Advanced search secrets



In addition to the search tricks I mentioned last time, Google has another card up it’s sleeve to help you refine your searches: a selection of special search operators.

Operators are simply keywords followed by a colon (:) followed by the term you’re searching for.

Let’s say you’re looking for the definition of a marmoset. Just enter;


and hit <Enter>. (Note that there are no spaces between the operator and the search term.)

At the head of it’s search results, Google will return a panel containing the term, its definition, and in many cases an audio recording of the its correct pronunciation. Click the arrow at the bottom of the panel for details of the term’s origin, usage over time and translation options.


Search operators

Here’s a list of some of the more useful search operators …

define:  to find definitions of words, phrases, and acronyms.

intitle: Ordinary searches include all web page content but intitle: only looks at page titles. For example, a search for camera returns an estimated 456,000,000 results while intitle:camera gives a mere 17,700,000.

intext: does the opposite of “intitle:’, searching only site text.

site: looks at individual websites, or sections of them. For example; will examine the whole of the UK newspaper site. will only check the science section. … well, you get the idea.

Can’t remember a site’s full name? Try inurl: to find all the URLs that contain a particular word or sub-string.

Note that intext:, intitle: and inurl: can also be prefixed with all to further refine searches. How is this useful? Imagine you’re stuck for what to cook for dinner and you only have a few ingredients. A search like

allintext:ingredients aubergine chicken lemon

will produce a list all qualifying recipes.


Finding files

The web is more than just a collection of websites. There are lots of files out there too, and you can find them with the filetype: operator followed by the file’s extension – that bit tacked on to the end of a file name after the dot. filetype:pdf will find all PDF files, for example. Use doc for Word documents, xls for Excel spreadsheets, jpg for images, txt for text file, ppt for Powerpoint presentations and so on. Search will only return results containing the type of documents specified.


Sneaky searches

If you’re stuck behind a restrictive corporate firewall at work, you should know that Google make copies of many websites and you can search and access them using the cache: operator. Because the copy comes from Google – not the blocked website – it’ll often slip through the filters.


Combine it!

Individually, search operators may not seem much of a deal, but like all search tricks their strength comes when used in combination.

Say you want to find PDF documents from any NZ government department that relate to GST in the years 2012-2014. You can do so with a single search: filetype:pdf intitle:gst 2012..2014