Google) or MSFT (Microsoft).

Calculate almost anything. Want to know the value of pi or the speed of light? Just enter pi or speed of light and the first result line will supply the answer.

You can use Google to make more specific calculations too such as 102674 * 2.95
or 5.29 / 7 or graph equations such as 1 / 1-x. You can even try asking for the answer to life, the universe and everything — just in case you don’t already know…