Google is your friend. But I’m sure you know that already, you must have used Google at some point in your life, right? Okay, okay, so you use it everyday, keep your shirt on. Now, the question is; beyond plain vanilla search (typing up a random queries into the search box and hitting the return key), what do you think Google can do? Have you ever considered that there might be more to that plain text field than you could have imagined? Do you want to find out? If you’re a regular nose-in-the-browser-always-
Beyond Plain Vanilla Search
For the uninitiated, the simplicity of the Google search box belies its true potential, by itself it does the job of countless apps. Short of actually conjuring the physical manifestations of the results of your search terms, google search is really powerful and capable of granting you complete omniscience…ok, almost complete. And for those who know how to work it, that is. Over the years, the Google team has relentlessly tinkered with their algorithm to come up with all kinds of search features that not only make your life on the web easier, but can also help you live smarter offline. These features are demonstrated in great detail at www.googleinsidesearch.com, but I’ll be doing a quick rundown of some of the features that I think are especially useful, as well as simple to use. Here we go.
Google Instant: By now most people take this for granted, but Google Instant is a relatively new feature that tries to guess what you’re trying to find before you’re done typing, people, places, food…anything. And does it quite well too…just try typing “jollof” or any other dish that comes to your head, and watch it suggest recipes and tips on how to prepare it. The most obvious improvement from what used to obtain is that now you can get to the right content much faster than before because you don’t have to finish typing your full search term, or even press “search.” Another plus is that the instant visual feedback allows you refine your search or even formulate one if you weren’t sure of what you were looking for in the first place.
Currency Converter: A lot of people aren’t aware google search box is an exchange rate checker and currency converter. All you have to do is type your currency exchange query in the format “1000 NGN in USD” for example, and the search box does the rest. Might not help you much with the local aboki bureau de change, but you’ll agree it’s handy.
Unit Converter: You can use the Google search box to convert between many different units of measurement; height, weight, and volume among many others. Just enter your desired conversion, e.g “10.5 cm in inches”, and let Google do the rest.
Calculate Anything: Okay students, don’t get any ideas with this one, but the google search box will return the results of any equation you can come up with. Sine, cosine, simultaneous, logarithmic…go ahead, knock yourself out.
Check The Time: Merely typing “time” into the search box will return the current time and date of the city you’re in. To see the time in many cities around the world, type in “time” and the name of the city.
Weather Report: Now the rain will never catch you by surprise. Search ‘weather’
Get Stock Quotes: Typing any stock ticker symbol into the search box will get you realtime stock quotes that update live in your search results. Click the link on the results page for a detailed market analysis from Google Finance.
Google Maps: Lost or have no idea how to get somewhere? There’s an app for that. The Google search box allows you access to Google Maps functionality. Simply add “map” after the name of the place, and Google will return a corresponding map of the location in the results.
Now, these are just a few examples of all the cool stuff you can do right from that unassuming search box. You’ll also be pleased to know that Google’s spell checker automatically defaults to the most common spelling of a given word, whether or not you spell it correctly. You can search for specific types of files, such as PDFs, PPTs, or XLS, by adding filetype: and the 3-letter file extension to your query. Putting ‘define:’ in front of any word will get you its definition. and placing an asterisk [*] in a phrase or question you want completed activates Google’s “fill-in-the-blanks” functionality…for example, you can find the lyrics to a song even if you only remember a few words.
To learn more about Google’s tasty search features, check out this post on the Google blog or visit the Google Inside Search website. And if you really want to geek out and use advanced functions like operators, wildcards and exceptions, go here And oh yeah, most of these features work on mobile too, with lots of optimisation for Android.
This post is the first in a series of ‘Google is your friend’ posts. Next, I’ll be looking at Google productivity and enterprise tools, so keep it locked for more useful Google-related tips and stuff.